How Many People Have Died at Yellowstone National Park?

March 12, 2024

YELLOWSTONE — The discovery of a shoe and part of a human foot floating in a hot spring at Yellowstone earlier this week has revived a conversation about how many people have died at the national park. In its 151-year history, the park’s geothermal pools, geysers, mudpots and steam vents have killed less than 30 people, according to the National Park Service.

The deaths are not all accidental, though. A book by park historian Lee Whittlesey, Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park, documents gruesome incidents like the slaying of a Minneapolis couple in 1924 when they climbed on top of a cliff to turn their car around after an outing. Their attempt to turn the vehicle resulted in their tragic plunge from 1,000 feet.

There are other examples of deaths by hot springs and other thermal features, such as a man who fell into a boiling pool at Norris Geyser Basin in 2016. The water was so hot that it melted his soles and caused third degree burns on his hands. In fact, the hot springs are among the most dangerous things in Yellowstone.

That’s because the continental crust is as thin here as it can be anywhere, and it is easily thrashed by the magma rising from deep underground. That magma is the source of the hot springs and other geothermal features in the park. The heat from the magma also scalds the groundwater.

Mission

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