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Woman Drowns In Yellowstone National Park's Backcountry


A Wyoming woman has drowned in the Bechler River in a remote area of Yellowstone National Park's backcountry. NPS photo by Keri Thorpe.

A 30-year-old Wyoming woman has drowned in a remote area of Yellowstone National Park's backcountry, according to park officials.

The woman, Heidi Llewellyn Smith, of Jackson, told friends she was feeling ill and went for a swim Thursday afternoon in the Bechler River. Some time later her body was found under 4 feet of water lodged against a log, according to a release from the park.

Ms. Smith and three friends were camped at the Bechler Ford backcountry campsite, which is about 5.5 miles by trail north-northeast of the Bechler Ranger Station. When pulled from the water the woman wasn't breathing and had no pulse, according to park officials. A friend ran the distance back to the ranger station, where she reported the incident about 1:45 p.m. Thursday.

Rangers on horseback responded to the drowning report from the Bechler Ranger Station, and a crew with a medic was dispatched by helicopter from park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs. They found the woman unconscious, not breathing, and without a pulse. She was declared dead at the scene, the park reported. The incident remains under investigation.

The Bechler region of Yellowstone is accessible by road in the spring, summer and fall from Ashton, Idaho. Since it is not connected to the Grand Loop Road and is not close to any of the park’s better known attractions, the area is primarily used by anglers, backpackers, and stock users.

This is the first accidental death in the park in 2009, and the first drowning since September 2007.


Very tragic ... also a tad suspicious; not particularly a time of year you are most likely to drown in the Bechler River ... but as the release says, the incident is still under investigation. And whatever the case, a terrible thing to have happen.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Drowning confirmed by autopsy; not clear whether the illness had anything to do with the drowning.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I just heard about this sad incident. I sent the article to my husband since he and his brother hiked a 6 day trip through the Bechler River System in 2006.

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