By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
A large Harley motorcycle rally taking place in Cody this week will be affected but not stopped by restrictions adopted by Yellowstone National Park due to flooding events.
Because of the recent floods and damage that forced the closure of the park’s northern loop, including its north and northeast entrances, Yellowstone staff enacted an alternating license plate system to control entry into the park and alleviate possible increased pressures on its southern portion.
Under the system, vehicles with license plates ending with an even number will be allowed into the park on even-numbered days, while cars with plates ending in odd numbers will be allowed entry on odd-numbered days.
But all motorcyclists are being allowed in on even days, regardless of the last digit on their license plates.
This rule allows groups of motorcyclists to travel and plan together for their Yellowstone trips.
However, some planning still had to be done to accommodate the members of the Harley Owners Group who want to visit Yellowstone while they are in Cody.
“The original plan was to give them (Harley Owners Group) more flexibility and have that leeway,” said Cody Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tina Hoebelheinrich. “We’re going to continue to work with park staff on that plan.”
She said nearly 500 motorcyclists are in town for the rally. Originally, the plan was for the motorcyclists to be allowed to visit the park at their leisure, but Hoebelheinrich said they will now all enter Yellowstone together on Friday and spend the day in the park.
“It’s really great to see folks who put this level of trust in us, for them to still come,” she said.
The controlled entry system was put into place Wednesday, the first day the park was reopened after flooding closed its closure and evacuation on June 13.
The system does not apply to travelers with reservations in the park.
During a conference call with the Cody Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said some consideration to adjusting rules could be made after the park’s reopening day on Wednesday.
“If we say one gate has to do this and another gate has to do that, it gets out of control,” he cautioned.
The northern loop of the park is expected to reopen in two weeks, at which point Sholly said the park will revisit its entrance policies. The North Entrance will not open at that time.
However, there are still plenty of rides available for members of the HOG to take, Hoebelheinrich said.
“There’s so many great rides you can do in the Big Horn Basin,” Hoebelheinrich said.
One popular local destination for motorcyclists is the Beartooth Highway.
Flooding outside Red Lodge, Montana, caused severe damage to the east side of this pass. A small section of highway on the west side of the pass is currently open, but from Cody, people can still access Cooke City, Mont., outside the Northeast Entrance.
Hoebelheinrich said considering the high cost of gas right now, it’s a feather in Cody’s cap to receive this large of a turnout.
Hoebelheinrich said rallies put on by the Harley Owners Group typically draw around 1,000 riders, but since COVID-19, attendance has been running closer to a 50%.
For the celebration, Sheridan Avenue and a few side streets — the majority of Cody’s downtown corridor — will be closed on Thursday night for The Kick’n It in Cody H.O.G. Rally!
There will be Harleys lined up along the street and a few Harley displays.
There will also be a one-night open container policy in place for the event, allowing people to drink in the streets while they check out the bikes.