Anglers Warned Yellowstone River Fish May Be Poisoned From Train Crash

A train crash that dumped molten sulfur and asphalt into the Yellowstone River North of Yellowstone Park might have poisoned fish, and officials are warning anglers not to eat their catches from the river.

Mark Heinz

August 16, 20232 min read

Train collapse 6 24 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Anglers are being warned to not eat fish from Montana’s Yellowstone River north of Yellowstone Park because a train crash into the river might have poisoned the fish.

High levels of a chemical called phenanthrene were found in Mountain whitefish after the June crash, prompting an advisory to not eat fish caught from the river between the Twin Bridges Railroad and Laural, Montana, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

A freight train carrying molten sulfur and asphalt fell into the river when part of a rail bridge collapsed on June 24. The crash was roughly 5 miles east of Reed Point, Montana, which is about 110 miles northeast of Yellowstone National Park. Because of the river’s northeasterly flow at that point, there was no danger to the park, officials said at the time.

Exposure Can Cause Skin, Respiratory Problems

Whitefish generally aren’t considered good table fare, though anglers will sometimes use them as bait for other fish. However, if phenanthrene was found in the whitefish, there’s concern that it could have contaminated other fish species as well, according to FWP.

The chemical can be extremely deadly to fish. It isn’t deadly to humans and isn’t thought to cause cancer. Symptoms of heavy exposure in humans can include skin irritation and mild respiratory problems, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter