Off-Trailing in Yellowstone Destroying Landscapes
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 13, 2020
Yellowstone sends an urgent message about off-trailing.
On the surface, the Park’s message to tourists is simple and often-repeated: staff on the marked trails and boardwalks when visiting. But this rule appears to be especially disregarded this season. Park officials are reporting several “social trails” created by visitors and not designated by boardwalks or markers. They only develop through persistent off-trail foot traffic over time. These social trails are often eye-sores and taint the otherwise undisturbed landscape for decades. But park officials have a more urgent problem.
Yellowstone is an incredibly fragile environment, and not only at the thin crusts of the thermal features. The park is home to six unique species of plants, three native bugs, and spectacular bacteria and fungi. Even a single step off -trail can permanently alter or even destroy these natural elements. Rebuilding and restoring the human damage caused in any of these areas is lengthy and expensive – with no guarantee of success. That one, in-the-moment choice can deprive generations of Yellowstone’s natural beauty.
This isn’t the first persistent issue of visitor disregard this summer. There has been a surge in visitors wading and swimming in waters that are closed for their own safety and the protection of unique park resource. They risk not only permanent damage to the landscape, but themselves as well.