Searching online for material related to a photo of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone (below), I learned a tragic accident had occurred there while we were in the park last summer. An eight-year-old girl, hiking with her family to the observation platform at the brink of the falls, was two-third’s of the way down the trail when she fell 550 feet into the canyon. She had apparently stepped off the trail when she lost her footing.
We last took the trail to the brink of the lower falls in 2010. The high usage, 1.5 mile paved trail, round trip, is steep, dropping 600 feet over multiple switchbacks to the viewing platform. The climb back up is strenuous.
Numerous signs along the trail warn visitors to stay on the trail. Some are intended to limit human caused erosion.
Some people choose to ignore the signs.
Other signs warn of danger.
Unfortunately, some people ignore these signs, too, some quite flagrantly.
Hiking a portion of the South Rim Trail last summer, we were passed several times by a large group, all of whom looked to be in their early 20s, except for one or two. It was an organized group, possible a guided day hike.
If it was a guided hike, their trail discipline was very poor.
We saw several of the group venture off the trail to have their picture taken with the canyon in the background, including one young man repeatedly, including some balancing poses that could have ended badly.
On the day the girl fell into the canyon, we took Uncle Tom’s Trail down into the canyon. The trail is asphalt with switchbacks and steps, including a metal staircase with 328 steps terminating at a view platform about 3/4 of the way down into the canyon.
It’s across the canyon from where the accident occurred and slightly downstream. The photo below is the observation platform at the brink of the lower falls, through a zoom lens.
We were on Uncle Tom’s Trail in the middle of the afternoon. The accident occurred in the morning, with the body recovered around noon.