Restrictions for visitors to Yellowstone
The southern portion of Yellowstone National Park opened on June 22, 2022, with some restrictions, and with three of Yellowstone’s five entrances opening. The iconic park had closed on June 13 – for the first time in 34 years – due to flooding. Yellowstone typically receives a million visitors a month during July and August, according to Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly, speaking with USA Today. Important: To keep visitor numbers down while repairs continue, park managers will use a system that only allows cars with even-numbered last digits on their license plates to enter on even days, while vehicles with odd-numbered last numbers can come on odd days. The National Park Service also said that the:
Northern portion of Yellowstone National Park is likely to remain closed for a substantial length of time due to severely damaged, impacted infrastructure.
The park service asks visitors who have plans to visit the park to stay informed about any changes, including road and weather conditions.
?? 6/22 UPDATE ??
Yellowstone's south loop reopened this morning, June 22, at 8 a.m.! ?
— Yellowstone National Park (@YellowstoneNPS) June 22, 2022
Planning a visit? Make sure you know about our Alternating License Plate System!? There are a few exceptions to this rule, so visit https://t.co/zzoA8IuDee for info & FAQs about the ALPS.
Thanks for your understanding & patience as we navigate this unprecedented event together! pic.twitter.com/XfTEqEVHl7
— Yellowstone National Park (@YellowstoneNPS) June 24, 2022
Map of roads open and closed in Yellowstone
Why did the flooding happen?
NASA’s Earth Observatory shared images of the Yellowstone area from last year compared to this year as flooding rampaged the park. The flooding occurred after several inches of rain fell on the area at the same time that a warm spell began melting the heavy snowpack. The National Weather Service out of Billings, Montana, told NASA:
This led to flooding rarely or never seen before across many area rivers and streams.
While the area had been experiencing drought conditions, April brought more precipitation, which helped build up the snowpack. Then came up to 5 inches of rain from June 10 to 13. The rainfall, plus 2 to 5 inches of snowmelt at the same time, was too much for the already-damp soil to absorb. Maps below show the snowpack and soil moisture for the greater Yellowstone area for 2021 compared to 2022.
Yellowstone closed June 13
All entrances to Yellowstone National Park closed on June 13, 2022. The U.S. National Park Service said that they closed the park due to:
… Heavy flooding, rockslides, extremely hazardous conditions.
The Park Service said they had to wait for flood waters to recede to conduct evaluations on roads, bridges and wastewater treatment facilities to ensure visitor and employee safety. The last time Yellowstone closed was due to the devastating wildfires of 1988.
North entrance particularly affected
And, with much of the road washed out near Gardiner, Montana, the north entrance will be closed indefinitely. The community of Gardiner has found itself cut off from surrounding areas. Yellowstone park superintendent Cam Sholly said:
Due to record flooding events in the park and more precipitation in the forecast, we have made the decision to close Yellowstone to all inbound visitation. Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues. The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and State of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas.
Caught this while exiting Yellowstone through the North Entrance station at Gardiner Sunday afternoon ? (The people in the car in front seemed okay) #yellowstone #Flooding #BeSafeOutThere pic.twitter.com/ht58fQ8d0T
— Anne Leppold (@AnneLeppold) June 14, 2022
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 14, 2022
Today was historic and ruinous for @YellowstoneNPS. It's not hyperbole to say there will be economic harm felt by gateway communities for years. Mammoth—park headwaters—will be a dead end for the foreseeable future. So will Cooke City. Unbelievable. https://t.co/pPgmN0SnJg
— Mike Koshmrl (@Koshywrites) June 13, 2022
Yellowstone flooding of historic proportions
Heavy rain plus snowmelt caused rivers to overflow their banks in areas of southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming. The Yellowstone River north of the park at Corwin Springs rose to nearly 14 feet (4 meters), a new record. The previous record was 11 1/2 feet (3.5 meters), set more than 100 years ago on June 14, 1918.
As you can see from the video in the tweet from Yellowstone National Park below, the North Entrance Road that leads into the northwestern corner of the park from Gardiner, Montana, suffered massive damage due to the flooding.
Current conditions of Yellowstone’s North Entrance Road through the Gardner Canyon between Gardiner, Montana, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
— Yellowstone National Park (@YellowstoneNPS) June 13, 2022
Surrounding area impacted by flooding
Flooding also inundated communities in Montana upriver from Yellowstone National Park. Floodwaters have swamped communities including Gardiner, Cooke City, Red Lodge, Silver Gate, Livingston and more. The Montana National Guard performed rescues in Roscoe and Cooke City, successfully evacuating people who were stranded by floodwaters.
— Drew Mingl ????? (@drewmingl) June 14, 2022
— YourOtherMotherLisa (@YourOtherMom) June 13, 2022
— whyaskit (@whyaskit1) June 14, 2022
One more from a friend. This is Livingston. Wild! pic.twitter.com/6X8enz3rSR
— Jake Sorich (@callmejakeaight) June 13, 2022
Bottom line: Historic Yellowstone flooding temporarily closed the park. The park reopened on a limited basis on June 22. Learn why the flood happened here.