My Book Review of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National ParkDeath in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t be reading this book just before a vacation to Yellowstone National Park. You just might cancel your reservations.

Death in Yellowstone details the 350 violent deaths that occurred from the period of 1839-2012. When you have 750 bears, 4,000 buffaloes, and 10,000 hot springs, and precipitous mountain locations things go wrong, occasionally deadly wrong, and this book chronicles approximately 350 of those end game scenarios.

It’s a well researched, 2014 second edition effort, with close to 100 pages of notes, and additional bibliography, and extensive index.

Nature Can Kill is the book’s slogan.

Here’s a representative list of the ways you could get terminated: Stumbling (or diving!) into hot springs, falling off high places, crushed by a falling tree, freezing /hypothermia, grizzly bears, murders, suicides, accidental shootings, drownings, and a few lesser tier deaths under the noxious fumes/poisonous gasses cluster. There’s more, if you can get your imagination flowing into the macabre direction.

Some segments didn’t work for me, like the drowning chapter. It quickly became repetitive to detail who drowned, how they drowned, who found them, etc.

I found the Death in Hot Water, and Human Deaths from Bears and How to Keep Them From Happening chapters the most interesting. They are also the longest chapters. I have actually backpacked for a week through Yellowstone, which was a unique experience for me, one which gave me confidence and practice in avoiding mishaps from the few bear encounters that I have experienced. I saw grizzlies and I am here to tell about it, as are most of the many millions of individuals who have enjoyed their visits in the Park. The best part of the book was on pages 87-90 at the end of the bear chapter. The author summarizes all the data from bear attacks and reduces the advice to this sentences, ”The worst possible situation is a person hiking alone, who surprises a bear that is feeding ( as on a carcass) and also has cubs.”

I was just back in Yellowstone this week, where federal cuts resulted in no rangers observed supervising the hordes of summer tourists doing their best to illustrate stupid behaviors in the wilderness. I expect a thicker revision of this popular book, and sooner than later. Some of those people walking around the Park with their eyes glued onto their smart phones are going to figure into this.

View all my reviews

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About tjamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2013 . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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One Response to My Book Review of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

  1. Tenzing says:

    on our first trip to Yellowstone almost 20 years ago, this was the FIRST book that Carol read upon our arrival! Actually, it is helpful in keeping one from becoming part of it.

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