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The National Park Service is investigating after a Yellowstone park employee discovered a shoe with a partial human foot 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. With a maximum depth of 53 feet, the Abyss Pool is one of the deepest hot springs in Yellowstone. Water temperatures there reach 140°F 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.
In a statement, Yellowstone said that the park was investigating the incident.
“Evidence from the investigation thus far suggests that an incident involving one individual likely occurred on the morning of July 31, 2022, at Abyss Pool,” the park wrote. “Currently, the park believes there was no foul play. The investigation is continuing to determine the circumstances surrounding the death.”
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.