Yellowstone National Park Flooding, Damage and Openings

This update was provided by Cam Sholly of Yellowstone National Park and much of the information is fluid and may change depending on the damage, new damage that is discovered and road conditions due to the massive flooding and structural problems caused by flood waters, debris, mudslides and riverbed coverage over road structures. Please understand this is just a discussion and some things may change but these are the subjects discussed on June 15th with the Cody Community and NPS.

What Happened? June 13th a historic event happened that caused the massive flooding that included 2″-3″ of rain, warm temperatures and about 5″ of snow melted causing about 31,000 Cubic Feet Per Second Flooding of the Yellowstone River. The river overflowed its banks along with the fast moving water, eroded riverbanks, road structures and bridges causing a disaster in the northern part of Yellowstone Park.

Yellowstone has not partially opened yet because of the possibility that it may rain again this weekend and there is still about 12″ of snow that remains to be melted. Temperatures are expected to reach the 80’s this week and will cause fast melting of the remaining snowpack. With the possibility of rain this weekend, it could cause a second flooding event.

Parts of Yellowstone Park were affected as well as other towns like Red Lodge, Montana who suffered a raging river down the middle of town and washouts of many of the bridges that Red Lodge relies on for access. The main road through Red Lodge looks like a dry riverbed after the water subsided with rocks and riverbed debris covering the main roadway.

What Next? For those planning on visiting Yellowstone and the Cody area, please be advised that Yellowstone officials are hoping to reopen unaffected parts of the park on Monday (June 20th, 2022) or Tuesday (June 21st, 2022). This includes the southern loop that includes Norris, Lake, Grant and the South and West entrances. Old Faithful and other most visited areas such as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Upper and Lower falls will be accessible. This is also dependent on the weather that is expected this weekend and any new structural problems that are discovered that could affect stability of the roadways. Please be aware that these conditions can change so check with the Cody Chamber of Commerce who will continue to post updates as they become available.

If you have reservations with Wapiti Valley Vacation Rentals, take heart. The east entrance will be open and accessible for the next 3-4 weeks without reservations but after that, the NPS may have to implement a reservation system to limit the amount of vehicle traffic inside the park boundaries due to parking spaces at popular landmarks and due to waste water problems from the flooding. Park Staff are doing the best they can to minimize disruptions to travelers plans but they are overwhelmed by the damage that the flood waters created. They are doing a tremendous job working with communities, lodging companies and tour companies to make sure that people can still enjoy as much of the park as possible and we are all grateful for their tireless efforts in avoiding more cancellations and closures and minimizing the plans our visitors made to enjoy our beautiful area. The Park Service is trying to keep the park experience as close to normal as possible.

If you are going into Yellowstone this summer, please be kind and thank the staff for their many hours of working to keep the park open. Many areas may not be accessible such as Lamar Valley in the short term but may be accessible later in the summer but please know, Park staff are not to blame for the inconvenience of not being able to access some areas due to road erosion or dangerous conditions due to the floods.

For now, know that Gardiner to Mammoth, Lamar Valley to Cooke City are closed due to road erosion and bridge washouts. Again, these may open later so watch for updates if you are coming to visit.

Also, know that there are so many activities in Cody to do such as the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (The greatest western museum and gun collection in the world), Horseback riding, river trips, Cody Nite rodeo, Irma Hotel Gunfights, Wild Mustang tours, the Buffalo Bill Dam and yearly activities such as the Plains Indian Powwow at the Center of the West on Fathers Day weekend. There is so much to see on the way to Yellowstone from Wapiti Valley Vacation Rentals that you won’t know that you aren’t in Yellowstone except for the missing geysers. The Northfork of the Shoshone river is full of Moose, Elk, Black and Grizzly bears, Antelope, Deer, Wolves and more so keep your eyes peeled and watch for them because we have them all including the occasional Yellowstone bison escapee.

Food concessions will be open in those parts of the park that are accessible so the gift shops and stores will be open as well as fuel stations. For now, there is no camping or lodging available in Yellowstone due to waste water and other infrastructure problems so check with Xanterra on any reservations that you may have to determine availability, if any, this season.

Yellowstone may be slated to become a reservation entry only in the future due to the past heavy use, but just know this is just in the talking phases and nothing has been decided definitely and this is a conversation that will have to be held with all communities who rely on Yellowstone for tourism, the National Park Service and other interested parties.

For those visitors who are staying with Wapiti Valley Vacation Rentals, the Cody and Wapiti area has been unaffected by the rains and flooding and we welcome you to our beautiful city and area. COVID has definitely strained small businesses in our area and now the flooding has increased cancellations for those of us who depend on tourism to provide unique lodging in the Wapiti Valley. We are only able to provide about 3-4 months of vacation rentals and make enough to keep our facilities open for the entire year, so please try to avoid cancelling your reservation because only a small part of the park will be closed this year and hopefully the entire park will be open next season.

Yellowstone is no stranger to disaster. In 1988 devastating fires destroyed much of the park. It has returned and the burned over areas are green and full of life. This disaster will also be a memory in the future and the flora, fauna and wildlife will continue to thrive in this unique corner of the world long after the roads and bridges are rebuilt. There is no place like this on earth and we are so excited to share this unique ecosystem with the world. Come and have a great vacation and we look forward to future friendships!

Nicole Baggs and Rayna Wortham

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