YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – At Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, the signs are clear: Stay on the walkways. One man thought the rules didn’t apply to him.
Now, the man faces a $5,000 fine for leaving a boardwalk at the spring after another YNP visitor took a video and photos of the incident and reported it to park officials.
“The crust in that area and in other thermal areas can be very thin,” said YNP Spokesperson Linda Veress.
Put a little weight on that crust, and someone could fall right through. “And underneath the crust is scalding hot water, and they can suffer severe burns or even die,” Veress said.
The person who recorded the man posted a video to social media and took a photo of the license plate of the car he was traveling in — and then went immediately to find a park ranger.
“Sometimes they’ll wait days and they’ll post it on their personal social media accounts or they might tell their friends, but that doesn’t help us too much after the fact. But reporting it promptly helps us,” said Veress, adding this is a perfect case in point of a park visitor acting as a Yellowstone Steward.
“The park asks visitors when they are out and about in the park, that if they see someone who might hurt themselves or others — or the park — to report it,” she said.
And to remember that the park itself might be damaged.
“They can hurt the very thing that they’ve come to see, which is the bacteria mats and the hydrothermal communities of microbes that live in these hydrothermal areas,” said Veress.
Promptly reporting dangerous activities, such as the incident witnessed at Grand Prismatic, is a part of the Yellowstone Pledge to safeguard the park. It’s a way to help rangers and park staff who can’t be everywhere, all the time.
The man ticketed could also face up to six months in jail. Because the park is federal land, a federal judge may eventually determine the punishment.
-John Sherer reporting for MTN News