Death in Yellowstone (and Other National Parks)

The past few weeks several very sad but avoidable accidents have happened at Yellowstone National Park. In May, a lady taking a picture of an Eagle stepped into the road and got hit by a car. On Tuesday, a pair of siblings from Oregon walked 225 yards off the boardwalks in Norris Geyser Basin and one slipped and fell into a hot spring. The water temperatures in Norris are the hottest in the park and range from 199 to 449 degrees. The day before, a 13 year old was being carried by his father as they walked off the designated trail in the Upper Geyser Basin. They slipped and got burned in a hot spring. Many signs are posted at the geyser basins warning visitors to stay on the boardwalks and marked paths. Information packets in different languages are also handed out when you enter the parks.

Rangers and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk have said that park visitation is already up 60% this year. It is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and with cheaper gas, social media interest and unrest overseas, people want to travel to the parks. 

There have been a lot of “crazy tourist” news stories already coming from the parks. I am sure you read or heard about the two tourists putting a Bison calf in their car to save it because they thought it was cold. Or High On Life, a group of Canadian tourists with a clothing line that blatantly ignored several National Park rules and then posted the pictures of themselves doing it to Instagram and Facebook. They have warrants issued for their arrests, but made it back to Canada. Then you have the woman petting a Bison– a wild animal that weighs over a ton and can move at 40mph. Park warnings say to keep 100 yards from Bears and Wolves and 25 yards from Bison and Elk. This woman also made news by approaching an Elk too closely.

In Glacier National Park a young man just died jumping into a pool of water in Running Eagle Falls. A climber died in Zion in March and last year there was an awful accident in Keyhole Canyon.  The last time Craig and I visited Yellowstone in 2014, a young girl fell at The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone the day we were there. Last year, a park employee made news when a bear attacked him while he was out alone running or walking without bear spray. On Monday a man fell while taking pictures in Acadia National  Park.

Throughout history accidents have happened in our wild places. Some are avoidable and some are due to weather and nature. I for one am glad there are still so many wild places left in this country and I hope they stay that way. Some great books to read before your trips are Death in Yellowstone, Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite and Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. There are also a few other parks with books like these. They will give you a new found respect for the parks and the people that have to try and rescue visitors that make often fatal mistakes.


If you are visiting any National Parks during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, do some research before you go, read the information and warnings at the parks, respect the animals in their home and respect the fragile ecosystems.  If you plan to hike, carry water and bear spray or join a Ranger led hike. Too many are carving and spray painting rocks, leaving trash everywhere and not following warnings. Please do not ruin it for those of us that love and respect these places. Go and have an amazing time and be an ambassador for our parks!

Uncle Tom’s Trail-Yellowstone National Park

If you love waterfalls, do not miss Uncle Tom’s Trail in Yellowstone National Park. You descend 328 steps on a steel staircase 3/4 of the way into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. When you get to the bottom you have an amazing view of Lower Yellowstone Falls.  Just remember you have to go back up! Since you are already at 8,000 feet elevation, you may want to take it slow. There are some benches along the way.

Uncle Tom's Trail Down

Lower Yellowstone Falls

The sign at the trail head tells you a little bit about H.F. Richardson. His nickname was “Uncle Tom” and he built a trail to the canyon floor in 1898. People would have to climb down ropes and rope ladders to reach the bottom. Then they would have a picnic lunch and climb back up. I can not imagine climbing in the long dresses and skirts of the early 1900’s! Let us know how you like the hike/climb if you do it.

Uncle Tom's Staircase

Preview Yellowstone Treasures below!

Yellowstone Treasures