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Woman sentenced for walking on a thermal area in Yellowstone National Park

People exploring the sights in Norris Geyser Basin
NPS / Jacob W. Frank
Posted at 10:56 AM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 13:53:05-04

GREAT FALLS — Madeline S. Casey has been sentenced for walking on thermal ground at Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in a news release on Thursday that Casey was with two other people on July 22, 2021, as they made their way up to a thermal pool and geyser at Norris Geyser Basin. Norris Geyser Basin is an area well marked with signs and warnings to stay on the boardwalk.

Casey and one other person got off the boardwalk and were walking on thermal ground. Several other visitors were concerned and took photos and videos of the three.

There is no word at this point on whether the other person has been identified, cited, or charged.

Casey, from Connecticut, was sentenced by Magistrate Judge Mark Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, on August 18.

She was sentenced to seven days in jail, and also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $40 in fees, and a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund. Casey must serve her jail time by January 31, 2022.

Casey, 26 years old, was also placed on non-supervised probation for a period of two years, during which time she is banned from the park.

“Boardwalks in geyser basins protect visitors and delicate thermal formations,” said Yellowstone National Park Public Affairs Officer Morgan Warthin. “The ground is fragile and thin and scalding water just below the surface can cause severe or fatal burns. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.”

“For those who lack a natural ability to appreciate the dangerousness of crusty and unstable ground, boiling water, and scalding mud, the National Park Service does a darn good job of warning them to stay on the boardwalk and trail in thermal areas,” said Murray. “Yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it. Although a criminal prosecution and jailtime may seem harsh, it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit.”

The case was handled by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

The Yellowstone National Park website provides the following information about safety around thermal features:

  • Always walk on boardwalks and designated trails. Keep children close and do not let them run on boardwalks.
  • Do not touch thermal features or runoff.
  • Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns in Yellowstone’s hot springs.
  • Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.
  • Do not throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features.
  • Toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas. If you begin to feel sick while exploring geyser basins, leave the area immediately.