Park Rangers Don't Want You Cooking Whole Chickens in Yellowstone's Hot Springs
According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park has more than 10,000 thermal features, an always-hot category that includes Old Faithful and other geysers, hot springs, and steam vents. That's because the park is an active supervolcano, and when water seeps through the earth's surface, it is "superheated by the Yellowstone magmatic system" before rising back to the surface. This process constantly repeats itself, and the water in some springs can be close to the boiling point.
Although feeling the heat from those hot springs or watching one of those massive geysers erupt can be awe-inspiring and almost spiritual for some, others apparently just shrug and wonder if they could cook a chicken in there. East Idaho News reports that 10 people were busted by a Yellowstone park ranger after he saw them hiking toward Shoshone Geyser Basin while carrying cooking pots.
The ranger followed them to their extremely al fresco kitchen and saw that they'd already put two whole chickens in a burlap sack and were boiling them in a hot spring. Three people were cited for "foot traffic in a thermal area," and an Idaho Falls man had to appear in court where he pleaded guilty to violating park closures and use limits, paid a $600 fine for each charge, and was sentenced to two years of probation. He is also banned from Yellowstone for the duration of his probation.
Is it surprising that this isn't the first time someone has tried to cook a chicken in Yellowstone? Who knows, but in 2001, a Seattle news personality and his producer dug a hole near a geyser and fixed their own bird. After the segment aired on KING-TV, some viewers called and reported the pair to park officials; that chicken cost them $150 and no one from "Evening Magazine" was allowed in the park for two years unless they were supervised by a $50-per-hour park ranger.
That's not to say that hot springs can't be used as a piece of all-natural kitchen equipment, though: in the village of Yunomine in the Japanese prefecture of Wakayama, some locals use water from the 194-degree onsen to cook with. According to the BBC, the Yuzutsu basin has been used as a "communal kitchen" for several hundred years. "Cooking in onsen water takes the bitterness out of vegetables,” one local said. And the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Board recommends that visitors try cooking eggs in the onsen.
But if you're thinking of prepping a whole chicken, uh, maybe just stick to an oven.