Updates on Yellowstone Flooding

I’m sure you have all heard of the massive floods that hit Yellowstone last week and that the park is currently closed. I wanted to provide some updates here as I have a little bit of insider intel (just a little) that might help.

  • They are aiming to open the southern loop on Tuesday 21st, this will be dependent on fixing the major damage in the south loop just south of Canyon which should be complete on Monday, but you know how construction projects go.
  • There is a possibility that the northern loop will open this year, this is from Norris to Mammoth to Tower to Canyon. They are still inspecting the condition of roads and bridges, but this loop seems to be largely unaffected besides some cleanup.
  • The north entrance will likely be closed for a long time, potentially years. This of course is where the most damage occurred. Roads were completely gutted and will need to be re-routed, not rebuilt, it’s a massive effort.
  • Lamar Valley and the entrance through Red Lodge/Cooke City will also be closed for a very long time. The road was completely washed out in 6 spots and will be another massive effort to rebuild.
  • When the southern loop is opened next week they will be implementing a timed entry/permit system to limit the number of people in the park since it can’t handle full visitation. The details of this have not been worked out and I’m not sure they will have it in place next week, so it may be a free for all for a little bit. During this time they are advising people to stay away as you will be on your own, there will be no food/lodging, potentially no gas, rescue efforts will be delayed, etc. Basically don’t go unless you really know what you’re doing.
  • CUA holders will be allowed to enter the park at any time when it is re-opened, no entry permits are needed. So if you are leading a workshop or you had a trip planned with a guide, everything should still be a go if you’re only working in the southern loop. (Madison to Canyon to Grant to Old Faithful). Those with reservations at the hotels or campground will not need a permit either, with a big caveat.
  • The hotels are going to be a major issue this year. The hotels in the park are all supplied by vendors delivering from the north entrance. It’s likely they will have major issues getting supplies as everything will have to come through the west entrance now, a major detour for drivers. NPS is currently discussing with Xanterra to figure out what their plan is and it sounds like they may do a 50% reduction in capacity to handle this, so there will be major cancellations. Xanterra is horribly mismanaged in the best of times, so this will likely be a complete disaster.
  • If you had planned on visiting Yellowstone any time soon, you might reconsider unless you are very self-sufficient (bring lots of extra gas, food, water, first aid supplies, satellite communication, etc.), as it’s going to be the wild west for a while.

You can also get the latest info from the park here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/220613.htm

I’ll post more updates as I get them. Stay safe!

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Thank you David for the update! Truly sad to see the damage to the park.

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Thanks, David. I hadn’t planned on going there this year, but this substantiates about what I figured from seeing images of the damage and other sources.

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I’ll add a few points, since we own property in Silver Gate (1 mile from the NE entrance) that was affected by the flooding.

We have been dealing with the fallout non-stop, evacuating guests, monitoring opening/closing of routes, bridges, etc., dealing with a spate of cancellations for our rentals…




(Photos sent by our cabin guests before they were evacuated.)

The route to Silver Gate/Cooke City is now open again via the Chief Joseph Highway (Cody). You just can’t enter the park from the NE gate. The Beartooth Highway is partially closed (not accessible from the Red Lodge/Billings side), but the first part of the drive is accessible via the Chief Joseph route.

Silver Gate and Cooke City rely almost solely on park tourism (normally, the only route to-from these towns to the outside world in winter is via the park road… they will likely have to plow and keep Chief Joseph open this year). Due to their isolation, they’re going to be hit more acutely than some of the other gateway communities, so I would encourage people to consider visiting even without the immediate park access. You’re still right there next to the Beartooth Wilderness, so there are hiking, fishing and other recreational options. There is a fair bit of wildlife activity. Cody is a couple hours away (beyond that, the wild horses at McCullough Peaks), and you will still be able to reach the park if you drive down to the east entrance a couple hours away. As mentioned, we’ve been receiving all sorts of cancellations, and we’ve also reduced our rates for the rest of the season… so hey, if you’re interested. :wink:

It can’t be understated how hard this is going to hit the northern communities. Even if you had no plans to visit this year, booking reservations for future stays in the area is one way to help businesses. There are several guides and photographers in gateway communities whose work focuses primarily on Yellowstone that are going to be affected by this. You can help supplement their lost income by considering purchasing prints or other items they sell as gifts for your friends and family. There are also numerous fundraisers that have already been set up online, supporting various local causes, and I’m happy to pass along links to those if anyone is interested in donating.

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I drove from Moran Junction to Bozeman, MT on Sunday 6/12. I originally was going to hang in GTNP a few moire days but NWS had put out a hydrologic warning re: river and creeks overflowing due to heat (80F on Saturday) and rain coming in. The app showed rain through Wednesday and the snow pack was the lowest I had seen it in the past 5 years, with the last storm ending 5 days previous.

There is a turn out I like to use along the Lewis River about 1.3 miles below Lewis Falls. The flat of slightly swampy meadow area along the river had about 2 1/2 feet of brown water in it, letting only the upper 6 inches or so of the brush sticking out of the water. I kept on going.

Going north out of West Yellowstone it started to rain continuously for the next few hours.

Aside from all the negatives, even though the parking areas in the Old faithful and geyser basin areas were mostly full, the tour buses foreign tour buses were absent, making for smaller crowds than in the years before covid. I only saw one bus in 4 days in GTNP.

Image below shows the snowpack on Mt. Moran on 6/9/22.

Yellowstone is planning to test a new system to control entry, starting June 22. It will be based on the last digit on your license plate. Odd numbers can enter on odd days, even numbers on even days. If you have overnight reservations, this will not apply. Just show your reservation. They hope this will work so that a permit entry system can be avoided.

Yellowstone is planning to test a new system to control entry, starting June 22. It will be based on the last digit on your license plate. Odd numbers can enter on odd days, even numbers on even days. If you have overnight reservations, this will not apply. Just show your reservation. They hope this will work so that a permit entry system can be avoided.

A couple clarifications: vanity plates ending in letters will be allowed entry on Odd days. Motorcycle groups will be allowed in on even days. Also, the overnight reservation allowance is only for reservations inside the park (campgroud, lodge, backcountry). Having a reservation at a spot outside the park doesn’t grant you unlimited entry.

Guests who are meeting their CUA-permitted guide inside the park or following their guide into the park may be granted an exception, but they must have paperwork from their guide showing the guided excursion time and scheduled location, as well as displaying the outfitter’s status as an authorized permittee of the National Park Service.

Oh, and in a bit of good news: the northern loop connecting Canyon - Tower - Mammoth - Norris may open as soon as two weeks from now! Access to Gardiner and the road out to the Lamar Valley and NE corner will still be restricted.

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Thanks for the updates, David. I’ve learned once you have a kid you miss a lot of news. I had only seen one, maybe two things about this on social media or the news. Good to see a first hand account. Nature is undefeated.