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Yellowstone Visitor Gets Jail Time for Trespassing on Park Thermal Feature

Washington Man Sentenced to Week in Jail and Fined After Walking off Boardwalk toward World's Tallest Active Geyser

Steamboat Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin is the world's tallest active geyser. It it is also the most dangerous, according to a Yellowstone National Park press release. Photo by Matt Poyner/NPS
Steamboat Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin is the world's tallest active geyser. It it is also the most dangerous, according to a Yellowstone National Park press release. Photo by Matt Poyner/NPS
by Mountain Journal

A 21-year-old Washington state man was sentenced to seven days in jail last week for trespassing on a thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park. Viktor Pyshniuk of Lynwood, Washington, was also banned from Yellowstone for two years and ordered to pay more than $1,500 in fines and court fees for the violation, according to a June 13 statement from the park.

On April 19, Pyshniuk told a park law enforcement officer that he walked off the boardwalk at Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin to take photographs. A separate park employee captured photos of the incident which show Pyshniuk within 20 feet of the geyser’s steam vent.

“Trespassing in closed, thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park is dangerous and harms the natural resource,” said Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann said in the statement. “In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time.”

Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick, who handed down the sentence on June 4, was concerned that Pyshniuk walked off the boardwalk in plain sight of other parkgoers and that the action might send the wrong message and “they might have thought it was okay to do the same thing,” according to the press release.

“Steamboat Geyser is a prominent feature within YNP and the world’s tallest active geyser, but it is also the most dangerous,” the statement continued. “It has erratic and unpredictable eruptions that can rise anywhere from six to 300 feet high. In the last four years, the intervals between eruptions ranged anywhere from three to 89 days according to the YNP website: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/steamboat-geyser.htm.

“Judge Hambrick also explained that the three-foot fencing around the boardwalk is a clear sign that the area is closed and prohibited from entering.”

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