Pick another park: Yellowstone closed for foreseeable future due to flooding
Marking its first closure in 34 years, Yellowstone National Park — which stretches to parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — has barred visitors due to extreme flooding and subsequent road conditions from rain and snow that melted over the weekend.
All entrances to the park have been temporarily closed. The surrounding area is grappling with rockslides, mudslides and flooding on roads, according to visitors and the National Park Service, who also warned of additional flooding in the coming days.
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"Effective immediately, there will be no inbound visitor traffic at any of the five entrances into Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, June 14, and Wednesday, June 15, at a minimum," NPS said in a statement on Monday. More than 10,000 visitors had been evacuated as of the morning of June 14, Yellowstone's superintendent Cam Sholly said in a press briefing.
"I think the southern loop will be open and ready for access relatively soon, but the northern end is going to take a considerable amount of time to get that reopen," Sholly said.
Early next week, a team will assess the damage to various infrastructures throughout the park.
"We will likely not open the road between Gardiner and Cook City for the rest of the season looking at the damage," he said, referring to the north entrance. "Half the park cannot support all of the visitations."
The park's closure comes during the park's busiest season with millions of visitors expected each summer from June to August. To facilitate reopening, Sholly said the agency might implement a timed entry reservation system once the south loop is safe to open.
Flooding was sparked by two to three inches of rain, five to six inches of snow and warming temperatures, Sholly said. He noted that a 5-mile road between the gateway community of Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs suffered the most damage. The superintendent also warned of another flood event in the next four or five days.
Evacuation began on Monday, starting with the northern portion of the park in Montana. It was a coordinated effort between the NPS and U.S. Department of the Interior as well as the governors of Montana and Wyoming.
“Due to record flooding events in the park and more precipitation in the forecast, we have made the decision to close Yellowstone to all inbound visitation," Sholly said in a statement. "Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues."
Following the park, officials moved to help evacuate tourists in nearby towns, including Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is home to less than 900 people, and this is where TPG reader and avid traveler Bre Revell had been stuck since Sunday evening.
Revell and her travel companion arrived in Montana ready to explore Yellowstone before heading south to Grand Teton. The two briefly entered Yellowstone when it had just started raining, and they observed some sliding rocks.
Even so, things appeared relatively normal until Monday morning. While grabbing breakfast at Mountain Tacos, their server warned them of flooding and roads being washed away in the park and north of town. They confirmed this information with a park ranger, who said the park would be closed for the foreseeable future.
"There are only two ways out of the town, one south through Yellowstone, where the road has washed away and the other to the north where there is 6 feet of water covering the road," Revell said via phone on Tuesday. "The roads into the park have disappeared."
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Since the storm started, many residents have lost power and water. The town is currently under a Do Not Consume Water order, and visitors have been told to evacuate, in hopes of salvaging precious resources for residents.
"We like to think the highest of the water is behind us but we can say for sure," Bill Berg , a commissioner of Park County, Montana, told reporters yesterday.
Around 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Revell and her friend safely exited — while bypassing parts of U.S. Route 89 S that remain blocked — en route to the state's capital city.
"We had a lucky combination of clear spots to get us out," she told us.
As of June 14, the park remains closed for an unknown period of time, and Montana Governor Greg Gianforte declared a statewide disaster.
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Beyond the physical damage, tourists like Revell can't help but consider all of the local employees and residents alike who rely on tourist business during peak season. She considers herself lucky and is relieved to be heading toward Bozeman. She plans to continue on to Salt Lake City, part of a road trip to see western national parks.
"As we left this morning, we passed trucks delivering supplies and the market still had some food and water, which is a good sign," she said. "We feel optimistic that we are almost to Bozeman and that we're able to get out."
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