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This is why park rangers warn tourists not to throw things in Yellowstone’s geysers

Posted at 7:35 AM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 12:45:27-04

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – When watching a natural geyser erupt, the last thing spectators expect is to see garbage rain down.

But those who watched Yellowstone’s Ear Spring geyser erupt on Sept. 15 had an unusual experience.

Ear Spring is normally a docile hot pool, but its rare eruption last month shot water, rocks and trash upwards of 20 feet, according to the United States Geological Survey.

It was the spring’s first eruption of this magnitude since 1957.

After the eruption, an assortment of items were found by Yellowstone National Park employees around the vent of the geyser.

Ear Spring
Some of the items collected after the Ear Spring eruption include cans, a cement block and a plastic straw. Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

Grizzly bear warning signs, cigarette butts and a 1930s pacifier were among the items discovered, said park rangers via Facebook Live this week.

Most of the recognizable items will be cataloged and stored in Yellowstone’s museum collections, according to museum curator Colleen Curry.

“Stuff like this that can tell us a story, and the history of how people were unfortunately using the spring while they were visiting it will definitely be added to the collections,” Curry said.

Ear Spring
The Ear Spring geyser about a month after its eruption in mid-September. Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

Although some of Yellowstone’s staff were excited to take a trip back in time, they made sure to remind visitors not to throw things into any geysers or springs.

“When the vent becomes completely plugged, as it has in several springs in the park, then the spring can actually plug up to the point where it’s not a hot spring anymore and it’ll go dormant or it’ll die,” park ranger Rebecca Roland said.

Roland explained how this has happened at other sites in the park, like Handkerchief Pool, an attraction that no longer exists because of visitors’ fascination with the pool’s ability to clean items, specifically handkerchiefs.

The attraction’s vent eventually got clogged due to too much junk and shut off, according to Roland.

“Foreign objects can damage hot springs and geysers. The next time Ear Spring erupts, we hope it’s nothing but natural rocks and water,” Yellowstone National Park wrote on Facebook. “You can help by never throwing anything into Yellowstone’s thermal features!”