Tens of thousands of people have been visiting Yellowstone National Park to celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. However, on June 11, more than two inches of rain combined with warm weather melted five inches of snow. The resulting flood destroyed roads and bridges in the park. On June 13, the park’s entrances were closed, and officials evacuated people inside.
The worst damage was seen in the north of the park, where roads were blocked by fallen trees and buried under mud and bridges were swept away. On Wednesday, the park partially reopened the east, south and west entrances to the park. People with reservations are being admitted. And people whose license plates end in even numbers can enter on even dates, and those with odd numbers can enter on odd dates. The parks have been working with residents, and the admission system based on license plates was their idea. Zero is considered an even number, and licenses that end in a letter are considered odd.
The main road inside the park is shaped like a figure eight. The top of the eight is where most of the severe damage is located. Portions of the park, and businesses and communities inside it, are entirely cut off. The National Park Service (NPS) is working to fix it but hasn’t given any timeline for when it will reopen to the public as parts of the roads are just gone.
Houses, water systems and infrastructure were destroyed in the flood. At least 300 homes were damaged, and fresh water was cut off to 110,000 people in the area. The NPS said, “Many sections of road in these areas are completely gone and will require substantial time and effort to reconstruct.”
“We have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time but have a long way to go,” said Cam Sholly, Yellowstone’s superintendent. “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 the Interior leadership, in addition to our surrounding Congressional delegations, governors, counties, communities and other partners.”
Some of the park’s most famous sites are accepting visitors. Old Faithful, Old Faithful Inn and the Grand Prismatic Spring are open. While the park is damaged, this is the tourist season, and the surrounding southern area would still benefit from visitors. If you want to go, your trip doesn’t have to be canceled, but it does have to be modified.
The NPS has set up a site with information for visitors about the new rules. It also has information for people who might have left things behind while evacuating. Check it out before heading to the park, and you can have a great trip!