By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
Yellowstone National Park will remain completely closed until at least Sunday, a park spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Linda Veress told Cowboy State Daily that the park’s southern section will not reopen until at least Sunday in the wake of floods that forced the park’s closure and evacuation on Monday.
As park officials continued their assessments to determine when they might be able to reopen at least part of the park, visitors whose plans to visit the world’s first national park were disrupted by the flooding made adjustments.
No Plan B Yet
“We don’t have an exact ‘Plan B,’” said Jason Hansford of the English town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. “But we’ve been given a lot of good suggestions from the Yellowstone Facebook community.”
Veress could not provide any details on exactly what parts of the park’s southern section might be in operation when the park does reopen.
“If and when the southern part of the park reopens, we will provide details” she said. “We are working on those details at this time.”
Officials were forced to remove at least 10,000 people from the park as flooding caused by torrential rains and melting snow led to rockslides, mudslides and collapsed roads.
How To Accomodate
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said during a news conference Tuesday that several thousand more visitors had to be removed from the Gardiner, Montana, area, which was inundated by the flood.
Sholly said park officials needed to assess the damages before making a final decision on when facilities might open, but he also said damage to the park’s northern section, where entire portions of road were washed away, were more severe than in the south.
As a result, it could be some time before the northern section will reopen, Sholly said, and park officials are trying to determine how to accommodate all off the park’s visitors, which can top 1 million per month, in the southern section.
“This will likely mean implementation of some type of temporary reservation system to prevent gridlock and reduce impacts on park infrastructure,” the park said in an update Tuesday evening.
Travelers forced to leave the park moved to hotels, motels and camping spots in surrounding communities such as Jackson, Cody and Greybull, while visitors planning Yellowstone trips before the flooding adjusted their plans.
Although Yellowstone is no longer in Andrea Albertini’s travel plans, the Italian from Novara, Piemonte, told Cowboy State Daily, that Elvis is still on the schedule.
While Albertini was forced to abandon the Yellowstone leg of his trip to the U.S., he will keep his original plans to renew vows with his wife for his 30th anniversary at an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas.
“It is a surprise trip for my wife,” he said, noting that there is little chance his wife will be reading Cowboy State Daily so he wasn’t concerned about spoiling the surprise.
“We are going to spend a couple days in Las Vegas and renew our vows with Elvis and then we’re off to Cody and Rapid City, (South Dakota),” he said.
He said they’ll visit the Cody Night Rodeo in Cody and then visit the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
This is the third time Albertini has had Yellowstone plans canceled.
He and his wife were planning on visiting in 2020 and in 2021, but the Covid pandemic derailed both efforts.
But he’s taking it all in stride.
“Even if a bit disappointed, my thoughts to go the people who live and work there, and we’re hoping the the situation recovers soon,” he said.
“We love the States and we come often,” he added.
40th Wedding Anniversary Derailed
The story was similar for Hansford, who had planned to celebrate his 40th anniversary in Yellowstone.
“I’m a little disappointed but in the grand scheme of things, my disappointment and inconvenience is nothing compared to the impact to the locals and infrastructure,” Hansford said.
He and his wife are still flying into Denver on Aug. 12 and then up to Cody and then “somehow” he’ll make to Grand Teton National Park.
Eerie And Surreal
Those who were in the park when the flooding occurred told stories of close calls and watching the park’s wildlife deal with rivers swollen to historic levels.
Donna Frishe from Newnan, Georgia, showed Cowboy State Daily the last photo she took before being told her family had to evacuate the park.
The photo shows one bison on land next to the swollen Firehole River and another, with raging water up to its snout, trying to get across.
She said the second bison “really struggled” but was eventually able to make it.
“It was eerie and very surreal,” she said of the evacuation. “We had driven the north loop and Lamar Valley the day before.”
Both locations have received extension damage to the flooding.
She said her family was stopped as they tried to exit the south entrance of the park, but they were eventually allowed to pass because they were staying at Canyon Village.
“If he hadn’t let us pass, I just can’t imagine,” she said.