Yellowstone National Park officials have temporarily closed public access to the Artists' Paint Pots thermal area after a visitor broke through a patch of thin crust and received burns to one of her legs.
The paint pots, located just about a half-mile south of Norris Junction, is an area of colorful, hot mud springs. There's a mile-long loop trail that navigates the thermal area. On Thursday, Jeannette Hogan of Utah was injured while hiking on the established dirt trail with family members when she stepped in a surface puddle of rainwater along the edge of the trail and the crust beneath gave way.
Ms. Hogan, whose age and hometown were unavailable, broke through to a previously undiscovered pool of hot water, and received burns to her ankle and lower leg.
Members of the park’s trail crew were working on another section of the Artists’ Paint Pots Trail at the time of the accident. Crew members were able to provide immediate first aid and summon park emergency personnel, who took Ms. Hogan by ambulance to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. The extent of her injuries and current condition are unavailable.
The water in the pool is 171 degrees Fahrenheit and was found to be slightly acidic, with a pH similar to vinegar.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash says geologists are evaluating the area to see if there are other areas of thin crust.
"Our geologists were out there until late last night, went back this morning, and expect to be out in that area over the weekend. Their goal is to use infrared and some other techniques just to try and determine what changes there may have been in that area," said Ranger Nash. "We've got to get that information first. That will help us determine what we need to do in order to reopen that area.
"There's just a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. We hate to seen anybody injured. But this is an ever-changing places, especially the thermal areas, they're ever-changing and very active."
While boardwalks and designated trails help protect park visitors and prevent damage to delicate thermal formations, Yellowstone is a dynamic, geologically active place. Scalding water can lie just beneath thin, breakable crusts. Many geyser eruptions are unpredictable, and thermal features are near or above boiling temperatures.
Four people treated for thermal burns in the park in 2007, according to park officials.