Days after announcing its flood-battered northern loop would “likely” not reopen in 2022, Yellowstone National Park has walked back those plans.
Yellowstone’s northern loop is expected to reopen in “two weeks or less” after clean-up, repairs and final inspection of infrastructure in the northern loop is completed, park officials announced in a Monday press release. The damage stems from a devastating rain-on-snow event, which triggered historic flooding.
“This will allow visitors to access Dunraven Pass, Tower, Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris opening visitor access to approximately 80 percent of Yellowstone National Park,” the notice said.
When Yellowstone’s northern roads open in roughly two weeks, visitors will still be unable to reach Lamar Valley. It will take much longer, possibly years, to fully restore two badly damaged stretches of road that link the park with Gardiner to the north and Cooke City to the northeast, according to the Associated Press.
The revision to northern Yellowstone access comes a day after National Park Service Director Chuck Sams toured the damage with Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly. In addition to the expedited reopening plans, the duo announced $50 million in emergency funding to help with the flood recovery.
“The initial $50 million will be used to restore temporary access to Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana and other additional sites,” Yellowstone’s press release said. “Plans are being finalized for improving the Old Gardiner Road for temporary access between Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana.”
The Old Gardiner Road, a historic 4.5-mile route connecting Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs, will be “substantially improved” over the coming months with the emergency funding. Meanwhile, park officials will look into ways to restore limited visitor access. The park’s public affairs officers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but it’s been reported that access through the northern entrance could be restricted to guided tourists.
Yellowstone is also working with the Federal Highway Administration on temporary and permanent options to restore access to Silver Gate and Cooke City, located just outside of the park’s northeast entrance, the notice said. Because of washouts, the Northeast Entrance Road is currently impassable between Lamar Valley and Silver Gate.
Access to Yellowstone through the south, west and east gates and the southern loop is on schedule to resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
To alleviate congestion from stuffing all of Yellowstone’s visitors into half of the park, there are new requirements to get in. Visitors who don’t have a hotel, campground or activity reservation will only be admitted through entrance gates on alternating days, depending on their license plates (see graphic below).