All entrances to Yellowstone closed – north entrances likely will not open this year
Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding communities have experienced historic and catastrophic flooding this week. Officials briefed over 100 reporters on their course of action Tuesday night.
All entrances to the park are closed to inbound travel as of Monday morning. Many sections of the North Entrance Road are completely washed out into the Yellowstone river, including an employee housing structure.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said more than 10,000 visitors were evacuated in 24 hours. One backcountry hiking group remained in the mountains as of the press conference, but Sholly said contact was made and the group was safe. He added hundreds of backcountry foot bridges could be destroyed.
Sholly said there are still a lot of unknowns.
“Billion dollar question is, “what’s the damage?” Answer is we don’t know exactly yet,” he said. “Water is extremely high, we’re not putting teams in harm’s way at this point.”
Sholly said the northern half of the park will likely remain closed for the season, which will include the northeast and north entrances.
“I’ll stay as optimistic as possible, but even if we got started right now, I'm not sure we could get the road on the northern end reopened,” he said.
He added that sections of the Yellowstone River may be permanently changed, and the road will have to be built in a completely new area. Sholly said previously the highest recorded cubic feet per second (cfs) rating for the Yellowstone River was in the 90s at 31,000 cfs. That record was broken Sunday with a recorded 51,000 cfs.
Sholly said the hope is to open the southern half of the park in the next week, which would include the west, east and south entrances. But, Sholly added that the water is still raging and the full extent of the damage is unclear. Weather experts suggest more flooding could occur in the coming days.
“We could have another flood event coming through Yellowstone in the upcoming four or five days,” Sholly said.
The park is working on a plan to accommodate visitors in half the space this summer – this could include things like timed entries and reservations to enter.