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Tourist sentenced for thermal trespass in Yellowstone National Park

Steamboat Geyser
Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Posted at 2:51 PM, Jun 13, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Viktor Pyshniuk of Lynwood, Washington, was sentenced this week to seven days in jail for thermal trespass at Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park (YNP).

In addition, he was placed on two years of unsupervised release and received a two-year ban from YNP for a closure violation. The court also ordered Pyshniuk to pay a $1,500 fine.

Steamboat Geyser is a prominent feature within YNP and the world’s tallest active geyser, and also the most dangerous, according to Yellowstone officials. It has erratic and unpredictable eruptions that can rise anywhere from six to 300 feet high. In the last four years, the intervals between eruptions ranged anywhere from three to 89 days.

Court documents state that on April 19, 2024, a law enforcement officer was dispatched to the thermal area at Steamboat Geyser by an on-duty park employee who reported seeing a person walking off the boardwalk at that location.

The employee had taken a photo of 21-year old Pyshniuk, who had clearly crossed over the fence and was walking up the hillside to within 15 to 20 feet of Steamboat Geyser’s steam vent.

Pyshniuk told the officer he left the boardwalk to take photos. While talking with Pyshniuk, the officer showed him the signs posted throughout the area stating it is illegal to leave the boardwalk and explained that walking in a thermal area is very dangerous due to possible weak ground layer, the geothermal features of mud pots, heated steam and water, and all other dangers associated with walking in a heated, unpredictable geothermal area.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie Hambrick imposed the sentence on June 4, 2024; court documents state that he must serve his sentence by December 25, 2024 at a federal facility as close as possible to Lynnwood, Washington.

During sentencing she explained to Pyshniuk that the sentence was designed to deter him, specifically - but also other visitors from leaving the boardwalk in this area.

She noted that his actions were seen by the people around him, and they might have thought it was okay to do the same thing, saying that if every visitor to Yellowstone disobeyed the rules, the park would be destroyed, and no one would be able to enjoy it.

“Trespassing in closed, thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park is dangerous and harms the natural resource,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Eric Heimann. “In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time.”

Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park