Yellowstone: Canyon Road Collapse Means No Opening (Yet)
Written by Andrew-Rossi on June 17, 2022
As flood waters subside (but remain high) Yellowstone National Park’s reopening has been delayed after a section of the Southern Loop collapsed this week – but the park still plans to open next week.
On Friday, June 17, Yellowstone officials released an update on the park’s situation. Overall, the flood waters are subsiding, and an intense damage assessment is underway.
Aerial assessments conducted Monday, June 13, by Yellowstone National Park show significant damage to several park roads, including:
- North Entrance (Gardiner, Montana) to Mammoth Hot Springs: road washed out in multiple places, significant rockslide in Gardner Canyon
- Tower Junction to Northeast Entrance: a segment of road washed out near Soda Butte Picnic Area, mudslides, downed trees
- Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass): mudslide on road
- Canyon Junction to Fishing Bridge: Segment of road just south of Canyon Junction is compromised and collapsed overnight on June 15-16. Repairs are underway.
Many road sections in these areas are completely gone and will require substantial time and effort to reconstruct or relocate and build. In some cases, roads may not be able to be reconstructed in place and will need to be relocated.
There is currently no estimate of how much these repairs will cost. And to date, no public or employee injuries have been reported due to the flood.
Plans and assessments for reconstructing the permanent road between Mammoth and Gardiner are underway. However, the new road will likely not be reconstructed in the same corridor as the previous road.
Meanwhile, extensive efforts have been made to improve the Old Gardiner Road to help facilitate the connection of essential services and personnel from Mammoth to Gardiner. In addition, park staff are assessing what improvements are needed to facilitate higher traffic levels.
Extensive assessments are also occurring of damage to trails, bridges, and infrastructure within the Yellowstone backcountry. And this week, mud and rockslides have been cleared from Dunraven Pass and other sections of the northern and southern loops.
Thankfully, the wastewater system at Mammoth Hot Springs – destroyed by the flood – has been temporarily repaired. A permanent repair is being planned.
Unfortunately, the Southern Loop cannot reopen until this section of the Canyon road is fully repaired.
While park officials still plan to open the Southern Loop sometime next week, that plan has been delayed. On Thursday morning, June 16, a section of damaged road on the Southern Loop collapsed south of Canyon Village.
Crews will begin major repairs on Friday, June 17, with an intent to complete repairs by Monday, June 20. This repair must be completed before the loop can open again.
Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly indicated one section of park road was damaged to the point of concern during a town hall last week. However, he was also confident the park’s construction crews could complete the work.
Park staff are inspecting all bridges and roadways for damage on the south loop to facilitate safe travel. While the park is implementing a reservation/timed entry system this summer, no information on that system is provided in the update.
The N.P.S. is determining what other sections of the park may be reopened for the season, but the decisions will depend on extent of damage and the ability of the N.P.S. to safely open those sections.
“We have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time but have a long way to go,” said Superintendent Sholly. “All emergency and life safety objectives within the park have been accomplished or stabilized within the first 96 hours of the flood event, without major injury or death. We have an aggressive plan for recovery in the north and resumption of operations in the south. We appreciate the tremendous support from National Park Service and Department of Interior leadership, in addition to our surrounding Congressional delegations, governors, counties, communities, and other partners. (The) first 96 hours has been critical to be able to focus on our life safety objectives and stabilizing emergency conditions while preparing plans for recovery.”