Party Interrupted

June 15, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

KaleidoscopicKaleidoscopicThe best way to appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air - where both its otherworldy appearance and immense size are apparent. Note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Poor Yellowstone National Park. Celebrating its 150th birthday this year, the party has been abruptly interrupted.

As you're probably aware, a combination of snowmelt and unusually heavy rainfall over last weekend caused river levels to surge overnight Sunday-into-Monday, which led to record flooding and widespread damage - especially in the northern sections of the park. (The Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, MT surpassed the previous high mark set more than 100 years ago by several feet.) I was in the far-southern part of Yellowstone on Saturday; rivers were already high due to spring runoff and it had only just begun to rain at that point.  

Some sections of roadway in the northern loop are completely gone and others are badly damaged. There have been bridge failures, rockslides and mudslides. Too much water, too quickly.

The park is completely closed to visitors until at least this Sunday, June 19th. Probably longer. The north and northeast entrances will remain shuttered for the rest of this season; I wouldn't be surprised if 2023 is impacted also. Grand Teton National Park had some significant flooding a few years ago which took out part of Gros Ventre Road. The repair/rebuilding process was lengthy and the scope of that project doesn't begin to compare to what lies ahead for Yellowstone.

As for the southern loop, apparently it didn't sustain major damage but there are several question marks regarding when and how it will re-open. Work has already begun but the park service has to wait for the water to subside to thoroughly evaluate the situation and assess damage. (More rain is forecast for this weekend along with warmer temperatures which will accelerate snowmelt.) Then power must be restored, and both water and wastewater systems need to be properly operational before the south, east and west entrances can accept inbound traffic. 

They're talking about implementing some sort of temporary reservation or timed entry system to avoid overcrowding on the southern loop. 

Ironically, much of Yellowstone is experiencing serious drought conditions (the same is true for Grand Teton National Park as well as Eastern Idaho) - yet here we are with flooding. Though there will be some immediate benefit from this event as far as the water supply is concerned, a news report last night indicated that it will have little long-term impact. Unchanged is the fact that neither Jackson Lake nor Palisades, the two local reservoirs here, are expected to fill this year.  

And so it goes.

If you've planned a trip to Yellowstone this summer, check frequently with the park service regarding status. They'll be keeping the website updated, and as mentioned in previous posts, I urge you to sign up to receive text updates for up-to-the-minute road reports. You'll probably need to secure an entry reservation, and some attractions in the north (like Lamar Valley) will likely be inaccessible. 


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