7 photos show that tourists have always been brazen at US national parks

Tourists taking a photo of a bear at Yellowstone National Park on July 01, 1958.
Tourists taking a photo of a bear at Yellowstone National Park in 1958.Carl Iwasaki/Getty Images
  • Tourists misbehaving at US national parks made headlines this summer. 

  • But people have been sacrificing safety for thrills since the 1900s. 

  • Archive photos from the 20th century show tourists interacting with animals and inspecting geysers. 

Tourists misbehaved at US national Parks this summer, but it's not the first time.

Whether harassing a bison calf or sticking appendages into a steaming hot spring, some tourists flouted rules to the detriment of their and wildlife's safety. Their behavior made national headlines, but we shouldn't be surprised.

Photos taken before the turn of the 21st century show tourists interacting with wildlife and edging much too close to thermal areas like geysers — take a look.

In 1958, a man attempted to feed a bear while a friend snapped pictures nearby at Yellowstone National Park.

Man trying to feed a bear during his visit to National Yellowstone park while a woman takes their picture in July 1958.
Guests are instructed to refrain from feeding the wildlife at national parks.Carl Iwasaki/Getty Images

The National Park Service (NPS) said on its website that "animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be." NPS advised people to avoid interacting with bears, even in vehicles.

"If a bear approaches or touches your car, honk your horn and drive away to discourage this behavior," the website said.

Despite decades passing, people are still getting too close to bears in Yellowstone Park. In June, a shirtless man was filmed growling and charging at bears in Yellowstone National Park.


Two men crouch and snap photos of a resting bear cub at Yellowstone National Park in 1965.

Men take photos of a bear cub at Yellowstone National Park
Men take photos of a bear cub at Yellowstone National Park in 1965.Bettmann/Getty Images

People visiting Yellowstone National Park should stay at least 100 yards, or 300 feet, away from bears, according to the NPS website.

"Every year people are injured when they approach animals too closely," the website reads.

A similar situation unfolded in August when a crowd of excited tourists surrounded a mother bear and her cubs.

Tourists at Yellowstone National Park watch bear cubs hang from their car window in 1970.

Bear cubs at Yellowstone National Park hang onto visitors car window.
The National Park Service advises tourists to avoid interacting with bears, even in vehicles.Bettmann/Getty Images

Guests should never feed bears, according to the NPS.

"Bears that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed," the NPS website reads.

Keeping wildlife away from vehicles isn't just to keep humans safe. In May, Yellowstone National Park said cars struck and killed two bears in separate incidents.


A bear chews on a tourist's tripod at Denali National Park and Preserve in 1994.

A grizzly bear chews on a visitor's tripod in January 1994 at Denali National Park.
The NPS suggests people use binoculars, a spotting scope, or a telephoto lens to photograph wildlife.Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images

Guests at Yellowstone National Park should never approach a bear to take a photo, per the NPS website. Instead, it suggests binoculars, a spotting scope, or a telephoto lens for photography.

In May, a woman faced criticism after standing dangerously close to a bison to take a selfie.

A tourist sitting in a car tried to touch a bear cub while at Yellowstone National Park in 1997.

A tourist tries to touch a bear cub at Yellowstone National Park in January 1997.
There's an average of one bear attack each year at Yellowstone National Park, per the NPS site.Dean Conger/Getty Images

There's an average of one bear attack each year at Yellowstone National Park, but it's not the main reason for fatalities.

"More people have died by drowning or suffering thermal burns from hot springs than aggressive bears," the NPS website says.

According to Yellowstone National Park, touching and interacting with wildlife can have fatal consequences. A bison calf had to be euthanized in May after a man lifted it from a river, prompting its herd to reject it.

A group of tourists inspect a geyser at Yellowstone National Park's Upper Geyser Basin in 1903.

A group of tourists explore a geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park in 1903.
Yellowstone National Park contains more than half the world's geysers.Heritage Images/Getty Images

NPS notes that Yellowstone has several thermal areas like geysers and hot springs. According to the agency, the water in thermal areas is scalding hot and can cause severe — sometimes fatal — burns.

NPS advised guests to avoid touching thermal features or related runoff.

Thermal areas continue to inspire questionable behavior from national park visitors. In June, a woman ignored warnings and put her hand in a steaming hot spring at Yellowstone National Park.

Tourists stand very close to a geyser basin at Yellowstone National Park in 1920.

People watch The Geyser Basins at Yellowstone National Park in January 1920.
The water in thermal areas can cause severe and sometimes fatal burns, per the National Park Service.George Rinhart/Getty Images

The NPS website also says Yellowstone National Park has more than half the world's geysers, mostly found in the Upper Geyser Basin. According to the site, geyser basins constantly change, making predicting a safe path for guests difficult.

"Also, the ground may be only a thin crust over boiling water or scalding mud, with some pools acidic enough to burn through boots," the NPS said. "Many people have been injured by breaking through the fragile surface, and some people have died from falling into hydrothermal features."

More than a century later, Yellowstone National Park's geyser continues to attract curious travelers, some of whom don't follow safety protocols. The national park banned a tourist who authorities said was intoxicated when he went off-trail in one of the park's thermal areas and suffered burns.

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