Yellowstone Closed Down: Families Looking For Hotel Rooms After Being Evacuated

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Floods and the closure of Yellowstone National Park have ruined the vacation Denver resident Jackie Harrison and her family planned for this week.

“It does, it’s totally ruined,” she said. 

Due to rampant flooding, mudslides and road collapses in Yellowstone, the park removed all of the park’s visitors Monday, completely closing the park for what at least one former official believes is the first time in the park’s history.

It was a last-minute trip to buy some binoculars that may have saved Jackie and Alan Harrison and their two children from making the more than one-hour drive from Cody to Yellowstone’s East Entrance, where they likely would have been turned away. It was in the parking lot at a Cody store that the Harrisons received an email alerting them the park had closed.

Alan and Jackie Harrison pour ice from their cooler into a small ice bucket they plan to bring up to their hotel room.

“It was just in the nick of time,” Alan Harrison said.

The Harrisons had an extensive vacation lined up from the cabin they reserved at Grant Village, with a boat tour, hiking and other activities on the docket.

“For the kids it was really exciting because it was their first trip to Yellowstone,” Harrison said.

The Harrisons were among the visitors whose plans were upset by the flooding, the result of days of heavy rain on top of melting snow. The park closed al of its entrances to incoming visitors on Monday morning and by Monday afternoon had removed all tourists.

Rob Wallace, a former assistance secretary for the Department of Interior who oversaw the National Park Service, said he believes this may be the first time the park has been completely closed.

Scott Lewis and his family did get to see some of the park before it closed, but it was limited to a rainy Sunday, which Lewis described as “good, but a little stressful” due to the high quantity of falling rain.

The family was supposed to stay in Silver Gate, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance and from there continue into the park. But when Lewis got one look at the overflowing Soda Butte Creek just 15 feet from the short-term rental cabin the family rented, he knew they had to make a change in plans.

“It (Soda Butte) was flowing three times the normal width,” he said.

Like the Harrisons, the Lewis’ Yellowstone vacation plans, including wolf watching, a chuckwagon dinner and horseback riding, had to be scrapped.

“What do you do?” Scott Lewis asked. “You just kind of go with the flow with it.”

Scott Lewis attempts to choose which items he will bring up to his hotel room.

With five people in his group, Lewis said they had a difficult time finding two rooms for a stay in Cody. On Monday afternoon, he found himself deciding which food items from the back of his van he would stuff into the mini fridge in his hotel room, trying to reach the avocados while maneuvering around fishing poles and coolers.

“If I knew this was going to happen I never would’ve brought this much food along,” he said.

Earlier in the afternoon, Lewis said he saw around 20 people milling around the lobby of the Best Western Hotel in Cody attempting to find a room.

Will Lewis, a guest services member at Best Western said the establishment is nearly booked up for the next three days.

“It’s affecting our buses,” Will Lewis said, in reference to the tour bus groups that partner with the hotel. 

Harrison said his family will make a trip from Cody to Grand Teton by the long way, traveling through Thermopolis and Shoshoni. This is the one part of their trip that may still be salvaged.

“We planned to go there anyway,” Jackie Harrison said.

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