Yellowstone tour guide gets jail time after breaking rules

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Eastern entrance panel

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

A man who was not licensed to be a Yellowstone tour guide broke park regulations and encouraged tourists to do the same, park officials said.

Theodore Eugene Garland, a 60-year-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, wrote a guide, hosted a podcast and created a social media page to help tourists navigate Yellowstone.

Those resources, however, were filled with unreliable advice that violated many park rules, park officials said in a news release Sunday.

“Some of the examples included the provision of unauthorized guided tours; intrusion on thermal grounds; violate swim closures and cliff jumping; create ‘hot pots in the rivers;’ and disturb wildlife,” park officials said. “Garland has been charged with 15 counts of unlawful activity and violation of national park regulations.

He was convicted of seven counts, park officials said. He was sentenced to a week in jail and ordered to pay $600 in fines and costs and a $500 payment to the Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund, the national park’s nonprofit partner.

Garland is also banned from Yellowstone until the end of the year. It also rewrote its guide to remove references to illegal activities and encourage tourists to respect the park, according to park officials.

Trespassing in Yellowstone can be extremely dangerous, especially in hot spring areas. Jumping into unknown and forbidden waters in Yellowstone could plunge you into hot, boiling water or freezing snowmelt.

“The ground in the hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is boiling water just below the surface,” park officials said. “Visitors should always stay on boardwalks and trails and exercise extreme caution around thermal features.”

Last year, a 3-year-old suffered second-degree thermal burns after slipping and falling in a hot spa pool. Other people have died after falling into the waters of Yellowstone.

In 2016, an Oregon man may have dissolved after trying to soak in a hot spring area. Workers found no remains and park rangers believe it dissolved in the dangerously hot water, the Associated Press reported.

In 2019, a 48-year-old man was hospitalized with “severe burns to a significant part of his body” after falling into boiling water near Old Faithful Geyser, McClatchy News reported.

Maddie Capron is a real-time McClatchy reporter specializing in the outdoors and wildlife in the western United States. She graduated from Ohio University and previously worked at CNN, the Idaho Statesman and the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism.