• Death in Yellowstone

  • Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
  • By: Lee H. Whittlesey
  • Narrated by: Stephen R. Thorne
  • Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (331 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The chilling tome that launched an entire genre of books about the often gruesome, but always tragic ways people have died in our national parks, this updated edition of the classic includes calamities in Yellowstone from the past 16 years, including the infamous grizzly bear attacks in the summer of 2011, as well as a fatal hot springs accident in 2000. In these accounts, written with sensitivity as cautionary tales about what to do and what not to do in one of our wildest national parks, Lee H. Whittlesey recounts deaths ranging from tragedy to folly - from being caught in a freak avalanche to the goring of a photographer who just got a little too close to a bison. Armchair travelers and park visitors alike will be fascinated by this important book detailing the dangers awaiting in our first national park.

©2014 Roberts Rinehart Publishers (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The most fascinating book ever written about Yellowstone Park and its environs." ( Journal Of The West)

What listeners say about Death in Yellowstone

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heading to Yellowstone?

The first half of this book is an inventory of man losing the battle against nature. Wild animals, boiling mud pots, roaring rivers, precipitous drops, exposure, avalanches and even falling trees take their bites out of humanity. Many of these deaths are due to people not taking the wilderness seriously, as the author is quick to point out. Put your infant on the back of a bison or under the nose of a bear for a cute photo? Climb over railings for a better view? Head out hiking drunk and in the dark without any gear? Do you really think the warnings do not apply to you? I well remember stories of my sister in the family station wagon playing patty-cake with a Yellowstone bear through a closed window while our mother looked on in horror and I slept peacefully in the family tent only a few yards away. We were lucky none of us are included in this book.

That first half should be required reading for anyone entering the park. Sobering, yes, but after hearing and seeing what foolish activity people try, it might keep us all safer. Sadly, many of the deaths are of park employees who should, in many case, known better. Not all of the death are due to careless or reckless behavior - sometimes nature is capricious and the innocent pay the ultimate price. Those tales are especially tragic.

The second half is less of man vs nature and more of man on his own. Wagon and horse accidents, murders, suicides, and industrial accidents have all taken a toll. The majority of these, especially the accidents, took place during the early, wild-west, days of the park. This section was necessary for the author's stated goal of covering all of the deaths in Yellowstone but it is more in line with what you would face in any western territory in the early 20th century and therefore not as engaging. The author, thankfully, has intentionally excluded automobile, snow mobile and similar vehicular accidents.

The narrator was fine, except that he consistently mispronounces Grand Tetons - it is TEE-tonz not TEET-enz. That drove me crazy - and I assume it did the author as well.

I hate to say it was an entertaining listen, because that sounds a bit morbid. But it was very interesting and as I am headed back into the park in a week, I hope I act with more caution that I might have otherwise.

20 people found this helpful

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Fascinating book

Any additional comments?

Narration was good, easy to listen to and get absorbed into the stories. Some chapters were more interesting than others, but that's okay - different strokes for different folks. It's definitely a book that I'll recommend to my friends and acquaintances who are interested in this topic. I thought the entire book would be about dumb tourists and was pleasantly surprised to hear about accidents, the whims of mother nature, dumb park employees, and criminal shenanigans in or near the park. It turned out to be more of a diverse book than I originally thought. We're still hearing stories in the news about tourists who die from falling into hot springs or who provoke bison, so I imagine there will be plenty of fodder for the next edition. I enjoyed how the chapters ended by the author reminding us of key takeaways such as 'don't climb over safety barriers in search of the perfect selfie - if you die and your family sues, don't expect to win' (I'm paraphrasing that, but it is one of the key messages of the book - and it's sad that the message continues to be relevant).

7 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected :-(

There wasn't enough story to capture my interest. It goes from one tragedy to the next, which made the happenings very repetitive.

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting, yet dull at the same time

The author really likes statistics. While the animal incidents and other things are interesting, to hear the details of every worker who fell off a scaffold or person who got lost and froze to death just gets old. If you want to know ALL the deaths in Yellowstone, this is the book for you. It definitely has some interesting stories, and the information about lawsuits is good. Just know that it gets long.

4 people found this helpful

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First audible

Great information. Scary as heck…but I still wanna visit lol. The narrator has a lovely voice.

1 person found this helpful

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Morbid Yet Informative

An extensive history of deaths in one of the nations great expanses. Narrated with no sense of exploitation or ghoulishness. Very interesting and cautionary. A great piece for those who enjoy a bit of the darker side of humanity.

1 person found this helpful

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Compelling listen, but sometimes confusing

This book is a compelling collection of stories that for the most part boil down to human selfishness and stupidity. It’s a recent edition to an older book, updated to include more recent stories of man’s folly with nature.

However, one aspect of the book is particularly irksome. It references itself frequently, directing the listener to various past and upcoming chapters. This is not the problem. The problem is the chapters within the audiobook do not match the chapters as narrated. Chapter 10 in the audiobook is chapter 7 in the narration, for instance. If I wanted to go back or jump forward as is sometimes suggested, it is impossible to actually find what is being talked about. It’s not even as easy as assuming all chapters will be off by three. The slide apart gets larger the further into the book you get.

1 person found this helpful

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Not what I expected, nor hoped for

I'm not sure what I was expecting. As a fan of forensic science books (anthropologists, pathologists, psychologists, etc.), I guess I wanted more background/story/science on fewer incidences, as opposed to hundreds of shallow blurbs about people dying, followed by more people dying. I guess it might serve as a decent casebook on what to do (and not do) when visiting nature (spoiler: survival is about 95% "don't be stupid/do use common sense", 4% "follow the rules/recommendations", 1% "don't be unlucky"). But as far as entertainment/education value, there was little. I struggled to get through the second half of the book. Just not terribly interesting.

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Great read

I found this but not only to be historically interesting and as sobering reminder that you have to be careful in the great outdoors but also to be beautifully written and very thoughtful about taking care of the environment in the crate Yellowstone national park. Highly recommend this book it was such a fun read.

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    5 out of 5 stars

very thoroughly researched

it's amazing how many people have died in Yellowstone national park. mostly through negligence or failure to heed warnings. the author takes you through 28, often graphic chapters of various ways people have been killed going back to the 1800s. very interesting look at the darker side of our national parks