Public Entry into Geothermal Features Prohibited by NPS Regulation

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Date: May 30, 2014
Contact: Public Affairs Office, 307.739.3393

In accordance with the National Park Service (NPS) Management Policies of 2006, public entry into geothermal features is prohibited within the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Application of this NPS policy is consistent with regulations currently enforced in adjacent Yellowstone National Park. 

"In order to protect thermal features and also provide for human safety, we are obligated to enforce the NPS policies, and from now forward, we will '…prohibit swimming or bathing in a thermal pool or stream that has waters originating entirely from a thermal spring or pool'  as defined in NPS Management Policies §," stated Superintendent David Vela. "We are responsible for applying the best stewardship practices that allow for eventual restoration and conservation of these unique resources under our care, and accordingly, we will enforce the NPS regulation that prohibits entry into geothermal features," added Superintendent Vela. 

"Hot-potting" is a popular activity that will still be permitted in any creeks or pools not solely of thermal origin. Features that remain open for public use are only those warmed by the runoff from nearby hot springs, such as Polecat Creek itself, which provides an desirable environment in which to soak. 

Thermal features such as hot springs and geysers are rare in a global context, and are typically associated with Yellowstone National Park. Perhaps not as well known, the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway contains approximately 100 mapped hot springs as a result of the same underlying geology that shaped the nucleus of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). National parks of the GYE include the vast majority of the world's thermal features, and are essentially the only intact or undisturbed such features. These are truly unique and rare natural resources that are vulnerable to the impacts of human activities such as swimming and bathing. 

In addition, thermal areas may present certain hazards to human safety. Springs vary considerably in temperature and can change unpredictably in response to seismic activity. Some of the mapped springs in the Polecat Creek/Huckleberry Hot Springs area range up to 160° Fahrenheit, much higher than is considered safe for humans to touch. Also, as recently as 2002, scientists have collected Naegleria fowleri and other associated species from Huckleberry Hot Springs and Polecat Creek. Naegleria fowleri can cause ameobic meningitis, which may be fatal if ingested by humans. 

Visitors to the thermal areas of the Rockefeller Parkway are cautioned to watch their footing and be aware that thermal features often have thin crusts that can give way, causing potential injury from scalding water. Visitors are also urged to be mindful of their impacts to these fragile natural areas and to help preserve them for understanding and appreciation of future generations.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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