Yellowstone Geyser Death Shows Peril of Straying from Boardwalk

The death is the first since 2000 in the park’s thermal features, but the latest in a string of unfortunate incidents in 2016 as visitors push boundaries.

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A man was killed in the Norris Geyser Basin of Yellowstone this week after going off trail.

A Portland, Oregon, man died Tuesday when he fell into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park—just three days after a father and son suffered burns after stepping off a path at another Yellowstone thermal attraction.

The accidents are the latest in a string of unfortunate incidents this year as visitors to the nation's premier national park push boundaries or come in conflict with wildlife and Yellowstone's fragile features (read more about the park's storied history in a special magazine edition).

Colin Nathaniel Scott, 23, was more than 225 yards (206 meters) off a boardwalk at popular Norris Geyser Basin Tuesday morning when he slipped and fell in, according to the National Park Service. Rangers on Wednesday were attempting to recover his body.

“We extend our sympathy to the Scott family,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “This tragic event must remind all of us to follow the regulations and stay on boardwalks when visiting Yellowstone’s geyser basins.”

Scott's death is the first in 16 years in a Yellowstone thermal feature, the twenty-second on record, according to park officials. But the death comes on the heels of an accident just Saturday evening when a father slipped while carrying his 13-year-old son off trails in the Upper Geyser Basin.

In that case, the boy fell into Morning Glory Pool and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Jackson, Wyoming, suffering burns around his ankle and foot, according to local news reports. The father suffered splash burns.

Already this year, tourists have been seen petting wildlife, getting too close to black bears, and taking group photographs inches from bison. (See "Are We Loving Yellowstone to Death?")

Just last month, in the park's Lamar Valley, two international visitors put a bison calf into their vehicle and drove it to a ranger station because the animal was shivering and appeared cold. The travelers were arrested and ticketed, but the calf later had to be euthanized after park officials tried unsuccessfully to reunite the animal with its herd.

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Yellowstone's active thermal system poses many hazards, as well as enchanting visitors.

With the National Park Service celebrating its 100th anniversary in August, officials expect record visitors to Yellowstone. But so far this summer, authorities already have spent an unusual amount of time trying to remind tourists to respect what Yellowstone is—a fragile, wild place.

"The big take away here is that the park's regulations are in place for a reason," says park spokeswoman Charissa Reid.

Those regulations are designed to protect animals, Yellowstone's vulnerable attractions, and visitors themselves.

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