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Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed!

| Updated Jul 11, 2023

They're called Yellowstone Tourons – selfish, irresponsible “tourist morons” whose disdain of the Yellowstone National Park rules puts themselves and wildlife at risk. Their outrageous behavior makes the news almost weekly.

And this week on Episode 455 of the RV Podcast, we talk to a ranger at Yellowstone National Park about a rash of these “Touron” incidents – and what responsible visitors can do to help park rangers deal with the problems.

Plus… 

  • expert tips on maintaining the critical safety detectors on your RV
  • Welcome news of lower gas prices in the near future
  • Reports on too close encounters with bears
  • And RV News, travel information, and your RV Lifestyle questions.

You can watch the video version from our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel by clicking the player below.

If you prefer an audio-only podcast, you can hear us through your favorite podcast app or listen now through the player below.

SOCIAL MEDIA BUZZ – Wendy Bowyer

Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 1

Wendy Bowyer reports on the hot issues most talked about this past week on our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group:

One post that really caught people's attention last week was from John. John took a picture of his awning that hadn't been cleaned in five years. As you can imagine, it was pretty stained and dirty. John bought a Magic Eraser mop and cleaned a section of it and showed everyone the before and after.

People loved it! 

Some asked specific questions about the Magic Eraser mop. Others shared what they use to successfully clean their awnings. Some use a product called Awesome, sold at dollar stores, and others use a homemade combo with Dawn dish soap, a dash of bleach, and water.

Others said to prevent the mold in the first place, always make sure your awning is dry before storage.

Lots of helpful tips in that post, with hundreds and hundreds of shares and comments.

Angie had quite the scare last week. The very second she stepped outside her camper last week, what did she see but a BLACK BEAR! She said the bear came up from the side of her RV, completely freaked her out, and she ran right back in.

Can you imagine?

She was camping in Helen, Georgia, and her post led to a big long conversation of what others would do if they came face to face with a black bear. And do you know, quite a few RV Lifestyle Facebook members have!

Rhonda said one time she was camping at Glacier National Park, came out of the camper, turned, and there, under the slide out, was a black bear just 6 feet away! She said she gasped so loudly she scared the poor thing. The bear actually jumped, its eyes grew big and it ran away!

Josh said he had a black bear walk up to him in the Smokies two years ago. He said it was amazing how something so big could be so quiet. The encounter was the scariest experience of his life.

Then, I'll leave you with a picture and a”public service announcement”.

Teresa snatched a picture of her dog, a Blue Heeler, poking his head through the window of her rig and wrote:

“Public Service Announcement: Fifth Wheel screens are not Blue Heeler proof.”

The picture was adorable and many said their dogs poke their heads through the screens of their campers, too. Who knew?? Many shared pictures – which were fun to see!

RV RECIPE OF THE WEEK – Jerrica Mah

Time now for the RV Recipe of the Week, brought to you by CampingFoodRecipes.com

Here's the editor of CampingFoodRecipes.com, outdoor enthusiast and lifelong foodie enthusiast Jerrica Mah:

Campfire Nachos Recipe

Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 2

Hey Camping Foodies, Jerrica here with CampingFoodRecipes.com, and this week I have a crowd pleaser for you. The recipe of the week is Campfire Nachos, and if you've ever had them before, you know they disappear quickly around the campfire. 

They're really fun to make. You can toss in any ingredients you want with the chips and cheese, cook them over the campfire, and then we all dig in straight from the skillet. But what we've done for you is we've created a loaded campfire nacho recipe with all of our favorite ingredients and clear instructions on how to make it perfectly every time. 

It's all about the layering. As you layer the ingredients, you ensure each chip is full of toppings with every bite. Be sure to check out that recipe.

We're also adding more recipes every week, including ones you can cook over the campfire, grill, or in your RV. There are so many great options that'll make planning your next camping menu a breeze. 

Make sure to visit campingfoodrecipes.com, chow down on those campfire nachos, and don't forget to submit your favorite camping food recipe through our site. We're incredibly grateful for the people who have sent in their recipes. It's a real treat to share your favorites.

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK – Dealing with the Yellowstone Tourons

Linda Veress, a ranger and spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park - Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed!

Our guest is Linda Veress, a ranger and spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park is on just about every RVers' bucket list.  With its iconic landscapes, rich history, and abundant wildlife, the park drew nearly 3.3 million visitors last year and really is a place like no other.

But one thing we have noticed especially this summer season, is there seems to be more and more incidents making the news of visitors doing some really foolish things placing themselves – and in some cases Yellowstone's wildlife –  in danger. The locals and those of us concerned about the irresponsible, ignorant, and often dangerous behavior have used the term “Tourons,” a combination of tourist and moron.

Today to talk about what is safe, what is not safe, and what to do if you see someone doing the latter, is Linda Veress, a Yellowstone ranger and spokesperson. Welcome Linda!

Mike:

It seems that this has been a crazy year. I mean, almost every day we're hearing something about some foolish action that visitors are taking. Is it more now than before or is it just that we’re hearing about it more?

Linda Veress: 

Yeah, it's hard to say. It's hard to say compared to previous years because now that we have these different websites and social media and then people have their cell phones and they're taking photos and sharing. So it's hard to say whether these things happened before or if there's a significant increase this year. But I can say that these things probably happen every day – Lots of incidents that we might not even know about.

Mike: 

Give us a sense of what happens out there on a daily basis?

Linda Veress: 

I'd say probably the two that I've been hearing a lot about this year, and it happens other years as well, would be wildlife. People just getting too close to wildlife and maybe turning their backs and taking selfies, not paying attention. I think that's the main thing is just being too close or not being aware of their surroundings and that there are maybe elk cows with calves nearby, just not paying attention to what they're doing. 

The other thing that we see are people wanting to touch the thermal features, throw things into them, get off of the boardwalks so they can get a better photo with the thermal pool or geyser in the background.

Mike:

When we talk about thermal features, I don't think people understand just how hot they are. Maybe you could give us a little bit of a reality check here.

Linda Veress:

Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 3

People have died in the thermal features before. And it's hard to tell how hot it is. It could be a couple hundred degrees. It could also be very acidic. A casual visitor to the park might not know the properties of the water.

And one of the things would be, you could look at a beautiful pool for instance, and it just looks very calm, serene. Some of them are gorgeous blue or green, and it kind of entices people to come up and get a closer look. But the second thing, touch it, it could be a couple hundred degrees, very acidic. 

And surrounding the pool is a very fragile area. So with someone's weight on it, it could break through and the person can fall into the pool and die.

Mike:

I've often wondered, do animals ever wander into those pools?

Linda Veress:

Sometimes they do, but they've got a good survival instinct. So they know to stay away from it, but it can happen.

Mike:

You did find, did you not, a leg and a foot last year in, in one of those pools, in one of the thermal ponds?

Linda Veress: Yeah. We did, we did.

There were some visitors in that geyser basin at West Thumb and they saw a shoe come up. And sometimes we see things that will float up in the pools just because people like throwing things into them. But as Park Staff fished it out, they did find human remains inside the shoe. So we did launch an investigation and identified the person. 

We don't really know what happened because that person was there alone and it was unwitnessed. So we don't know, but that individual did die in the pool.

Mike:

Yeah, that's how hot it is and acidic it is. Now, back to the animals, which I think is a huge, that's why many people come to Yellowstone to see the animals. I mean, we've seen pictures now of somebody trying to take a selfie petting a bison. And I guess we need to go over those rules a little bit. How far do you need to be from each of the different species that we see at Yellowstone? And I guess what are the consequences? Because these are wild animals. This isn't a Walt Disney movie here. This is their home.

Linda Veress:

Exactly, exactly. I think a lot of people, you know, they're not used to seeing wild animals in their neighborhoods. And as they were traveling through the park, the animals are used to people to a certain extent as well. You know, they might be peacefully grazing, resting, sleeping, standing, and they look calm.

They are wild and they're managed as wildlife here in the park, they can be very unpredictable and for the most part it's like if you stay a certain distance away they won't feel threatened. 

But as soon as you get closer to them, or if they have young, or during the rut, they can be very aggressive towards people. It's because people are invading their space. So here in the park, we want people to stay at least 25 yards away from all wildlife, and 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

That's the minimum and you could be far away but if they're acting aggressively or they're looking at you or if it's during the rut or where they're protecting young you might need to stay even farther away from that.

Mike:

Now, there have been also incidents, it seems like every spring and summer, where somebody sees a bison calf and decides that they need to help it. We know people have tried to pick them up, to put them in their vehicle and drive them to you guys. Maybe we ought to explain about these baby animals. 

Linda Veress:

That's right, that's right. And so we can talk about bison calves a little bit. Again, we manage wildlife as in a natural setting here. So it's not a zoo. It's not a sanctuary. And sometimes animals will die in the park. Young can get separated from their herds, from their mothers.

That happened earlier this year, they might get swept down the river and they might die. But that's what happens in nature. But the one good thing to know is that, usually when something like that dies, predators or scavengers will come and eat it. So, it'll stay on the landscape. So we don't rescue wildlife here or send them to sanctuaries, but we just kind of follow a process, the natural process.

Mike:

This video has been seen over 5 MILLION times so far…

We've seen all of these viral videos that have gone up of people getting too close to bison or being chased by an elk. Do those videos help you? I mean, you actually do go out and try and identify those people. Do you not when you see them?

Linda Veress:

Sometimes, yes. We appreciate it. Visitors don't always have cell service, where they're at when they see these things happen. And we appreciate it. When they send us videos, it's helpful if they have a license plate or description of the vehicle. 

And if we get the information soon enough, rangers can contact that person and investigate what happened because a lot of these acts are illegal. 

People walking off the boardwalk, going up to the thermal features, or getting close to wildlife trying to pet the wildlife. These are all illegal acts.

 And if we can pursue them just to get the message across that this is not okay to do, it would be great.

Mike:

If somebody is at the park and they do observe people getting too close to the animals, what should they do when we see irresponsible behavior at the park?

Linda Veress:

An immediate thing that they can do is tell the people that, hey, it's illegal or hey, that's unsafe because the people might not know and that's something that they could respond to right away to stop the behavior. 

And if that doesn't work, if they can just get any identifying, information like a license plate and or description of the individuals and pass it on to rangers as quickly as possible, that would be great.

Taking a video and then sharing it as soon as possible or photos with rangers as soon as possible would also be helpful.

Mike:

What are the penalties that these people who behave irresponsibly, what do they face when they are identified?

Linda Veress:

Each individual case will vary slightly depending on the circumstances and the infractions. But many of them could fall under misdemeanors, which would be up to $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail. 

For some of the more egregious ones, there will be a mandatory appearance in court. We have a court right here in Mammoth Hot Springs. So then it'll be up to the judge to determine what the fines would be.

Mike:

Mammoth Hot Springs is one of our favorite spots there and I can't let you go without asking you about the elk because there are so many elk that live there. They are always there. When people walk out of the stores or the restaurants, they're very apt to run into some elk. They can be very aggressive. They look like they're resting and hanging out and chilling out, but you don't want to get close to them or get them spooked.

Linda Veress:

Exactly, exactly. I see them on a daily basis almost, and even for me, living and working here, when I walk out of buildings, I look around. It's so important to stay aware of your surroundings and know what's around. So I always walk out of a building and I look around, see if there are any elk or other wildlife, and then if there are, I'll walk way around them so I'm not anywhere near them. So I maintain that 25-yard distance for sure.

There are certain times a year, during spring calving season and during the elk rut, everyone who lives here, is especially aware that we know we really need to pay attention and maintain our distance. 

Sometimes with the elk calves, like this spring I saw one, it was hidden on the pavement between two vehicles in the parking lot.

Mama was nowhere to be seen because normally what elk mamas do is they'll park the babies. It could be up against a building and between cars while they feed. And interestingly, the calf knows to stay there, but mama will always come back for the calf. 

So that's another instance where you definitely want to leave the calf alone. 

But yeah, just fun times around here for a few weeks.

Mike:

How's it going with traffic control and all those problems with construction? How's Yellowstone doing this year?

Linda Veress:

I think a couple of things that people should know is that in Yellowstone we do not have a timed entry or reservation to get into the park. Some other parks have implemented this, but at Yellowstone we do not require a permit to get into the park. So they can come at any time.

We had catastrophic floods last fall and it did wash out a couple of the roads in the park. 

We were closed for a short period of time but those roads were washed out pretty much all last summer but they have been rebuilt so all the roads in the park are open this year we do have some road construction projects going on. 

So plan ahead and take it easy as they're driving through

Just be patient and flexible.

Mike: 

Linda, thank you for making some time for us. God bless you out there.

Linda Veress:

Thank you very much.

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK 

Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 4

Gas Buddy analyst predicts gas to cost less than $3 a gallon this fall

Gas prices should dip below $3 a gallon this fall, and prices the second half of summer should be lower than they were the first part of the summer, according to an analyst from Gas Buddy.

Gas prices remain higher than they were two years ago, but thankfully are less than they were last year.

As of the weekend, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.54. The average price for a gallon of diesel was $3.85.

The part of the country with the highest gas prices is the West – think California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Idaho with some places reporting prices as high as $4.97 a gallon.

The parts of the country with the lowest gas prices are generally in the South – think Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina with some places reporting gas prices as low as $2.97 a gallon.

If gas prices influence where you travel, be sure to check out the latest numbers here

For tips on how to get improve your mileage, see our story here.

Man dies in car at Death Valley National Park after air conditioner gives out & he suffers two flat tires

A man died in his car at Death Valley National Park last week because of the extreme heat.

The man had two flat tires, and apparently his air conditioning stopped working as temperatures soared as high as 126 degrees in the day. 

Much of the West experienced scorching temperatures last week. The sad story of the man's death is a good reminder to all of us to check our tires, and make sure all parts of our vehicles or motorhomes  are in working condition before heading out this summer.

To see our story RV Tires: What you need to know, click here.

Oregon experiments with  same-day camping reservations at 17 popular state parks

Those who like to travel serendipitously can now get same-day reservations at some popular Oregon state parks.

Previously reservations had to be made at least 24-hours in advance for the popular campgrounds, largely on the Oregon coast. And those reservations, which would open six months in advance, would typically fill minutes after opening.

So the state is testing a new system at 17 parks where 24-hour advance reservations are no longer required. The change recognizes that people's plans change. In fact, about one-fourth of Oregon's reservations are eventually canceled.

To learn more about the Oregon change, click here. To read more about why we like serendipitous travel, click here.

Michigan state park and campground briefly closed over July 4th holiday after massive alcohol-fueled brawl landed three in hospital

Officials had to temporarily close Michigan's South Higgins Lake State Park over the July 4th holiday after a fight involving 30 people caused three to be hospitalized.

The fight started in the water and moved onto land. Police said alcohol was a factor. Some social media accounts show the park – especially the lake area – crammed with shoulder-to-shoulder people in the water at times.

South Higgins Lake State Park is one of Michigan's largest campgrounds in terms of number of campsites, and its lake also popular among day visitors. To read more click here.

RV Industry News with Rick Kessler

Rick Kessler, executive editor of the industry leading publications  RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Magazines. 

For the latest in RV and Camping Industry news, we’re joined by Rick Kessler, executive editor of the industry leading publications  RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Magazines

Well, there’s really not a lot to report for couple of reasons. 

First, it was a short week due to the 4th of July holiday.

Second, the RV industry is still on a bit of a break. Manufacturers are on an extended shutdown as the marketplace reconciles the supply-and-demand situation.

Still, there was some news to pass along.

There’s been a handful of solar awnings that are just beginning to hit the market, with the latest coming from Lippert, one of the RV industry’s mega suppliers. Lippert has partnered with Renogy on flexible solar awning fabric for Lippert’s Solera OG (off-grid) brand of awnings. They claim the awnings have up to 300 watts of solar power, and even when rolled up it can still pull in about 60% of its photovoltaic production potential.

Stay tuned, folks. This innovation is only going to get better.

And lastly, have you ever wondered what it takes to build a campground? 

Our people at Woodall’s Campground Magazine have launched a new show that offers an inside look as Mike and Melissa Crowe, the owners of Mitten Getaways Glamping Company, as they go about developing their new park in Michigan.

You can watch the show on Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn pages – just search for Mitten Minute. 

The show will also be distributed as a podcast and can be listened to on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

RV Tip of the Week from Brenda of Queen Bee RV

RV Inspector Brenda of Queen Bee RV. 

Time now for the RV Tip of the week from certified RV Inspector Brenda of Queen Bee RV

Brenda’s focus is on educating RVers on how to care for their RVs – especially women RVers – and she is a regular contributor to the podcast, sharing her expertise with our entire audience.

Here’s Brenda.. The RV Queen Bee… with this week’s RV Tip.

Life Safety detectors

Let’s dive a little deeper on some of the safety equipment that we have in the RV and focus on your detectors:  LP, Carbon Monoxide or CO, and the smoke detector.

Your LP detector might be a stand alone or a combo with your carbon monoxide detector and should be no more than 6” from the floor of the RV.  This is because propane is heavier than air and CO can be both lighter or heavier than air, depending upon the circumstances in the room.  Some RVs will have a separate CO detector and it’s typically located in the bedroom.  

The LP detector will always be hard-wired to the coach battery so it is imperative to make sure that battery remains charged.  The stand alone CO detector could be either hard-wired or run on a 9V battery.  The smoke detector is usually on a 9V battery and located near the exit door.

To test the detectors, press the test button on the front to make sure the alarm sounds.  This will confirm that the detector is receiving power, however, it does not confirm that the sensor is still operating properly.  If any of the detectors are not functioning properly, check the power sources first.  Then, it’s time to consider if the device has exceeded its life expectancy.

To monitor this, look for the manufacture dates for both smoke and CO/LP detectors which are on the back of the device.  Grab a screwdriver and take a look.  It is recommended to replace CO/LP at the 5-7 year mark and smoke detectors at the 5-10 year mark.  So, just be safe and do them all at 5 years.  It’s a simple and effective safety measure.

If the LP detector is beeping, it means one of three things:  there is LP present, the battery power is too low, or the detector is nearing the end of its life.  Never disconnect the detector or cut the wires.   

When you are replacing a detector, make sure they are RV-rated.  You can find this information on the back of your current detectors and on the package or description when purchasing in the camping gear store or on-line.

Ladies, are you a female RV Traveler?  Want to learn more about safety, troubleshooting problems and maintaining your own RV?  Head to www.queenbeerv.com and click on “events” to view the locations of our nationwide women's RV workshop tour – we’ll see you there!

RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

QUESTION: If you’re Boondocking somewhere and it’s hot outside, How long should/can you run your generator to use air conditioning? – Robin

ANSWER: The short answer is as long as you want, or as long as you have fuel to keep it running. They are meant for long use. In fact, the big mistake most RVers make with their generators is they don't run them often enough or long enough. An hour a month is best, but 30 minutes at the least, and it would be with a significant draw, like your AC running. Also, you should have your generator checked at least each year and check the service manual to make sure it has enough oil and you are maintaining it properly. So if the noise doesn't bother you or your neighbors and if you need it, run it as you want.

And while we’re talking about ACs, we should also point out that as you drive in your motorhome, you can run the coach AC right along with your cab AC. The alternator on all but the oldest motorhomes can handle that with no issue.

Where are you traveling this summer?

Mike and Jennifer's Southern Utah RV Adventure Guide

Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 5

Utah, Utah, Utah.  What more is there to be said? In very few places across the United States is there such a tremendous area with breathtaking vistas and diversity of terrain.

This ebook is a seven-day guided exploration of the State and National Parks in Southern Utah. We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to Southern Utah without it!



Yellowstone Tourons: The Shocking and Outrageous Behavior of Park Visitors Revealed! 6
Mike and Jennifer Wendland

Curious about the gear, gadgets, accessories, and RV products Mike & Jennifer use and recommend?

On this RV Lifestyle Travel blog, our RV Podcast and our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, we mention all sorts of RV-related products and gear that we use, So we created a special page that links to them. We update this all the time.  CLICK HERE to go to it directly. Have you caught one of our Amazon LIVE events yet? Just go here and Follow us – to be notified every time we go live.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-07-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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