An unprecedented flood hit Yellowstone National Park on June 13, 2022. The catastrophic event was caused by a combination of unusually heavy rains and rapid snowmelt. The high and fast water flows destroyed bridges and swept away entire roadways, leaving communities and homes isolated. Fortunately, the approximately 10,000 park visitors were safely evacuated.
The town of Gardiner, along the Montana-Wyoming border, was particularly hard hit. The floodwaters from its namesake river left the almost 900 residents with no power or water for many days. Both have since been restored. But Gardiner’s economy, which depends on the almost three-quarters of a million visitors who pass through the park’s north gate annually, is likely to take a hit. The floodwaters have severely damaged the main north entrance road to Yellowstone from Gardiner to Mammoth, and could take years to rebuild.
Park officials have begun work on improving an alternative gravel road to Gardiner. This will ensure that locals can access food, supplies, and other essential emergency services. A limited number of tourists may also be allowed into Gardiner once the road is stable.
Yellowstone’s north gate is closed indefinitely. But the park’s three south gates opened to visitors on June 22, 2022. Park officials have started an new entry system to prevent overcrowding. It is based on the last number of the guest’s vehicle license plate and the numerical calendar date of the month. Cars with odd numbers can visit the park on odd days of the month, while those with even numbers can go on even days.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is America’s oldest national park. The 3,472 square miles reserve spans three states — Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana — and is home to many unique geological features. These include fossil forests, a volcanic glass mountain and the world’s largest concentration — 500 — of active geysers. Old Faithful, which has been erupting at regular intervals for as long as records exist, is the most famous.
Resources: NPS.gov, idahocapitalsun.com, moutainjournal.org