Visitors to the Gibbon Falls overlook in Yellowstone National Park should stay away from the edge of the stone railing because frequent earthquakes make area the unsafe. The falls is understandably a beautiful location, but visitors sometimes sit on the edge of the stone railing. Some visitors even turn so their feet hang over the edge.

According to an article published by the National Park Service, “Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active areas in the United States.” Given the seismic activity and the high altitude, the ledge around the falls could break when an earthquake hits. If people are on the edge above the falls, then they could fall down the steep canyon that leads into the water. It’s very rocky and surrounded by rock walls above.

During a recent visit to Yellowstone, my class observed a visitor sitting on the edge at the Gibbon Falls. I took the time to interview him. While discussing his experience, he said, “I didn’t think the area was unsafe, I just thought of it as a place to sit.” I asked him why he sat with his legs over the edge and he said, “It was just a comfy position to sit. It’s not like I knew about the earthquakes or the danger. The only thing I thought of was the rocky slopes, the roaring water, steep hillsides, the volcanic rock around us.” What he stated explains how it’s unsafe. Steep hillsides and rocky slopes can obviously result in death if you fall. The roaring water could take your body downstream never to be found again. But it also shows how visitors can get distracted by the beauty and do unsafe things.

Brett French said that an issue in YNP is that there are two types of people, the people who don’t know any better and the people who think they know too much.

Others may say it’s not that big of a deal. But according to research, there were three different earthquakes on May 7, 2017, a few days after my class observed this visitor with his feet over the edge. The magnitudes of the three were 2.9, 3.7, and 3.9.

Visitors in the park like to be on the edge for photo-ops. But they should not just avoid this because of the earthquakes. The edge and surrounding areas towards the edge can be broken or rocks can become loose. People who sit on edge could fall backwards and continue to stumble down the steep canyon. There are some very steep slopes.
The park should station a ranger at the Gibbon Falls at all times. In order to do this, they need additional funding to pay for a full-time ranger. It’s important that they do this to prevent injury and death.


CC BY-SA 4.0 Gibbon Falls Outlook by Jessalyn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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