By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
It’s taken two months, but campgrounds east of Yellowstone National Park have finally fully reopened after sustaining heavy damage during the historic flood event of June 13.
Kristie Thompson, Public Affairs officer for the Shoshone National Forest, said crews have been steadily working to reopen the two campgrounds that were most impacted by the flood – the Wapiti and Big Game camp areas between Cody and Yellowstone, which are popular with both residents and visitors.
“We had to completely redo all of the electrical in one of the loops (interior campground roads) at Wapiti,” Thompson told Cowboy State Daily. “And at Big Game, part of one of the loops was gone. It was just simply in the river.”
Thompson said Forest Service engineers rebuilt that loop to return public access to that campground, which had to be evacuated on June 13 during the flood event that destroyed roads in Yellowstone National Park.
“We also had to move our staff out of Wapiti that stay there, our seasonals,” she said. “They all had to be moved for at least a few days.”
Thompson said that the restored campgrounds had to be reconfigured slightly to account for changes in the river following the flood.
“The look and feel of (the Big Game) campground is slightly different,” she said. “But it is overall still one of our more primitive closed-in campgrounds.”
The Wapiti campground, however, looks much the same as before the event, and Thompson said it is completely open to visitors once again.
Morrison Jeep Trail
However, she said that the Morrison Jeep Trail, a 22-mile trek in steep terrain popular with ATV enthusiasts, is still not fully open to the public. Thompson explained that the lower portion of the trail that traverses the Clark’s Fork Canyon is simply gone.
“There are some portions that were just swept away into the river as the river changed location,” said Thompson. “Right at the boundary with BLM, that’s where a good portion of it was swept away. So we are working closely with the BLM to be able to figure out how we put that road back and where exactly within that canyon is the right place to put it.”
However, the upper portion of the Morrison Jeep Trail, near the top of the Beartooth Plateau, was reopened in mid-July.
“We had closed Forest System Roads 119 and 120 (the Morrison Jeep Trail) in response to the damage that had occurred to portions of those roads during the June 13 flooding,” said Wapiti, Clarks Fork, and Greybull District Ranger Casey McQuiston. “After assessing FSR 120, we felt like the portion above the gate on Dilworth Bench could safely be opened to allow public access to that area of the Shoshone National Forest.”