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Yellowstone visitor charged after going off trail in thermal area and burning himself

The famed national park routinely warns its millions of visitors to stay on trails and away from thermal areas, which are dangerous and sometimes deadly.
An entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Wy.
An entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.Jacob W. Frank / National Park Service

A Michigan man has been charged with two misdemeanor federal counts after he burned himself in one of Yellowstone National Park’s thermal areas, federal prosecutors said.

The 49-year-old man is accused of “being under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the degree he was a danger to himself or others,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Wyoming said Thursday.

The incident happened Tuesday night, and the man was arraigned Wednesday, the office said.

He was charged with one count each of foot travel in all thermal areas and within Yellowstone Canyon confined to trails and presence in park area when under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance.

The U.S. attorney’s statement and a citation included in federal court documents do not give more details about the charge relating to being under the influence of alcohol or substances.

It is also unclear where the incident occurred. Park officials referred questions to prosecutors.

The man suffered “a non-life-threatening injury to his lower extremity,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

He has been banned from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks until the case is resolved, the office said.

Hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone National Park contain scalding water, and the ground is thin and easily broken, the park said.

There are more than 10,000 thermal features in the park, including more than 500 geysers. Others include hot springs, mudpots, travertine terraces and fumaroles, according to the park.