With the current government shutdown in its second day, Congressional observers say it could be a matter of weeks before a resolution is in sight — which would close down Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks for the rest of the current season.
Though President Barack Obama has scheduled a meeting today with Congressional leaders to break the current stalemate, observers don’t think anything will change in coming days. Right now the posturing is heavy on both sides, and with neither side looking to budge an inch, the government shutdown will likely be measured in weeks, not days.
Which means the end of the fall season at Yellowstone National Park could already be ended. Park roads close in two phases. Tower to Canyon — the snowy Dunraven Pass — is scheduled to close Oct. 15. (As is the Beartooth Highway, which is already closed). The second phase calls for all Yellowstone roads to close on Nov. 4 at 8 a.m., save the stretch between the North Entrance and the Northeast Entrance, which is open year-round to provide access to Cooke City and Silver Gate residents.
In terms of concessions, most of the hotels and facilities in Yellowstone are already closed. If there were access to the Park, there would be just a few openings: the Canyon Education Center (which closed Oct. 14), various Old Faithful area services and hotels, four campgrounds, and year-round services in Mammoth, like the general store and the Albright Visitor Center. All of these are closed. All were scheduled to close in coming days: the Mammoth Hotel on Oct. 7, the Old Faithful Inn on Oct. 13, and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge on Oct. 20. Some services, such as the Old Faithful Snow Lodge fast-food shop and the Old Faithful Visitor Center, are set to remain open through Nov. 3. You can see a list of all 2013 opening and closing dates here.
And, of course, there is some collateral damage. In Yellowstone, 260 employees out of approximately 420 employees were immediately furloughed, with another 48 set to be furloughed once all hotel and campground visitors leave the park. That is a population of over 300 workers who won’t be spending money in West Yellowstone, Gardiner or Cody any time soon. That’s not approaching the 130,000 or so Yellowstone visitors potentially lost this month, but it’s still part of the equation.
At what point does the National Park Service and concessionaires call it a season? We’re guessing Mammoth Hotel is pretty much closed for the year. Unless the park opens in a week, you can add Old Faithful Hotel to the list. And, if history is any guide, you can add everything else to the list: the last federal government shutdown in 1995 lasted 21 days.