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Yellowstone partially reopens after extensive flood damage


Yellowstone National Park reopened three of its five entrances to visitors on Wednesday after unprecedented flooding closed the park on June 13 and reshaped many of its rivers, canyons and roads.

The Cody, West Yellowstone and Grand Teton/Jackson entrances to the South Loop opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The Madison, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village, Canyon Village and Norris areas of the park will once again become accessible to visitors.

The northern region of the park, including Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs, will remain closed until at least early July, park officials said.

Many of the park’s famous wildlife viewing areas will also be unavailable to visitors returning to the park’s South Loop region.

A home that was pulled into Rock Creek in Red Lodge, Montana by raging floodwaters is seen June 14, 2022.

Matthew Brown/AP

Major roads to the Montana tourist towns of Gardiner, Red Lodge and Cooke City continue to be closed.

A National Park Service statement says park staff have engaged more than 1,000 business owners, park partners, commercial operators and residents of surrounding gateway communities to help create a plan for how to handle visitation. summer months while the park’s north loop remains closed.

“It’s impossible to reopen a single loop in the summer without having some type of system in place to manage visitation,” park superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement.

The park subsequently instituted an interim visitor access plan, called the Alternate License Plate System (ALPS), to balance visitor demand for access, protection of park resources, and the economic interests of local communities.

Park officials said the plan was suggested by those in the Gateway communities during a major public engagement with the park last week. They added that the National Park Service will actively monitor the new system while creating a new reservation system that can be implemented if necessary.

PHOTO: Flood waters are seen along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Mont., June 13, 2022.

Flood waters are seen along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Montana on June 13, 2022.

Emma H. ​​Tobin/AP

According to ALPS, visits will essentially be controlled according to the license plate of the vehicle.

For public vehicle entry, it does not matter if the last numerical digit on the plate is even or odd. For all others, entry will be granted based on odd and even days of the calendar month, so odd number plates will be able to enter on odd days and vice versa for those ending in even numbers.

For vehicles with personalized number plates that only contain letters, entry will be granted with the odd end plates. Vehicles with a combination of letters and numbers ending in a letter will be allowed entry on even days.

Park officials said under the new plan, gate staff will refuse vehicles that don’t follow the even-odd structure.

There are a few exceptions. For one, current commercial use operators with active commercial use permits can enter any day, including those with commercial rounds and stock groups. Commercial coaches will also be allowed entry, regardless of their license plate composition.

Visitors who have proof of overnight reservations at hotels, campgrounds, and park backcountry reservations may also be permitted entry, regardless of day number status. Essential services such as mail, employees and contractors will also be able to enter any day.

Regardless of license plates, motorcycle groups will only be permitted to enter the park on even days.

PHOTO: Dozens of vehicles line up outside the entrance to Yellowstone National Park near Wapiti Wyo on June 22, 2022. The park is partially reopening after being forced to close last week when record flooding caused extensive damage .

Dozens of vehicles line up outside the entrance to Yellowstone National Park near Wapiti Wyo on June 22, 2022. The park is partially reopening after being forced to close last week when record flooding caused widespread damage.

Matthew Brown/AP

The ALPS plan is temporary as the park prepares for its summer season while managing its partial capacity status.

Sholly said that as repairs continue in the park, park officials will work to reopen new sections throughout the summer.

“It is essential that visitors remain informed of this interim system as we assess its effectiveness. They should plan ahead and be patient with us as we are still managing a significant recovery while entering this operational phase,” Sholly said.

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