Webcam catches tourists walking on Old Faithful

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Warning signs in multiple languages and the risk of getting cooked like garbanzo beans in a pressure cooker didn’t stop some 30 tourists from taking a way-too-close look at Yellowstone’s famous Old Faithful Geyser.

Fortunately, someone was keeping an eye on them — by webcam, hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin.

Before the geyser’s next eruption, the viewer called Yellowstone and a ranger herded them to safety. The ranger handed out $125 tickets to several people, including the tour group leader.

Yellowstone National Park officials on Friday used the incident to repeat yet again their message to all who visit: Getting too close to boiling-hot geysers, mud pots and thermal pools is very dangerous.

Obey the warning signs. Keep to the boardwalks. Stay out of hot water — literally.

“One would never want to be close to a geyser like that or, frankly, look down into the column as apparently some of these visitors did,” park spokesman Al Nash said.

A video posted on YouTube showed four members of the group strolling right up to the opening of Old Faithful, followed by the rest of the group within minutes.

Some posed for photos within easy reach of the searing hot water that bubbles out Old Faithful for several minutes ahead of each eruption.

Every year, a small handful of Yellowstone’s more than 3 million annual visitors illegally venture off the boardwalks that surround many of the park’s thermal features.

They gamble that the solid-looking ground isn’t but a thin wafer of minerals above a boiling-hot pool. About one person a year gets burned, Nash said.

Others, like the ones involved in the latest close call, just get caught — like the two men in 2009 who got busted on the all-seeing Old Faithful live webcam as they urinated into the geyser between eruptions.

Nash didn’t have any specific information about the tour group but said they must have ignored several signs in several languages when they walked off the boardwalk and onto the gently sloping cone of Old Faithful.

Free handouts likewise warn of Yellowstone’s myriad dangers — which also include charging bison and grumbly grizzly bears — in several languages, including French, German, Chinese and Japanese.

Besides potentially punching their feet through the geyser basin crust, the tour group risked getting seared by Old Faithful’s blasts of 204-degree water.

The eruptions occur every hour or two, less predictable than the geyser’s name suggests.

“It’s not something you can set your watch to,” Nash said.

So who was the hero who called? Nash said the park isn’t sure.

“We know that people all over the world love Yellowstone and they express it in very many ways. This was a rather unique approach and it was certainly appreciated,” he said.

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