Yellowstone Hopes to Reopen Next Week – Do You Have a Reservation?
Written by Andrew-Rossi on June 15, 2022
Cody residents and business owners were assured Yellowstone National Park will reopen next week, but there will be changes – including a reservation system – to ensure the park is open but not overwhelmed.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly held a virtual town hall with Cody civic leaders and businesses. It was one of several meetings Sholly had that day with the park’s gateway communities like Gardiner, Cooke City, and West Yellowstone.
The situation is still dire along Yellowstone’s Northern Loop. Sholly described the damage to the road between the North Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs as “fairly catastrophic .” In addition, Mammoth’s sewer line has been lost, and power was out for over thirty hours on Tuesday (it has since been restored.)
Repairing the Mammoth/Gardiner road will take “a lot of time, effort, and money,” according to Sholly. A temporary entrance option – a dirt road from the late 1800s – is being tentatively evaluated as a possible short-term solution.
Furthermore, Sholly indicated another “high water event” is possible within the week. There is still a foot of snowpack in the mountains, which could melt quickly with the weekend’s warm temperatures. The same factors caused the intense flooding that devastated the Northern Loop.
The Southern Loop will reopen early next week – but how much visitation can that section of the park handle?
Yellowstone’s southern roads and infrastructure have been largely unaffected by the devastating flooding in the north. A section of road near Canyon Village is damaged to a concerning degree, but otherwise, Sholly is confident the park’s construction crews can handle the work.
What concerns Sholly is how the loop’s infrastructure will handle so many people. When it reopens, the park will be extremely busy – potentially all the millions of tourists visiting every summer.
The consensus is that it can’t – so park officials must make changes.
Yellowstone and the National Park Service are currently developing a reservation/timed entry system for Summer 2022. Implementation of the project will take three to four weeks.
Park officials are currently working on the system, so there isn’t much information on how that system will function. However, there will likely be a mix of options – advanced reservations online with a handful of spots available at the gates.
As for how long the reservation system will be in place, it’s too early to tell. However, if the system is implemented successfully, it may become a more permanent fixture.
The reservation system will affect regular visitor vehicles. Commercial Use Authorizations (C.U.A.s) offering commercial services to park visitors (like tour buses) will be exempt.
The National Park Service will release more information on the reservation/timed entry as it gets further in development.
In the meantime, the Southern Loop will be open without reservations.
Lodging at areas like Grant Village will not open on Monday. Full overnight accommodations are too much for the park’s staff to handle, especially with full access to the park through the open gates. A small percentage of lodging options will open when the park opens, and more will gradually open as the season progresses.
Meanwhile, concessionaires along the Southern Loop will be open. Xanterra – the company that handles the park’s lodging and food services – will collaborate with the park to determine how much will open and at what capacity.
When asked if any sections of the Northern Loop will open in Summer 2022, Sholly said, “it’s possible.” For example, the roadway from the Dunraven Pass to Tower Junction and west to Mammoth could reopen later in the season – but it’s too early to tell.
A busy opening is better than a month’s closure, but community input is essential to make Summer 2022 work in Yellowstone National Park.
Superintendent Sholly encourages feedback on the solutions the park was exploring to ensure the best possible transition and implementation. He’s aware that there are numerous questions he can’t answer right now, but he says solutions will come from collaborative efforts with the park and its gateway communities.
However, those solutions may be a long way off. Until then, Sholly intends to call gateway communities daily to provide updates on the park’s status and reopening.
“We’re not trying to find perfect,” Sholly says.