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Two men sentenced for walking near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

Schefflin and Goetz pleaded guilty to the violation of thermal trespass
Posted at 11:30 AM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 15:18:52-05

GREAT FALLS — Two men were recently sentenced for trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser, a closed thermal area in Yellowstone National Park.

Eric Schefflin of Colorado, 20 years old, and Ryan Goetz of New York, 25, appeared in court on December 5, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

On September 10, 2019, employees and visitors saw two people walking on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and reported it to park dispatch. A ranger contacted and cited Schefflin and Goetz.

Sentencing for each man included:

  • 10 days of incarceration
  • $500 fine
  • Five years of unsupervised probation
  • Five year ban from Yellowstone National Park

Schefflin and Goetz pleaded guilty to a charge of "foot travel in a thermal area." Their actions violated Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 7.13 (j), which states: "Foot travel in all thermal areas and within the Yellowstone Canyon between the Upper Falls and Inspiration Point must be confined to boardwalks or trails that are maintained for such travel and are marked by official signs."

Court documents state the the 10-day jail sentence must be served by Schefflin by March 1, 2020, in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Goetz must serve his 10-day sentence in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by September 1, 2020.

“Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal. Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously. Yellowstone National Park also appreciates the court for recognizing the impact thermal trespass can have on these amazing features,” said Chief Ranger Sarah Davis in a news release.

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface. Visitors must always remain on boardwalks and exercise extreme caution around thermal features.

SEP 13, 2019: 2 men caught walking too close to Old Faithful
AUG 17, 2019: Man walks within feet of Old Faithful geyser
DEC 31, 2019: Two people cited after walking near Old Faithful (video)