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Yellowstone gateway communities to feel impact of park closure

Yellowstone employee housing washes away in Yellowstone River.
Courtesy / Gina Riquier
Yellowstone employee housing washes away in Yellowstone River.

All of Yellowstone National Park is temporarily closed to visitors, and the northern half will likely remain closed for the rest of the year due to severe flood damage. Meanwhile, officials say gateway communities are hurting.

At a recent press briefing, much of the focus was on Gardiner and Cooke City, Mont. The two towns are at the north and northeast entrances, respectively. During the peak of the flooding Monday, the towns were isolated because of flooding in all directions, and thousands of visitors were stranded.

Park County, Mont. Commissioner Bill Berg said Gardiner was founded because of Yellowstone.

“So it's a company town, it's a Yellowstone town, and it lives and dies by tourism,” he said. “And this is going to be a pretty big hit.”

Although officials said they hope to open the west, south and east entrances, Cody and Jackson will likely be impacted as well, since only half of the park will be open.

Officials say there will likely have to be a reduced number of people visiting the park overall. Typically, Yellowstone sees one million visitors per month in the summer season.

Berg said businesses are having to assess how to move forward, as many were expecting record visitation and tourism-related dollars

“Businesses are already trying to sort out what they're going to do with their seasonal staff – they can't afford to keep them,” Berg said. “Their business projections are shot. Reservations are being canceled, folks are asking for refunds, which is understandable. Some businesses may have already spent that money.”

Infrastructure-wise, Berg said the sewer, water and road systems in Gardiner and Cooke City are also being assessed.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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