Jun 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Half of Yellowstone will be closed for forseeable future after catastrophic floods

High water levels in Gardner River alongside the North Entrance Road.
High water levels in Gardner River alongside the North Entrance Road. Photo: NPS

Half of Yellowstone Park cannot support visitation due to the recent catastrophic flooding and will remain closed for the foreseeable future, Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly told reporters Tuesday.

Why it matters: Yellowstone experienced massive flooding this week brought on by rainfall and snowpack just ahead of its busy summer season.

Catch up quick: Record flooding, rockslides and hazardous conditions destroyed bridges and roads across Yellowstone on Monday, leading to evacuation orders for residents and efforts to move visitors.

  • All visitors were moved from the northern region into the southern area due to the flooding in the North, Sholly said.
  • “As of this morning, all visitors are out of Yellowstone," Sholly said.

Driving the news: Sholly told reporters that the entire park will remain closed temporarily but the southern loop of Yellowstone can be opened "relatively quickly" — potentially in a week or less.

  • The North and Northeast entrances will remain closed for the near future, he added.
  • The northern loop will require damage assessments for reconstruction and it will take a “considerable amount of time" to reopen, Sholly said.
  • It's unclear how widespread the damage is yet across the park, Sholly said, but it is “extensive." Sholly added that Yellowstone can't assess damage until teams are on the ground.
  • "The water is extremely high. We’re not putting teams in harm’s way at this point," he said.

What we're watching: Officials are exploring some options to bring people back to the southern loop, including timed entry or a reservation-type system, he said.

  • "Trying to put normal visitation into one loop of Yellowstone is a disaster waiting to happen," Sholly said. "So we've got to make sure that the infrastructure we have in that loop can support whatever number that we bring in."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The deluge and rapid snow melt that hit Yellowstone was tied to a rare June atmospheric river that first hit the Pacific Northwest over the weekend. More waves of moisture are still sweeping across parts of the northern Rockies, threatening additional flooding.

  • Extreme precipitation events such as this one are becoming more common and intense due to human-induced climate change. A formal extreme event attribution study could help determine how large of a role a warming climate played in the devastating flooding.
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