Tour Group Gets Up Close -- Too Close! -- To Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

One of the first things you notice when you reach Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is the boardwalk that wraps the geyser's travertine cone. The next, if you're observant, are signs telling you not to walk any closer to the geyser than the boardwalk.

Somehow a tour group overlooked those signs, as well as warnings in the park's newspaper about leaving the boardwalk to get closer to the geyser, and strolled a bit closer to get some photographs of Old Faithful.

According to a park news release, someone from Wisconsin was watching the Old Faithful live streaming webcam Wednesday evening when this group left the boardwalk and called to tell rangers what was going on. When a ranger responded to the geyser, she found about 30 people standing on the geyser's apron taking pictures.

Members of the group told the ranger they hadn't seen any of the signs that tell folks to stay on the boardwalk.

According to the release, the tour group leader, the bus driver, and one member of the first group of four visitors who walked off the boardwalk were cited for being off trail in a thermal area, a violation of federal law with a $125 fine.

The warnings to stay on the boardwalk around Old Faithful, and those elsewhere in the park's geyser basins, stem from the dangers of walking closer to thermal features. In some areas the crust can be thin enough for you to break through into boiling water underneath, in others there are natural drainage areas where the hot waters spit out by geysers run off.

"Unfortunately, almost every year one or more visitors who ignore all these warnings fall through the fragile, thin crust in a thermal area and are burned by the boiling water beneath," park officials say.

This is not the first time a web cam viewer has notified park rangers about visitors off boardwalk and on the cone of Old Faithful. The most famous prior incident occurred in May 2009, when six visitors were spotted urinating in the geyser cone. They were found guilty of a variety of charges, with one of the six fined $750, placed on three years of probation, and banned from the park for two years.

Comments

Having been to Yellowstone, I can say that the signs are numerous and easy to read. These people must be either blind or stupid - and they're not blind. And the fines are too low.

The story should tell us how 26 people can break the same law and go away fine free? Simlar (dare I say) Cape Hatteras where several violate the letters of the law and escape unscathed even when the Rangers are watching. I say fine them all large amounts and this will evetually cease.

The touring company's Yellowstone NP operating permit ought to be revoked.

Props to my fellow Wisconsinite! Way to go!

Maybe they should post a picture of someone's scalded foot in the thermal areas. One picture like that might be worth a thousand warning signs.

I have seen the many signs in multiple languages throughout the park and I am constently amazed at the visitors who break the rules. I agree with the other person. Fine them all and maybe we can close the budget gap.

Again, the law of natural selection is [momentarily] averted!

Once agian dumb people doing dumb things and with no clue why it was wrong. The gene pool defiantly need's to be purged.

I was watching the web cam when it happened, my jaw dropped too. I couldn't beleive the arrogance of the whole group. Then afterward reading that they "Did not see the signs" That's the biggest lie I've heard all year. All 30ish of them should have been fined and the tour company banned for at least the rest of the season.

Multiply the fines by ten and note that on the signs. And stick to it, no exceptions!

On the one hand it's a shame Ms. Faithful didn't choose one of those moments when the group was still on the apron to spout and "untimley" steam bath their direction. On the other hand that most likely would have set multitudes of lawyers running to the courthouse, litigation papers in hand to institute proceedings for the obligatory lawsuit defending every idiot's rights to be exhibit the highest level of ignorance possible under any set of circumstances.
But removal from the gene pool would have been the best option for any and all involved.

Stupid is not the correct word. They knew what they were doing, and chose to break the rules. It would have served them right to get erupted on. Except that the park service has much better things to spend its money on than defending from frivolous lawsuits.

Speaking as someone who once harangued a non-English-speaking woman back onto the boardwalk at the Fountain Paint Pots. I know she and her companion went back home telling stories about the crazy American lady who wouldn't leave them alone, but I had (and have) absolutely no interest in watching suicide by boiling water.

I miss the good old days when the rangers took all of a culprit's possessions to one entrance of the park and the culprit to the entrance opposite it. And then banned them from the park.

No, stupid is not the word. Criminal is the word. Old Faithful is not replaceable.

"Let's look down a hole that's full of superheated water." The perfect vacation. What a bunch of knuckleheads. Destructive knuckleheads. They should all have been fined, thrown out of the park, and the tour company banned from the park. The punishment did not fit the crime, in this instance.

How about establishing the fines as equal to the salary of one seasonal ranger, who would then be hired and stationed at the scene of the crime? Then NPS could increase vigilance while punishing the criminal element -- as DD 393 correctly called them -- in one fell swoop.