Yellowstone: No Reopening Date, Substantial Impacts, & Permanent Changes for Summer 2022
Written by Andrew-Rossi on June 14, 2022
The Southern Loop of Yellowstone National Park will not reopen until park officials determine it is safe to do so – and even then, visitation will be limited for the rest of the year.
Yellowstone National Park shared the latest updates on the park’s status during a Tuesday Zoom meeting. Superintendent Cam Sholly said much is still unknown about the extent of the damage caused by this week’s flooding, and it will take some time to get accurate answers.
Sholly says the park received two to three inches of rain and over five inches of snow last week. That precipitation and hot temperatures created the “high water event” that consumed roads and forced the entire park to shut down.
Sholly says the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City will likely not reopen during the Summer 2022 season.
There is no official measure of the extent of the damage. Sholly says many areas of the park are still too dangerous for teams to get on the ground for safety evaluations. A helicopter flight over the road between Gardiner, Montana, and Mammoth Hot Springs showed several sections of the road completely gone. The remaining road sections may be compromised and too dangerous to reopen without extensive reinforcement and reconstruction.
Furthermore, some of the changes to the landscape may be irreversible. Sholly suggests some sections of rivers and tributaries may have changed course permanently, making it difficult – if not impossible – to rebuild the roads precisely as they were.
An indefinite full backcountry closure has been enacted in Yellowstone. Dozens or hundreds of backcountry bridges may have been lost in the flooding.
At the time of the meeting, Mammoth Hot Springs had been without power for thirty hours. Sholly says power would (hopefully) be restored sometime Tuesday.
The Northern Loop received most of the damage. Flooding affected the south “much less” than the north. However, Sholly says some sections of the Southern Loop (particularly around Canyon Village) may be compromised enough that it is unsafe to reopen them to traffic.
Yellowstone National Park will likely not reopen this week – and when it does, there will be significant changes to accommodate visitors and their safety.
Sholly says the full extent of the damage from this week’s flooding will be assessed early next week, weather permitting. However, the superintendent says another high water event is possible, especially with more snow and rain predicted over the next several days.
The southern entrances – the East in Cody, the West in West Yellowstone, and the South in Jackson – will reopen once it is deemed safe. A timeline for that reopening is not available.
Even when those entrances reopen, Sholly concedes the Southern Loop cannot handle the total tourist volume of the park. Because of this, visitor flow will likely be restricted.
Park officials may implement timed entries and reservations throughout Summer 2022 to ensure the park’s visitor traffic is lower and safer.
There are still more questions and uncertainties than answers – those will come with more time. Until then, Sholly says his office and the National Park Service will share regular updates with gateway communities as more information is collected.