Yellowstone flooding

Yellowstone flooding shuts down park

With torrential rains causing substantial flooding, rockslides and mudslides, Yellowstone National Park is closed to the public, with inbound traffic to the park is temporarily halted and the northern part of the park has been evacuated.

This is not a problem that will go away any time soon. Rainfall is expected to continue for the next several days. Flood levels measured on the Yellowstone River are beyond record levels. 

The flooding poses short-term hazards and long-term challenges for park staff and visitors. In the short term, multiple roads in the southern portion of the park are also on the verge of being flooded, further restricting access. 

High water levels in the Lamar River eroding the Northeast Entrance Road. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Many park roads may remain closed for an extended period of time, and park staff has already recorded multiple sections of roads throughout the park that have been either washed out or covered in mud or rocks. Strains on wastewater and water treatment facilities could become a factor and the park is taking precautions to ensure facilities are not failing. 

Northeast Entrance
The impact is being felt all throughout Yellowstone. This is the Northeast Entrance Road washed out near Soda Butte Picnic Area. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

The flooding is also affecting other areas in the region. Red Lodge’s Rock Creek is flooding as well, preventing access to the Beartooth Highway. Access to Cooke City is now limited to the Chief Joseph Highway.

In addition, Gardiner is isolated and inaccessible, with no power and potable water. And as flooding makes its way across Yellowstone, it’s expected visitors in the southern half of the park will be evacuated later today.

Here’s a statement from Superintendent Cam Sholly:

“Due to record flooding events in the park and more precipitation in the forecast, we have made the decision to close Yellowstone to all inbound visitation,” said superintendent Cam Sholly. “Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues. The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and State of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas. Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the park’s southern loop, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin to move visitors in the southern loop out of the park later today in coordination with our in-park business partners. We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we’re able to assess the damage throughout the park. It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time. I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and of our gateway community partners who are helping us through this major event. We appreciate the support offered by the Department of Interior, National Park Service and the Montana and Wyoming governors.”  

For those needed immediate help with accommodations, Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm of the Park County (Wyoming) Travel Council, has announced two helplines to assist affected travelers.

Travelers can call 1-307-586-1574 or 1-307-586-1571 for assistance booking accommodations in hotels and campgrounds.

“These rain-related closures are unprecedented and serious, and our primary concern right now is the safety and comfort of visitors to the Cody Yellowstone region,” said Ryan Hauck, executive director of Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm for the region that includes the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as areas inside of Yellowstone National Park and the valley east of the entrance. “Our local experts are ready to offer travelers assistance finding accommodations and navigating the region as safely as possible.”

Top photo of a washed-out bridge at Rescue Creek courtesy National Park Service.

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