A woman who walked in a restricted thermal feature section of Yellowstone National Park was sentenced to a week in jail, ordered to pay more than $2,000 in fines and fees, and is banned from the park, the Associated Press reported.
The 26-year-old Connecticut woman was captured on video stepping off the boardwalk and walking on the thermal features in the Norris Geyser Basin, according to a statement from acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray.
"Although a criminal prosecution and jail time may seem harsh, it's better than spending time in a hospital's burn unit," Murray said.
Signs warning visitors not to step off the boardwalk are prominently displayed on the boardwalk, where people can walk across the geyser basin.
The woman pleaded guilty to foot travel in thermal areas, a petty offense, on August 18. She was ordered to pay $1,000 and make another $1,000 community service payment. Presiding Magistrate Judge Mark Carman placed her on unsupervised probation for two years and she is forbidden from entering Yellowstone during that time.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The woman has until the end of January to serve her jail time and make the community service payment. She has until December 2022 to pay the fine, said Mark Trimble, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wyoming.
The woman, who did not retain an attorney, declined comment when reached by phone on Thursday.
Prosecutors said she was in the park with two other people on July 22 when she and one other person got off the boardwalk and were walking on thermal ground in Norris Geyser Basin, which is marked with warning signs to stay on the boardwalk. Other visitors took photos and video of the violation.
Court records do not identify the other person who walked off the boardwalk and no co-defendants were charged.
"Boardwalks in geyser basins protect visitors and delicate thermal formations," Yellowstone spokesperson Morgan Warthin said in a statement. "The ground is fragile and thin and scalding water just below the surface can cause severe or fatal burns."
More than 20 people are known to have died from hot spring-related injuries in and around Yellowstone since the late 1800s, park officials said.
The most recent death happened in June 2016 in the Norris Geyser Basin, where a 23-year-old Oregon man left the boardwalk, slipped on some gravel and fell into a highly acidic hot spring. By the next day, there were no significant human remains to recover, park officials said.