Human foot found floating in Yellowstone hot pool likely linked to July 31 death

Yellowstone National Park is a wonderous place of both glorious natural beauty and extremely grave dangers.

That second part was proven once again this week when park officials discovered a human foot inside a shoe floating in one of the park’s many hot springs, The Washington Post reported.

It is believed that the floating foot is related to a reported death at the park on July 31, and though no foul play is suspected, an investigation into the fatal incident remains ongoing.

At least 22 recorded deaths in Yellowstone’s hot springs and pools

According to the Associated Press, once news broke that a Yellowstone employee had found a floating foot in the Abyss Pool on Tuesday, a visitor from Maryland contacted the park to reveal that he had seen a shoe floating in the pool on August 11 and even sent a photo he had taken of it to park officials.

That particular pool is estimated to be more than 50 feet deep and reaches temperatures of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit — certainly hot enough to cause severe burns or death and deep enough to drown in and likely never be recovered.

It is also just one of the thousands of geothermal features in the park like hot springs and pools that can prove incredibly dangerous when people make contact with the scalding and often acidic waters. As such, park officials urge visitors to remain exclusively on boardwalks and marked trails in order to avoid danger, given that the ground around the features is often thin and brittle and can easily give way to boiling water just below the surface.

The AP noted that since Yellowstone was first established as a national park in 1890, there have been at least 22 recorded deaths related to geothermal features, including death following severe burns or, even more horrifically, drowning and essentially dissolving in the superheated acidic water.

The most recent death before this one occurred in 2016 when an Oregon man slipped on gravel and fell into the acidic boiling water of the Norris Geyser Basin, his remains lost forever, after venturing off the boardwalk.

Lots of ways to die or be injured at Yellowstone

Wyoming’s Cowboy State Daily recently reported on the many various ways to be injured or killed at Yellowstone in advance of its 150-year anniversary as a park since its inception in 1872, with the first recorded geothermal-related injury being a member of an exploratory expedition in 1871 and the first recorded death being a young boy who fell into a pool in 1898.

There are other deadly dangers in the park as well, though, including being mauled by wild animals like bears and bison and elk, falling off cliffs, drowning in non-thermal pools of water, or simply becoming lost in the vast wilderness. There has also been several murders and suicides in and around the park over the years.

Overall, as of a survey earlier in 2022, Yellowstone ranked fifth on a list of most dangerous national parks with a total of 52 officially recorded deaths. The number of injuries sustained at the park is not specified, as not all are reported to park officials, but are likely to be in the thousands.

That said, considering the park receives around 4 million visitors annually, the chances of being boiled to death in a geothermal feature or mauled by wild animals is relatively low, especially if one obeys the park’s plentiful warning signs and sticks to the boardwalks and marked trails.

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