Yellowstone will partially reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced out of the park.
GARDINER, Mont — Most of Yellowstone National Park should reopen within the next two weeks — much faster than originally expected after record floods battered the Yellowstone region last week and destroyed key roads, federal officials said Sunday.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said the world-famous park will be able to accommodate fewer visitors for the time being and it will take more time to restore road connections to some southern Montana communities.
Parks officials said Sunday they will use $50 million in federal highway funds to expedite road and bridge repairs. There is not yet a schedule for repairs on routes between the park and areas of Montana where restoration is expected to take months.
Yellowstone will partially reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced from the park when the Yellowstone and other rivers burst their banks after swollen by snowmelt and several inches of rain.
Only portions of the park accessible along its “southern road loop” will be open initially, and access to the park’s scenic hinterland will be restricted to day hikers only.
Within two weeks, officials plan to open the Nordschleife as well, having previously stated it would likely remain closed through the summer season. The northern loop would give visitors access to popular attractions like Tower Fall and Mammoth Hot Springs. They would still be off-limits to the Lamar Valley, famous for its abundance of wildlife, including bears, wolves and bison, which can often be seen from the roadside.
“That would put 75 to 80 percent of the park back online,” National Park Service director Charles “Chuck” Sams said Sunday while visiting Yellowstone to assess the impact of the flood.
It will take much longer – possibly years – to fully restore two badly damaged stretches of road linking the park to Gardiner to the north and Cooke City to the northeast.
During a tour of damaged areas on Sunday, park officials showed reporters one of six stretches of road near Gardiner where raging floodwaters obliterated most of the road.
Where the pavement was only a week ago, muddy water is now pouring through. Trunks of huge trees pollute the surrounding canyon.
With no chance of an immediate solution, Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said 20,000 tons of material would be brought in to build a temporary, alternate route along an old road that runs across the gorge. This would allow employees working at park headquarters in Mammoth to get to their homes in Gardiner, Sholly said. The temporary route could also be used by commercial tour operators licensed to conduct guided tours.
“We’ve accomplished a lot more than we thought we could a week ago,” Sholly said. “It’s going to be a summer of adjustments.”
Meanwhile, some of those hardest hit by the disaster — far from the famed park’s limelight — are leaning heavily on one another to drag their lives out of the mud.
In and around the farming community of Fromberg, the Clarks Fork River flooded nearly 100 homes and severely damaged a large irrigation ditch that supplies many farms. The city’s mayor says about a third of the flooded homes are too far away to repair.
Not far from the riverbank, Lindi O’Brien’s trailer was raised high enough to avoid major damage. But she got water in her barns and sheds, lost some of her poultry and saw her recently deceased parents’ house flooded with several feet of water.
Elected officials who have turned up to inspect the damage at Red Lodge and Gardiner — tourist towns in Montana that serve as gateways to Yellowstone — didn’t make it to Fromberg to see its devastation. O’Brien said the lack of attention comes as no surprise given the city’s location off the main tourist routes.
She is not resentful, but has come to terms with the fact that the approximately 400 residents have to do most of the work themselves if Fromberg is to recover.
“We take care of each other,” O’Brien said as she and two longtime friends, Melody Murter and Aileen Rogers, combed through mud-encrusted items strewn around their property. O’Brien, an art teacher at the local school, had done it. She fixed up her parents’ house in hopes of turning it into a vacation rental, but now she’s unsure if it can be saved.
“If you get tired and poop, it’s okay to stop,” O’Brien told Murter and Rogers, whose clothes, hands and faces were smeared with mud.
A few blocks away, Matt Holmes was combing through piles of dirt and debris but could find little to salvage from the trailer he shared with his wife and four children.
Holmes had taken the day off but said he would have to get back to his construction job soon so he could start earning money again. It is unclear whether he can bring in enough for the reconstruction. If not, Holmes said he could move the family to Louisiana where they have relatives.
“I want to stay in Montana. I don’t know if we can,” he said.
https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/yellowstone-aims-for-quick-opening/507-2a13038f-c99e-42e7-a31d-4fe4fac74062 When will Yellowstone National Park re-open after flooding