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Man who ‘dissolved’ in Yellowstone’s ‘boiling acidic waters’ was ‘hot-potting’

Bruno Cooke May 6, 2022
man boiled to death in yellowstone

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Next time you see signs warning you not to stray from the path, think of Colin Nathaniel Scott of Portland, Oregon, the man who boiled to death in one of Yellowstone’s many thermal pools.

On 7 June 2016, he and his sister Sable walked “several hundred feet up a hill” from the boardwalk near Pork Chop Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, looking for a place to “hot-pot” to swim in. But the pot was too hot, and Colin “dissolved” in the pool’s “boiling acidic waters”.

WARNING: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS AHEAD

‘Water so acidic it can burn holes in clothing’

On the afternoon of 7 June 2016, a terrible accident occurred involving a young 23-year-old man from Portland, Oregon.

It happened in Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, and it was caught on camera. 

Colin Nathaniel Scott and his sister Sable had visited Yellowstone and headed for Pork Chop Geyser. Once a small hot spring, according to the National Park Service, Pork Chop began “sprouting continuously” in 1985. 

Then – on a side note – in September 1989, it exploded, throwing rocks “more than 200 feet”.

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Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Pork Chop is in Norris Geyser Basin, “one of the hottest and most acidic of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal areas”. It’s also a very active earthquake area.

Some of the pools in the area contain water at 459 degrees Fahrenheit (237 degrees Celsius), with alkalinity approaching that of baking soda – or water “so acidic that it can burn holes in clothing”. 

The NPS urges caution in hydrothermal areas. And, specifically, to “stay on boardwalks and designated trails”. 

So what happened that led Colin Nathaniel Scott to ‘boil to death’?

According to KULR8’s report on the incident – which only came out five months later, though not through any fault of the station’s – Colin and Sable Scott were looking for a place to swim (called a “hot-pot”) in the park. 

They left the boardwalk and walked “about 225 yards” up a hill. Deputy Chief Ranger Lorant Veress told the NPS they were “specifically moving in that area for a place that they could potentially get into and soak”. That’s what people call “hot-potting”.

Photo by William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

Colin Nathaniel reached down to check the temperature of a hot spring when, his sister later said, he “slipped and fell into the pool”. 

Search and rescue rangers later recovered his wallet and flip flops.

The water, Veress said, was “churning” – and acidic. “In a very short order, there was a significant amount of dissolving.”

K2 Radio quoted park spokeswoman Charissa Reid as saying that “no remains were left to recover”.

In Men’s Journal’s words, the young man “boiled to death”.

Part of it was captured on camera, but park officials would not release a description of it

The National Park Service’s official incident report, cited by KULR8, says Colin’s sister Sable used her phone to record the journey to the thermal spring.

She was shooting a video of her brother when the accident occurred. But park officials wouldn’t release the footage – or even a description of it. 

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They wouldn’t even release the final report until a Freedom of Information Act request from KULR8 in Billings, Montana.

K2 Radio, of Wyoming, emphasises the illegality of what Colin Nathaniel Scott and his sister Sable were doing. Straying from the boardwalk is a federal crime, along with impaired driving and drug possession, in Yellowstone.

“The regulations here aren’t arbitrary,” Charissa Reid told the station. “They’re in everyone’s best interests.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.