The U.S. Park Service has launched an investigation after an employee at Yellowstone National Park discovered a shoe with a partial human foot in it floating in a hot spring, the agency said.
The gruesome discovery occurred on Tuesday at the Abyss Pool, located near the West Thumb Geyser Basin on the far western shores of Yellowstone Lake. In a statement issued Friday, Yellowstone officials said they believe the foot is linked to the death of a person that occurred on the morning of July 31, 2022 at the hot spring. The statement did not provide details around the incident, but officials said foul play is not suspected.
“The investigation is continuing to determine the circumstances surrounding the death,”the park said.
With a maximum depth of 53 feet, the Abyss Pool is one of the deepest hot springs in Yellowstone. Water temperatures there reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit— hot enough to cause serious burns in humans within 3 seconds of exposure, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The area briefly closed to visitors after the discovery, but, as of Thursday, has since reopened.
Yellowstone’s geysers and other geothermal features have long fascinated visitors, and while most keep their distance, it’s not unknown for tourists and hikers to suffer severe injuries or die after intentionally or accidentally getting into the springs. In 2021, a teenage visitor suffered serious burns after jumping into the park’s Maiden’s Grave spring to save her dog. In another high-profile incident in 2016, Colin Nathaniel Scott died in one of the park’s springs after leaving a boardwalk; rescuers were unable to retrieve his body, and later said they believed it had dissolved in the spring’s scalding alkaline water.
Protected by buoyant shoes and attached to the rest of the body only by a few small ligaments and tendons, it’s not unusual for victims’ feet to surface after aquatic accidents. From 2007 to 2018, 14 severed feet washed up on the Pacific coast near Vancouver, as Outside contributor Christopher Solomon reported. Investigators were not able to tie the washed-up feet to one another and speculated they could have been from the victims of separate accidents.