NATIONAL NEWS

Yellowstone park reopening after changes wrought by flood

Jun 22, 2022, 6:55 AM | Updated: Jun 25, 2022, 8:53 pm
Yellowstone National Park's North Entrance Road was severely damaged by flooding. (NPS Photo)...
Yellowstone National Park's North Entrance Road was severely damaged by flooding. (NPS Photo)
(NPS Photo)

WAPITI, Wyo. (AP) — Visitors will return to a changed landscape in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday as it partially reopens following record floods that reshaped the park’s rivers and canyons, wiped out numerous roads and left some areas famous for their wildlife viewing inaccessible, possibly for months to come.

Park managers are raising the gates at 8 a.m. Wednesday at three of Yellowstone’s five entrances for the first time since June 13, when 10,000 visitors were ordered out after rivers across northern Wyoming and southern Montana surged over their banks following a torrent of rainfall that accelerated the spring snowmelt.

Some of the premier attractions at America’s first national park will again be viewable, including Old Faithful — the legendary geyser that shoots towering bursts of steaming water almost like clockwork more than a dozen times a day.

But the bears, wolves and bison that roam the wild Lamar Valley and the thermal features around Mammoth Hot Springs will remain out of reach. The wildlife-rich northern half of the park will be shuttered until at least early July, and key routes into the park remain severed near the Montana tourist towns of Gardiner, Red Lodge and Cooke City.

It’s unknown how many visitors will show up in the flooding’s immediate aftermath. Park managers had been bracing for throngs as the park celebrated its 150th anniversary a year after it tallied a record 4.9 million visits.

“We get a million people a month in Yellowstone in July and August,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “You can’t get a full visitation in half the park.”

To keep visitor numbers down while repairs continue, park managers will use a system that only allows cars with even-numbered last digits on their license plates to enter on even days, while vehicles with odd-numbered last numbers can come on odd days.

Yellowstone partially reopening Wednesday; license plate system in place for visitor entry

Groups of visitors traveling together in different cars are exempt from the license plate system as well as people with reservations at campgrounds and hotels in the park.

If traffic along the park’s 400 miles (644 kilometers) of roads becomes unmanageable, Sholly said officials will impose a reservation system to enter the park.

The reopening comes as officials in Yellowstone are still tallying the scope of the damage. Based on other national park disasters, it could take years and carry a steep price tag to rebuild. It’s an environmentally sensitive landscape with a huge underground plumbing system that feeds into the park’s geysers, hot springs and other thermal features. Construction season only runs from the spring thaw until the first snowfall, a narrow window that means some roads could receive only temporary fixes this year.

That’s turned some Montana communities into dead ends instead of being gateways to Yellowstone, a blow to their tourism-dependent economies. They’re also still struggling to clean up damage to several hundred homes and businesses that were swamped by flooding on the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers.

In Red Lodge, one of those gateway towns cut off from the park, most businesses are open even as flood cleanup continues. The Montana Department of Transportation is beginning repairs to the road between Red Lodge and the scenic Beartooth Highway and the National Park Service is working to restore access to some areas in the northern part of the park.

“We have to remain optimistic, but we also have to remain realistic that there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of moving pieces to make it happen,” said Tim Weamer, who does marketing for the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll survive,” he said. “We’re not going to have the summer we were hoping for.”

For others the rebound may come faster. Yellowstone tour guide Derek Draimin said he’s fully booked up Wednesday with four groups that will be headed into the park.

“I think there will be cars stacked up trying to get in, to be the first people to enter the park after the thousand-year flood,” he said.

Draimin lost about 25 tours because of the flood and says fewer visitors might come thinking that the park is badly damaged. But with most of the park expected to be accessible within weeks, Draimin said it’s also possible business could get a bump as tourists who can’t get in through the park’s northern entrances get funneled through West Yellowstone, where his company, Yellowstone Adventure Tours, is based.

“I have no idea what to expect,” he said. “I could see both things happening.”

___

Hanson reported from Helena, Montana.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

In this aerial view, members of law enforcement investigate a tractor trailer on June 27, 2022 in S...
Rosa Flores, Rosalina Nieves and Raja Razek, CNN

4 charged in Texas semi-truck smuggling operation that left 53 migrants dead

Four people have been arrested and charged after 53 migrants died in what one Homeland Security Investigations agent called the deadliest human smuggling incident in U.S. history.
16 hours ago
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands in lower Manhattan on June 27, 2022 in New York City. The...
ALEX VEIGA and STAN CHOE, AP Business Writers

From stocks to crypto, a punishing six months for investors

Americans with stock portfolios or retirement investment plans would likely prefer to forget the last six months.
16 hours ago
FILE PHOTO...
Associated Press

Woman fatally shot while pushing stroller on Upper East Side

Police say a 20-year-old woman was fatally shot while she pushed her infant daughter in a stroller on the Upper East Side in New York.
16 hours ago
(Yellowstone National Park/Twitter)...
Associated Press

2nd visitor in 3 days gored by Yellowstone park bison

For the second time in three days, a visitor to Yellowstone National Park has been gored by a bison.
16 hours ago
The man who sold a semi-automatic weapon that was later used to take hostages in a Texas synagogue ...
Andi Babineau, CNN

Seller of weapon used to take hostages at Texas synagogue pleads guilty to federal charge

The man who sold a semi-automatic weapon that was later used to take hostages in a Texas synagogue in January has pleaded guilty to a federal firearms charge, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas.
16 hours ago
Fourth of July weekend is approaching, and most of the United States will see rain chances through ...
Payton Major and Monica Garrett, CNN

Rain will be a big part of this holiday weekend, impacting flights and fireworks displays

Fourth of July weekend is approaching, and most of the United States will see rain chances through Monday.
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Yellowstone park reopening after changes wrought by flood