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Visitors return to flood-ravaged Yellowstone National Park

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 23:41:34-04

WEST YELLOWSTONE - Vehicles were backed up all the way into West Yellowstone as Yellowstone National Park opened its gates for the first time in 10 days on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Yellowstone National Park released the following information on Wednesday:

Yellowstone National Park's south loop reopened this morning, June 22, at 8 a.m. As the park expected, traffic entering through only three entrances (South, West, East) did cause major backups initially, however, backups have cleared at each entrance. By 12:30 p.m. only 20 cars were in line at the West Entrance. Park staff have monitored traffic throughout the day and reported light to medium activity in most areas. Norris Geyser Basin, one of the busiest destinations in the park, reported light activity.

Less than 5,000 vehicles have entered the south loop today – normally it is 10,000 or more vehicles. Less than 1% of vehicles had to be turned around due to having the wrong license plate (see Flood Recovery and Operations [] for details about the license plate system). The park will monitor traffic and expects backups to be high in the mornings as day use visitors enter and should normalize mid-morning through mid-day. As a reminder, many times during normal years, traffic is backed up numerous miles at the West and South entrances.

"While it's too early to tell if the license plate system worked, it appears to have done its job by cutting our normal traffic counts by half," said Superintendent Cam Sholly. "As we've discussed with our community partners, we will monitor this together and make adjustments if necessary. We're happy to have visitors back in Yellowstone and appreciate the patience of the public and community partners as we continue working through this difficult situation."

Park spokesperson Linda Veress said, “June’s one of our busiest months of the year and I know people are so excited to be able to come back to Yellowstone.”

And once those people waiting in line at the gate got into the park, they may have been pleasantly surprised.

“We came into town on Monday,” said Brennan and Rudy Sias from Washington state. “We were going to do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday here and just had to extend our time a little.”

When asked what they did in the interim, while the park was closed, they had a quick answer: “Oh, we just saw some things around here, Earthquake Lake and the Grizzly-Wolf Center.”

Several of the visitors to the park also found plenty to do in the gateway community while waiting for the park to reopen.

“We went out off-roading,” said Deepak Reddy Mogul of Carrollton Texas. “And having some fun times.”

That’s just what businesses in the gateway communities were hoping would happen with the majority of visitors who were shut out of the park. Most people seemed calm but excited to be heading into Yellowstone.

It was also crowded at the south entrance near Grand Teton.

“It was a three-mile wait when we arrived,” said Mogul. “I think we arrived there at 7:30 and it was a three-mile line.”

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That was in fact the feeling that could be had throughout the busy Madison to Old Faithful corridor. It felt about normal with just a hint of anticipation because of the flood damage not far away.

Once inside the park, the traffic spread out and the crowding at the gates eased. That meant a lot of people headed straight to Old Faithful.

“It’s a little uncertain right now with the roads and the conditions, so we just want to make sure that we hit the main attraction first and look around for the other ones,” explained Mogul.

Those we spoke with didn’t mind missing a visit to the northern part of the park. They already had a lot to do in the south.

“Canyon, Lake, the Artists Point, Norris, umm, what else, Grant, Yellowstone Lake, maybe a couple of hikes,” said Mogul.

At Old Faithful, there are pretty typical summertime crowds around the time when the famous geyser goes off. People seem to be enjoying the blue sky day and the act that all services seem to be running as normal here.

That was in fact the feeling that could be had throughout the busy Madison to Old Faithful corridor. It felt about normal with just a hint of anticipation because of the flood damage not far away.

Park officials say there is still no timeline for opening a temporary route for park visitors to use from Gardiner to Mammoth or west of Cooke City and Silver Gate. In fact, they say the route for that access is yet to be determined.