Perched on top of a sleeping volcano, the National Park Foundation reports Yellowstone National Park has more geysers and hot springs than any other spot on earth. Visitors around the world love it for its wildlife, beauty, and fascinating landscape, but Yellowstone is a trove of treacherous hazards.

Sadly, unauthorized off-trail exploration and inadequate awareness of the region's unpredictable geothermal features have led to several unspeakable fatalities in the beloved national park.

A human foot was once found floating in a Yellowstone hot spring.

In the fall of 2022, the L.A. Times reported a shoe was discovered floating in Yellowstone National Park's Abyss Pool. It contained a fragment of a human foot. According to forensic analysis, it belonged to a 70-year-old man from Los Angeles.

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It appeared the man had fallen into the well-known hot spring in West Thumb Geyser Basin in northwestern Wyoming. USA Today reported all that was left of the man were "fatty tissues" that had floated to the surface.

According to the Yellowstone National Park Service, the Abyss Pool is a scorching-hot spring in Yellowstone that descends over 50 feet, making it one of the park's deadliest geothermal features. It maintains an average temperature around 140 degrees.

How many people have died in Yellowstone?

Despite its myriad of perils, YNPS reports the park's geothermal pools, geysers, mudpots, steam vents, and hot springs have claimed the lives of less than 30 people in its 151 year history.

Among the group was a 23-year-old Oregon man who died after he strayed from a boardwalk, slipped, and fell into a hot spring at Norris Geyser Basin in 2016. A v-neck t-shirt, portions of his head, upper torso and hands were all that remained of the young man.

Is it possible for a human to survive falling into a geyser?

No. According to Forbes (of all sources), a human would last approximately one minute before they succumbed to the agony of being boiled alive.

The first thing that would happen is that your body would register that your skin is bathing in waters around 93°C (199°F). It would hurt like nothing you can possibly imagine, but only for as long as your nervous system could register pain, which (fortunately?) won't be more than a minute or so. -Robin Andrews, Sr. Contributor

Andrews further explains that under such scorching temperatures your epidermis would swiftly succumb to disintegration, followed by the rupture of your blood vessels which would lead to a rapid, profuse loss of blood.

Some underlying skin layers, instead of breaking down, will lose all their water and become leathery and blackened. Oh, and your underlying subcutaneous fat would soon bubble off too. All in all, this is known as a “full thickness” burn, and it would happen in less than a minute in these waters. -Andrews

 

The deadliest threats at Yellowstone aren't the geysers.

Authorities at YNP say it's human curiosity. It should go without saying that boardwalks and trails are essential protective measures. They exist to ensure visitor safety and preserve the park's fragile thermal formations. Yet people continually challenge YNP's many warnings about the dangers of exploring the geysers too closely.

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