Happy birthday, Yellowstone! Here are 10 of our most memorable stories from the park
This year is the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park, and over the decades, millions of memories have been created there.
Spanning 3,500 miles and covering parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone’s popularity has grown in recent years. In 2021, 4.8 million people visited the park, making it the busiest year on record.
To commemorate the anniversary, we’re looking back at 10 memorable Yellowstone stories EastIdahoNews.com has covered in recent years.
Flood closes Yellowstone
Following days of exceptionally heavy rainfall, Yellowstone flooded in June 2022 and visitors were forced to evacuate the park. The extreme flood event caused severe damage to roads, water and wastewater systems, power lines and other critical park infrastructure.
The park closed for about a week and a half following the floods. Businesses in nearby West Yellowstone and Island Park felt ripple effects from the closure as the number of tourists plummeted.
Most park entrances eventually reopened, but it could take years before all repairs are complete.
Wolverine spotted in middle of the road
A wolverine was captured on video by a Yellowstone tourist in March 2022 — an impressive feat considering a research survey conducted in the park from 2006 to 2009 only documented seven of them.
Carl Kemp was on a tour when he spotted the wolverine in the middle of the road. The furry animal galloped back and forth in the snow as Kemp and his daughter Maya looked on.
Kemp has worked in various jobs at Yellowstone for over two decades, and this was the first time he has seen a wolverine up close within the park.
Man banned from park after walking out to Old Faithful and lying next to geyser
A man captured on video walking on the cone of Old Faithful in September 2018 was banned from Yellowstone after he appeared to urinate in the geyser and lie down next to it.
Gabriel Villalva pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and foot traffic on a thermal area in Yellowstone Park.
In the video, an official can be heard shouting, “This is the Park Service. Get on the boardwalk!”
A second video surfaced afterward showing Villalva doing the same thing at the Beryl Spring in Yellowstone on the same day. He was later arrested after leading police officers in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on a wild chase.
Man sentenced to jail for taunting bison
Video showing an Oregon man harassing a bison at Yellowstone, and then nearly getting trampled, outraged people around the world.
Millions watched Raymond Reinke walk toward the massive animal on a park road in August 2018. The bison appeared to growl, and the man ran away as it charged toward him.
Reinke was ultimately arrested and sentenced to 130 days in jail after pleading guilty to four charges of misconduct in national parks.
Visitors get too close to bears and bison
Every year, Yellowstone issues warnings about visitors getting too close to wildlife.
In 2021, an Illinois woman was charged after getting too close to a grizzly bear and her cubs. Witnesses told investigators that when they saw the bears coming closer, they returned to their vehicles and warned the woman to get back, but she did not until after the sow grizzly charged her.
Samantha Dehring was sentenced to four days in jail and a year of unsupervised probation.
Yellowstone asks all visitors to remain at least 100 yards from bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife.
Visitors cook chickens in hot spring
An Idaho Falls man and two others were in hot water after being found with cooking pots and two chickens in a thermal area of Yellowstone in August 2020.
The group was near Shoshone Geyser Basin with cooking pots when a ranger was called and discovered two whole chickens in a burlap sack sitting in a hot spring with a cooking pot nearby.
Traveling off boardwalks or designated trails in hydrothermal areas, along with placing anything into thermal features, is prohibited in Yellowstone.
Partial human foot found in shoe
A Yellowstone National Park employee found part of a foot inside a shoe floating in a hot pool in August 2022.
The discovery was made in Abyss Pool in the West Thumb Geyser Basin in the southern part of the park.
A park spokesperson said evidence suggests an incident involving one person likely occurred on July 31. Officials believe there was no foul play, but the investigation continues to determine the circumstances of the death.
Woman trying to save dog from hot spring is severely burned
A woman was burned on more than 90% of her body when trying to save her dog, which had run into a hot spring in October 2021.
Laiha Slayton’s dog, Rusty, ran into Maiden’s Grave Spring near the Firehole River, a thermal feature with a temperature around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Laiha’s father pulled her from the spring, and she was flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in critical condition. Rusty was taken to a veterinarian but did not survive.
Four months after the accident, Laiha spoke with EastIdahoNews.com after undergoing 18 surgeries. She was released from the hospital following a “miraculous” recovery.
Body of man who fell into hot spring unable to be recovered
The body of a man who fell into a hot spring at the Norris Geyser Basin in June 2016 was unable to be recovered.
Park officials told EastIdahoNews.com the temperature of the hot springs was “off the charts” when the 23-year-old Portland man slipped and fell in. He and his sister were hiking 225 yards off the boardwalk when he fell.
Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature. In 2020, a 3-year-old took off running from a trail and slipped and fell into a small thermal feature. The child was airlifted to the burn center at EIRMC with second-degree-thermal burns on the lower body and back.
Tourists put bison calf in car thinking it’s cold
Two Canadian tourists spotted a newborn bison calf in May 2016 and thought the animal was cold. They loaded it into their SUV and drove to a ranger station “seriously worried that the calf was freezing and dying.”
Park rangers were called, and the father-and-son tourists were ticketed. The rangers followed the pair back to where they had picked up the bison, and it was released.
Rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the calf with its herd but interference by humans caused its mother to reject the bison. It was euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the road.