Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park


Yellowstone National Park was the first federal park here in the United States. It was established in the late 19th century and has stunned visitors ever since. But the park, with all its beauty, still holds danger. Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey summarizes every recorded death in the land that comprises Yellowstone. Buffalos, bears, and many more animals reside on the park’s premises; naturally people assume that bears would be the “killers” out of that list, but buffalos, compared to bears, have killed more humans within Yellowstone. One memorable story recounts how a group of teenagers were throwing rocks at a buffalo and then left, while later a lone photographer approached the animal and was gored to death. Visitors often go too close to the wildlife. This still happens despite warning signs posted everywhere; five buffalo-inflicted human injuries have already been recorded this year! Whittlesey uses past deaths to inform readers of the common misconception that the wildlife in Yellowstone is “tame”.  Certain aspects to Yellowstone also have contributed to accidents ending in a funeral. The park is known for its heavy geothermal activity. While there are special walkways to keep visitors safe near geysers, hot springs, fumeroles and mudpots, not every person stays on the path. In the novel many people fall into waters of 200 degrees Farenheit or more; obviously the people are scalded to death, whether or not they escape the waters in a short time. Sometimes you must just observe natures wonders from a distance. Mother Nature is not a woman to mess with. The last section of the book includes human-caused deaths such as murder and suicide. you would be surprised at how many people are suspiciously “forgotten” in the 300 + inches of snow that fall in Yellowstone every winter. Be careful in picking who you hike with!

During my trip to Montana and Wyoming this book helped me understand the multitude of history that has happened in Yellowstone, along with the proper caution to heed inside the park. Though parts may seem gross, Whittlesey does a wonderful and respectful job of telling these stories. I recommend this to even those who have not been to Yellowstone.

Rory 10th Grade




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