NewsCrime and Courts


Man sentenced for running out on Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Posted at 2:17 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 16:51:20-04

GREAT FALLS — Aaron E. Merritt of Madison, Maine, who repeatedly ran out on the thermal area of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, was sentenced on Thursday in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.

Merritt, 37 years old, pleaded guilty to trespassing on the Old Faithful thermal area on July 7, 2020.

Authorities said Merritt repeatedly ran out on the thermal area and up to the geyser of Old Faithful while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag.

Merritt failed to appear for a court hearing on July 23, 2020, and was arrested on a warrant in Maine on June 5, 2021.

Merritt was sentenced to 15 days in jail, followed by four years of probation; during the four years of probation, he is also banned from the park.

He was also ordered to pay a $200 fine, $30 in court costs, and a $10 special assessment fee, according to a news release from U.S. Department of Justice District of Wyoming.

The Yellowstone National Park website provides the following information about safety around thermal features:

  • Always walk on boardwalks and designated trails. Keep children close and do not let them run on boardwalks.
  • Do not touch thermal features or runoff.
  • Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.
  • Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.
  • Do not throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features.
  • Toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas. If you begin to feel sick while exploring one of our geyser basins, leave the area immediately.