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Woman Drowns in Yellowstone Backcountry

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Date: September 11, 2009
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2015

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
September 11, 2009     09-083    
Al Nash or Stacy Vallie (307) 344-2015


Woman Drowns In Yellowstone Backcountry
A woman from Wyoming drowned Thursday afternoon in the backcountry in the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

Heidi Llewellyn Smith of Jackson drowned in the Bechler River, near a backcountry campsite located about five-and-a-half trail miles north-northeast of the Bechler Ranger Station.  

The 30-year-old woman was one of a party of four staying at the Bechler Ford backcountry campsite.    The woman reportedly said she felt ill, and went swimming.

She was later discovered under four feet of water against a log. Smith was removed from the river by a friend who determined that she wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.  The friend ran five miles to the Bechler Ranger Station and reported the incident at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.

Rangers on horseback responded to the drowning report from the Bechler Ranger Station as well as a National Park Service helicopter from Mammoth Hot Springs with a park medic.  They found the woman unconscious, not breathing, and without a pulse.  She was declared dead at the scene. The incident remains under investigation.

The Bechler region of Yellowstone is accessible by road in the spring, summer and fall from Ashton, Idaho.  Since it is not connected to the Grand Loop Road and is not close to any of the park’s better known attractions, the area is primarily used by anglers, backpackers, and stock users.

This is the first accidental death in the park in 2009, and the first drowning since September 2007.

- www.nps.gov/yell -

Did You Know?

Dog Hooked to Travois for Transporting Goods.

Some groups of Shoshone Indians, who adapted to a mountain existence, chose not to acquire the horse. These included the Sheep Eaters, or Tukudika, who used dogs to transport food, hides, and other provisions. The Sheep Eaters lived in many locations in Yellowstone.