Yellowstone Floating Human Foot Report Released; Floating Dark Clumps Discovered Too

Yellowstone National Park officials on Tuesday released a long-awaited report on the human foot found floating in a hot pool last summer. Fatty deposits and dark clumps were also discovered near the shoe.

Jimmy Orr

January 04, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Yellowstone National Park officials released a long-awaited report Tuesday on the human foot found floating in a shoe in a hot pool this past summer.

Although the report provides plenty of details surrounding the efforts to retrieve the shoe and how the victim was identified, it provides no new information about what specifically happened at the Abyss Pool last August.

The foot, which belonged to a 70-year-old Los Angeles man named Il Hun Ro, was discovered bobbing in a black shoe – now identified as a size 9 or 10 – in the Abyss Pool near West Thumb Geyser Basin.

NPS officials did not find a suicide note but did discover a laptop computer, notepads, a wallet, maps and other miscellaneous items in the man’s car, which was left at the parking lot near the pool.

To positively identify Il Hun Ro as the owner of the foot, a member of his family agreed to submit a DNA sample which “provided a statistically high probability that . . . the foot is associated with the volunteer family member.”

Finding The Foot

The report says a visitor was the first to spot the floating shoe and reported it to a tour bus driver who, in turn, notified Park Service personnel.

The first ranger on the scene, whose named is redacted in the report, upon confirming the shoe began to “affect a closure in the area,” and visitors shortly thereafter were escorted out by NPS officials.

“I walked to the boardwalk to the scene and saw a black shoe, approximately 3-4 feet off the rim of the thermal feature, with what appeared to be a human bone inside of the shoe,” the ranger said in the report.

“Additionally, we noticed a film and dark clumps floating on top of the pool,” the ranger said.

The report does not identify what the dark clumps were.

Retrieving The Foot

Rangers then began trying to retrieve the shoe with a “long tool used to retrieve items without stepping off the boardwalk.”

“As he was lifting it, [he] noted its weight and something inside of it,” the report reads. “As [the shoe] rotated while on the extension tool, the ranger believed to have seen bone inside of the shoe.”

The ranger placed the shoe on the ground at that point and radioed for assistance.

Earlier in the week, rangers had pulled two shoe soles out of the Abyss Pool, the report reads.

“Both times [the ranger] noticed the film on top of the water, however, he claimed to have assumed it may have been a type of glue that held the shoe and sole together,” it reads.

The shoe, which contained the foot, had no sole attached.

Geologists were unable to find any other significant remains, but fatty deposits were found floating to the surface over time. Geologists took those samples and a report is pending.

Surprised Anything Was Left

In November, Cowboy State Daily spoke to a forensic pathologist about the case and said he was “astonished that they were able to find any remains at all.”

Dr. Thomas Bennett of Sheridan credited the find to a high quality shoe that protected the foot.

“Between the heat and the minerals in those pools, a body will completely dissolve,” Bennett of Sheridan said. “This would happen rapidly.”

A shoe or boot made from leather or a similarly robust material was probably the only thing that kept the foot intact, he said. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is available.

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.