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Yellowstone National Park

Florida Man Who Illegally Walked On Hot Thermals In Yellowstone Turning Himself In To Authorities

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man who ignored the warning signs and had himself filmed walking on the hot thermals in Yellowstone National Park on Friday said he is turning himself in to authorities.

Matt Manzari, of Clermont, Florida, told Cowboy State Daily on Sunday morning that he was feeling remorse for his actions and subsequent video he posted on his TikTok account and wanted to “own up” for his mistakes.

“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” Manzari said from his home in Florida. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”


Manzari, a motivational speaker who is well-known in public-speaking circles for telling his story of overcoming injuries suffered by an accidental electrocution, said he saw the signs on the boardwalk telling people not to leave the path but thought the warnings were more cautionary in nature.

To that end, he said he saw an opportunity to create a social media video where he could make light of his burn injuries, to continue to push the message to other burn victims to “not be ashamed of your body.”

“The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun,” he said. “It’s okay to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s okay to be open about what you’re going through.”

Taking A Dip

The eightsecond video, which went viral on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins with Manzari, standing on the hot thermals and holding his shirt in his hands, while a narrator says “Taking a dip in Yellowstone’s boiling springs.”

While Manzari walks up to the camera, text on the screen appears and says, “Oh man, they said it was hot, but…”

Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.

Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.

He said the whole thing was supposed to be “lighthearted” and not a blatant display of breaking park rules.

“I stepped off the boardwalk thinking it was more of like, you know you could slip and fall,” he said, not knowing that at least 22 people have died from thermal-related deaths. “Obviously the rocks look wet. You know? I didn’t know what the implications were but I never thought it was damaging to the ecosystem.”


Removed Video

After the backlash he received from followers on his TikTok account and other social media channels, including death threats, Manzari took the video down and apologized to many commenters, he said. 

“I took the video down and I truly do care about conservation,” Manzari wrote. “I had no idea of the impact or implications. I wish many of you would’ve approached me a little nicer. I have no problem owning up to my mistakes and apologize a thousand times over.”

Although most commenters did not appear to be forgiving, one man who worked as a heavy equipment operator for the National Park Service told him to use the experience to do good.

“Understand that there are many of us that lived, worked, and gave our heart and soul to telling and teaching others about this park,” Charlie Stilson wrote.

“Now if you are man enough to take the blame for your actions, turn yourself in to the park rangers and spare as much monetary funds as possible. Make every effort to ensure this isn’t copied by others or others trying to top your exploits. Be the man you claim to be!” Stilson said.

Manzari agreed with Stilson and said he would pay whatever fines were levied and then help to spread awareness of his wrongdoing.

Others, however, were not as forgiving as Stilson, and pointed to a comment Manzari made Saturday on his original TikTok post when a follower told him what he was doing was illegal.

“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!” Manzari replied.

Facebook user Jennifer Pierson said, “There’s a screenshot of you saying ‘for sure the general public should not do this without permission.’ What an arrogant thing to say, as I’m 1000% sure you did not have permission.’”



Owning Up

Manzari’s reaction to the incident is different than many Yellowstone visitors who have violated similar rules in that he immediately took to social media channels and apologized where others either joked about the violation or went on the run.

One man who hit golf balls in Yellowstone National Park made light of the incident before realizing he had committed a federal crime. Same for the three men who attempted to boil a chicken “to make dinner” in the hot thermals.

Then there are the people who weren’t that lucky. Like the man whose body dissolved into the hot springs after falling in, in 2016.

Or the woman who suffered burns on 91 percent of her body after trying to rescue her dog last year.

Now that he realizes the seriousness of the situation, Manzari said he will face this challenge head-on.

“How can I make make a difference now? How do I make amends? How do I do what I can to, you know, own up to my mistakes? And that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said.

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Man, Famous For Surviving Electrocution, Cuts Video Walking On Yellowstone Hot Springs

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UPDATE July 3, 2022: The man who illegally walked on the hot thermals said he is turning himself in to authorities.


By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Everything is hilarious until your body gets dissolved in 459 degree thermal hot springs in Yellowstone.

That’s what happened to one man six years ago in Yellowstone National Park and that’s why the National Park Service continually warns tourists from coming close to the springs. In fact, it’s illegal to even leave the path.

But those warnings didn’t worry one Florida man whose claim to fame is surviving fourth and fifth degree burns from an accidental electrocution.

Matt Manzari, who is now employed as a public speaker discussing his survival of accidents, posted a TikTok video on Friday (which has now been taken down) showing him walking on the fragile hot springs in Yellowstone and joking about the results.

Manzari, who is severely scarred from the electrocution, walked up to the camera and asked, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?”


Courtesy, Matt Manzari

The video, which also appeared on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins by stating “Taking a dip on Yellowstone Boiling Springs.”

While Manzari is walking up to the camera on the thermals, text on the screen reads: “Oh man they said it was hot, but…”

Manzari was chastised by followers on his account. He responded to one who told him it was illegal to be standing there.

“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!” Manzari replied.



Others told him that people have died doing the same thing and many promised to turn him in to the authorities.

The video also caused some confusion because of Manzari’s scars. The results of the accidental electrocution and more than 70 operations took its toll on Manzari’s upper body with severe scarring and his arms, torso, and neck.

Thus, his punchline “Do I have a rash?”

The joke wasn’t well-received by his followers.

“Dude, you’re completely full of yourself and should stay the hell out of our national parks. The disrespect is just unreal,” wrote one commenter.

Although the videographer and Manzari both laughed at the end of the video, they probably won’t be laughing in the end.

People who have done the same thing have gone to jail, been fined thousands of dollars, and have received multi-year suspensions from the park.

Calls to Manzari, his agent, and Yellowstone National Park have not yet been returned.

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And Another Person Gets Gored By Bison In Yellowstone; Second Person In A Week

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Photo credit: Allen Tooley
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just days after a Colorado man was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park, a woman from Pennsylvania was injured in a similar situation, park officials said.

A 71-year-old woman from West Chester, Pennsylvania, was gored by a bull bison near Storm Point at Yellowstone Lake on Wednesday, officials announced on Thursday.

According to reports, the bison charged the woman and her daughter as they inadvertently approached it while returning to their vehicle at the trailhead. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in the encounter and was taken by ambulance to West Park Hospital in Cody.

This is the third reported bison goring of the 2022 season and the second to take place this week.

A 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado was gored by a bison on Monday near Old Faithful and according to one eyewitness who filmed the incident, the tourist brought it on himself.

“The dad and the kid were just walking up to the bison when the bison took off,” Rob Goodell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

An Ohio woman was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet in the air at the park in late May.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.

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Yellowstone Back To Normal: Bison Attacks Tourist And Little Boy

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s like Yellowstone National Park never closed down — a bison attack on Monday shows things are back to normal in the nation’s oldest national park.

A 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado was gored by a bison on Monday near Old Faithful and according to one eyewitness who filmed the incident, the tourist brought it on himself.

“The dad and the kid were just walking up to the bison when the bison took off,” Rob Goodell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

“Anyone who says that the bison just attacked that guy or whatever, that’s bullshit. The bison was just protecting his ground,” he said.

The National Park Service confirmed the attack in a press release distributed late Tuesday. They agreed with Goodell’s perspective.

“Family members did not leave the area, and the bull bison continued to charge and gored the male,” the agency said.

Goodell, from Flowery Branch, Georgia, said he was on his first trip to Yellowstone on Monday and was hoping to see something interesting.

“I didn’t get to see a bear but I don’t care now,” he said.

Video courtesy to Cowboy State Daily by Rob Goodell

Goodell said he was watching the family closely because of their proximity to the bison and the fact that they stuck around when the bison came so close to them.

He said he didn’t start filming before it escalated. What the video doesn’t show, he said, is that the family had time to move away from the area. But they just stuck around, he said.

“I didn’t even say anything during the entire video because I just assumed that guy was going to get murdered,” Goodell said.  “It was like holy crap, this is crazy.”

The man, who appeared to be holding his son, was lifted up off the ground with the little boy when the bison hit him.

After both landed, the boy can be seen running with his father close behind.

Although it can’t be seen in the video, Goodell said he believed the man was injured.

“The father literally looked like his shoulder was dislocated,” he said.  “It was just hanging off his body.”

Toward the end of the video, another man could be seen unleashing some bear spray at the bison, which the bison immediately ignored and just walked through.

Goodell said he spoke to a park ranger about the incident and filed an incident report. He also shared the video with the rangers, he said.

The National Park Service acknowledged an incident occurred yesterday but said rangers were still gathering information on it.

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Harley Group Holds Motorcycle Rally At Yellowstone; Gives Much Needed Boost To Economy

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Northwest Wyoming relies on tourism for a majority of its economy. After the floods that shut down Yellowstone National Park on June 13, local businesses saw visitation drop sharply.

Then came the motorcycles, helping to ease the economic impact of the flooding in and around Yellowstone.

The Harley Owners Group, created in 1983 as a way to strengthen relationships with Harley-Davidson’s customers, holds rallies around the region every year. Jay Miller, past president of the Harley Owners Group in this region, said the group – which he said is the largest motorcycle riding group in the world – holds regional rallies each year. 

This year’s rally in Cody, he said, brought together riders from three states.

“We all converged up here last night, and we’re staying in Cody,” Miller said Friday. “Last night we had all kinds of games and stupid things we do, and just enjoy each other.”

However, Miller said the unexpected closure of Yellowstone less than two weeks prior to the event caused a bit of panic for the organizers.

“We kind of… pooped our pants,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “But we were very happy to hear that Yellowstone opened just a couple days ago. We would have had a lot more bikers up here, but a lot of people canceled because of that. But we’re happy we’re up here, we’re going to have a good time.”

Larry and Cheryl Close from Parker, Colorado, have been coming to these gatherings for two years – but Larry explained that he’s been riding since he was a young boy.

“I like the stability of a trike, for a number of reasons,” he said. “After a near fatal accident, I decided I was going to keep riding. She decided if I was gonna keep riding, it was gonna be on three wheels.” 

The Closes – who were celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary – said riding their Harley trike is something they both enjoy. 

“It’s something that once you get it in your blood, you can’t get it out – kind of like horse people,” Larry said. “People that ride horses all the time own horses, it’s in their blood. It’s something that you’re always going to do.”

The rally in Cody is especially important from an economic standpoint, because of the closure prompted by the flooding in Yellowstone National Park on June 13.

Downtown Cody merchants have, for the most part, opened their doors to the bikers. Gail Nace, owner of the Silver Dollar Bar in downtown Cody, said the rall, and other events that draw motorcyclists are always a great boost to the local economy.

“It’s just been a really fun experience for everybody,” Nace said. “And we’re happy to have them here. And it just goes to show you that we’re not necessarily a gateway community, we are a destination spot.”

She said the bikers themselves have been excellent guests.

“We’ve had an absolute blast with the HOG rally this year,” Nace said. “They have been very fun people, easy to take care of, not demanding at all – just looking for a good time. And I think they’ve really found it in Cody.”

For the bikers, Miller said they are glad they were able to make rides into Yellowstone National Park a part of their event. 

“Yellowstone opened just a couple days ago, and so that kind of gave a lot more to it,” he said. “We would have had a lot more bikers up here, but a lot of people canceled because of that. But we’re happy we’re up here, we’re gonna have a good time.”

When asked why HOG chose this area to hold the rally, Miller just waved his arms at the vista behind him.

“Look, Yellowstone!” he said. “I mean, we’re from Colorado, and it’s gorgeous there, but this is a whole new gorgeous.”

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Despite Dire Stories, Yellowstone Is Open For Business

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Members of a Florida family are glad they didn’t heed the dire stories coming out of Yellowstone National Park in mid-June.

When torrential rain and rapid snowmelt caused devastating flooding in the park’s northern section on June 13, officials decided to close the entire park, not just the portion that suffered damaged highways and contaminated water systems.

On Wednesday, June 22, after determining that the southern “loop” of Yellowstone was safe for visitors, three of the gates opened again – and Jamie Bunn and his wife and teenage boys were among those who ventured into the park soon after.

“Obviously everybody knows about the damage that’s been done in the north end of Yellowstone,” he said. “We didn’t want that to ruin the trip for us. And we did not want to cancel, and thank goodness we didn’t. We did a gear shift, and we did the Tetons for two or three days. And that was absolutely fabulous.”

The Bunn family was among thousands of visitors who made their way into Yellowstone this past week – although getting into Yellowstone National Park isn’t as easy as it used to be. 



Since park officials reopened the south loop of Yellowstone, strict screening at the gates ensures that only those authorized to enter can pass through on any particular day, an effort to ease the strain on infrastructure and staff in the portion of the park that is open to the public. 

Under the park’s system, those who have a license plate number that ends in an even number will only be allowed in on even-numbered days and those with numbers that end in odd numbers will be allowed to enter on odd-numbered days.

Those without the correct last digit on their license plates get turned around before they can even experience the winding roads, abundant wildlife, and thermal features of America’s first national park.

But for those who make it through the gate, the experience is not much different than any other summer day in Yellowstone.  

Bucket List

Bunn said his family’s Yellowstone vacation has been a bucket list trip, and although they had heard about the flooding in the northern part of the park, it didn’t deter them.

“I mean, obviously we’d love to see the north end of Yellowstone,” Bunn continued, “and we’re not going to be able to do that, but we’ve been coming up through the south end so far, the loop.”

Bunn, who called himself a passionate outdoorsman, said they family has made amazing memories.

“Literally, I had an elk, a bull elk in velvet, 20 feet from me, feeding,” he said. “It was the most phenomenal, amazing thing that I’ve ever seen.”

Because the Park’s new license plate system filters out roughly half of potential visitors every day, there were plenty of open parking spaces Friday at places like Canyon Village and the Lower Falls.

The flooding that occurred in Yellowstone on June 13, while primarily affecting the northern part of the park, has still had an impact on the southern loop. For example, Pelican Creek is a little more like Pelican Lake at the moment. 

Otherwise, Yellowstone remains beautifully the same, with guest services open, plenty of wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities and ample parking.

“We just saw buffalo across the way, we saw a herd of cow elk,” Bunn said. “I mean, we’ve seen a lot of different wildlife and a lot of great scenery. So it’s been everything we hoped for, even despite what’s going on, you know, with the park closures to the north.”

Bunn said he hopes the word will spread that Yellowstone is open for business.

“I would tell anybody that’s been back and forth, or considering whether they come based on everything you see and read in the news about the closures in the park – don’t let that hold you back,” said Bunn. “There is so much here to see and do. And I wish we had more time.”

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Sholly Warns Not To Trade License Plates To Get Into Yellowstone; Car Will Be Impounded

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park visitors who try to get around the park’s temporary entrance system could find themselves without a vehicle, according to park Superintendent Cam Sholly.

Some commenters on social media have suggested exchanging license plates so they can get into the park on certain days, but Sholly told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that cars found equipped with the license plates of other vehicles will be impounded.

Yellowstone’s southern loop reopened Wednesday after being closed for more than a week by flooding. However, the park’s northern loop remains closed and to limit the visitor impact on the park’s southern loop, the park has adopted a new system basing entry to the park on the last digit of a vehicle’s license plate.

Under the new system, vehicles with license plates that end with even numbers may enter on even-numbered days of the month, while cars with odd-numbered plates can enter on odd-numbered days.

But using someone else’s license plate to game the system is not a good strategy, Sholly said.

“It’s against the law to put a wrong license plate on a vehicle,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “If we find it, you’ll get a ticket and your car will be impounded.”

Sholly was reacting to reports of license plate trading on different unofficial Yellowstone Facebook pages.




On one such page, an individual named Blaise Dowe asked to “borrow” an even-numbered license plate to allow him in on Wednesday.

“Can anyone let me borrow their license plate ending with an even number for Wed?” he asked.

Another user, Joseph Williams, was happy to oblige for the right price.

“I got you for 100 bucks a day,” Williams wrote “But you gotta bring it back so I can use it Thursday.”

“That sounds like a deal,” Dowe responded.

The conversation was shut down later in the day as an administrator no longer accepted comments on the issue.

When contacted on Thursday morning, both Dowe and Williams said the license plate exchange never occurred and the conversation was a joke.

Regardless, it irritated Sholly.

“We’ll hope that people are honest and follow the rules, but we’ll deal with those exceptions when we have to,” he said.

Outside of the park, the Wyoming Department of Transportation advised against license plate exchanges as well.

Although impoundment wasn’t listed as a penalty, it might as well be, as the license plates will be taken away, removing the vehicle’s legal ability to travel public roads.

In either case, the motorist is stuck.

“The bottom line is that driving with a license plate that doesn’t match the vehicle’s registration is against the law,” WYDOT spokesman Mark Horan told Cowboy State Daily.

Horan said on top of a minimum $100 fine, the penalty is likely to include a mandatory court appearance.

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Northeast Entrance Gateway Residents Feel Overlooked In Repair Efforts

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

While park visitors, staff and gateway communities celebrated the opening of three of Yellowstone National Park’s five entrances Wednesday, residents in the northeast corner of the Park did their best to stay positive.

But news that the first priority for the federal disaster aid set aside for flood damage will be repairing the road from Gardiner to Mammoth at the park’s north entrance rather than the access to the park from the northeast entrance, is discouraging to many.

“(U.S. Sen. John) Tester went with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) over to Gardiner and Red Lodge, but never came up here,” said Terri Briggs, owner of the Big Moose Resort at Colter Pass and president of the Colter Pass/Cooke City/Silver Gate Chamber of Commerce. “So they haven’t evaluated here. Why have we been kind of left out, or halfway, or did they just not come to this area?”

When Yellowstone was evacuated on June 13, access to the tiny communities near the park’s northeast entrance was temporarily cut off. Without power, water, or means of escape, many residents of Cooke City and Silvergate, Montana could only wait for roads to reopen and power to be restored, which occurred a couple of days after the flooding.

Tourism Income

But the floods damaged businesses and homes and cut off more than just access to the park – it brought to a halt the area’s primary source of income, tourism.

On Sunday, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams, along with Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly, announced that $50 million would be made available to kick-start recovery efforts from record breaking floods.

The initial $50 million will be used to restore temporary access to Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana and other additional sites. 

“We’ve got $60 million in emergency funds that have been released to reconnect the park to Gardner and Cooke City,” said Sholly. “That’s going along very well already with Gardiner, but it’s going to be more of a chore with Cooke City.”

Restoring Access

In a Facebook post Monday, park officials pointed out that the NPS is working with the Federal Highway Administration on a range of temporary and permanent options to restore access to Silver Gate and Cooke City. Currently, the Northeast Entrance Road is impassible between Lamar Valley and Silver Gate. 

Residents like Chris Warren, bartender at the Range Rider Lodge in Silvergate, said it’s understandable that the Park Service would focus its efforts on Gardiner before turning its attention towards the northeast entrance.

“If they fix that one road, it opens up that whole northern loop,” Warren told Cowboy State Daily. “And Billings and Gardiner and Livingston (Montana) are so much more populated than we are. But you know, as far as the shutdowns and all the things, we’re always kind of last in line because of how remote and small we are.”

According to census data, there are 77 residents in Cooke City and just 19 in Silver Gate. But Warren pointed out that businesses in those communities have recently gone to great lengths to attract tourists to the lesser-used entrance to Yellowstone.

“It’s going through like a little revamp after COVID,” Warren said. “A little facelift, and some new energy, and a lot of people have started new businesses. So they’re just in a real tough spot and people are a little desperate.” 

Hardship

State officials say they understand the hardship that residents near the northeast entrance are experiencing.

“Our hearts go out to those communities in Gardiner, Montana, Red Lodge, Montana, Cooke City, I can’t even imagine what they’re dealing with,” said Diane Shober, director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “And I am so grateful that there was no loss of lives, and that they will be rebuilding their communities and their tourism economy.”

In a conference call with tourism industry leaders Tuesday, Sholly said that restoring access between Cooke City and Gardiner will be tricky, as compared to the situation to the west in Gardiner.

“That will be the most challenging repair,” said Sholly. “We have this old Gardiner road that we’re able to explore expanding, and it’s a good temporary solution. But we don’t have an old Gardiner road over there, and that road is damaged fairly majorly, in about four sections. So there’s going to be four different temporary bypasses to try to be built.”

Warren said he hopes there can be some headway made before the end of the summer, even if the entire road between Gardiner and Cooke City can’t be repaired in that time.

“If they could work with us on maybe opening up this end of the park, even to the first wash out, or the Beartooth Highway,” Warren proposed. “I mean, this is affecting a lot of people.”

Accessible

Mike Keller with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the primary concessionaire in Yellowstone, said the message they and other partners are hoping to send is that Cooke City is accessible from Cody via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, and visitors to the area should consider exploring those unique and scenic communities.

“They are definitely working on the roads, and keeping the Beartooth Highway open and Chief Joseph Highway open to get people into the Cooke City area,” Keller said.  

Shober pointed out that situations like the recent flood emphasize the dependence of small communities on the tourism industry.

“Through the summer months, this is their livelihood,” Shober said. “The visitor economy is what supports these small towns. So we’re hoping that all of the repairs will get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

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Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly Pleased With First Day Of Reopening

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wednesday’s reopening of Yellowstone National Park went “pretty well,” with about 5,000 cars admitted to the park under its limited entry system, Superintendent Cam Sholly told Cowboy State Daily.

Sholly, in an exclusive interview Wednesday afternoon, said while there were lines of cars miles long at park entrances Wednesday morning, they had been cleared by Wednesday afternoon, giving him optimism about the park’s reopening plan.

“I think I’d be really worried if it was … still miles and miles of backup right now,” he said. “But considering it cleared out pretty quickly and the team was adapting to a new system, I think it went pretty well overall.”

Wednesday was the first day the park’s southern loop was opened since the entire park was closed and evacuated in the face of historic flooding on June 13.

The park’s northern loop remains closed and to ease the burden on the infrastructure in the south, the park adopted an entry system that relies on license plate digits.

Vehicles with license plates ending with an even digit can enter on even-numbered days and those with license plates ending with an odd digit will be allowed in on odd-numbered days.

The end result was 5,000 vehicles in the park, compared to normal daily traffic of about 10,000.

Park Staff

Sholly praised the park’s staff for getting the system in place quickly and added it seemed to accomplish its goal of reducing park traffic by half.

“The teams did a great job putting that together quickly,” he said. “It’s not without its own flaws. I think it does help us accomplish the goal of moderating traffic in the south loop.”

Long lines are normal at park entrances on any day, Sholly said, but he noted that the entrance gates opened later than usual Wednesday, at 8 a.m.

“We had a line that started forming … early on, so the lines are pretty long before the gates even opened,” he said.



He added the gates would open earlier moving forward.

Fewer than 50 vehicles had to be turned away from park entrances because their license plates did not end in an even digit.

Sholly said he has heard reaction to the entry system was good on the part of park visitors.

“I’m sure there’s some people that are irritated but generally a lot of positive feedback from visitors to (have the park) open,” he said.

North Entrance

Sholly also said the park’s north entrance near Gardiner should open on a limited basis sooner than many believe.

“We have been operating at a pace that gives me great confidence,” Scholly said.

He said once the entrance does open, its roads will be open for commercial operators such as wildlife and fishing guides.

“It won’t be open like, you know visitors can just come and go as they want,” he said. “It’ll still be under some kind of restricted, controlled access, but I’m optimistic that we will get visitors from Gardiner into the park … sooner than what people think.”

Support

Support from the federal government, particularly Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, were critical in getting the park open, Sholly said.

“If it wasn’t for their support, this wouldn’t be happening this quickly,” he said. “They got us the funding available to move forward on these temporary solutions to reconnect these communities. Just incredible support.”

He also praised the support from Gov. Mark Gordon and the gateway communities around the park.

“Gov. Gordon has been outstanding,” he said. “It’s a true team effort both for the short-term solutions and for the long-term solutions.”

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The New Yellowstone Experience: What To Expect If You Are Planning A Visit

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

What’s new about Yellowstone?

Actually, not much. 

The park’s famous geological features and sweeping vistas have remained largely unchanged from the visitors’ point of view for centuries. The great flood of June 13, like the fires of 1988, did temporarily change the landscape, but it did little to alter the physical aspects of America’s first national park.

What has changed is how visitors are allowed to experience it, as the park limits access to the parts of the park that have reopened since the flood to avoid overwhelming the areas with visitors.

“Right now, the park is still 80% available within those three entrances,” said Piper Singer with the Wyoming Office of Tourism, referring to the South, East and West gates at Jackson, Cody and West Yellowstone, respectively. “So visitors will not see the impact of the flooding.”

The entirety of Yellowstone National Park was shut down on Monday, June 13, due to torrential rain and melting snowpack that caused the Yellowstone River to overflow its banks. The resulting damage to roads and water systems caused park managers to evacuate the park while the situation was assessed.

Park staff determined that the south loop of Yellowstone, from Fishing Bridge to Lake, Grant’s Thumb to Old Faithful, and Norris to Canyon, sustained no significant damage, and could be opened to visitors beginning Wednesday.

The north loop, however, from Canyon to Tower and Roosevelt, Mammoth, and back down to Norris, is currently closed to visitors. Damage to U.S. Highway 89, which crosses the north part of Yellowstone, linking the Montana communities of Mammoth and Cooke City and cutting through the wildlife haven that is the Lamar Valley, was heavily damaged by flood waters.

ALPS System

Because only the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park is accessible to visitors, park administrators chose to limit the number of vehicles that can enter the park on a daily basis.

“It is impossible to reopen only one loop in the summer without implementing some type of system to manage visitation,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said last week, citing the need to balance demand for visitor access with the protection of park resources. 

To avoid overwhelming the infrastructure of the park’s southern loop,  the Park Service has implemented a license plate system to limit visitors to the park, called the ALPS System (the Alternating License Plate System. That plan was put in place Wednesday morning.

Under the plan, vehicles with license plates ending in an even digit will be allowed in the park on even-numbered days while vehicles with license plates ending in an odd digit will be allowed in on odd-numbered days (see illustration below).

“Generally speaking, you’ve got a queue line, a pre-screen line at West Yellowstone,” said Sholly. “And we’ll be turning people around who don’t have the right corresponding license plate digit. So the only people going into line will be people that can get in on that particular day.” 

Sholly pointed out that the burden of disseminating information on the plan falls on businesses and visitor centers at the gateway communities.

“People coming in from the east, especially because it’s a 50 mile drive, we’ve got to really push this information,” Sholly said. “That means the hotel owners, everybody, to try to ensure that people don’t drive 50 miles and realize they’ve got the wrong digit. That’s going to happen. We are going to be pretty inflexible initially, in the interest of the amount of volume that’s coming our way and trying to figure out if the system can work or not.” 

Imperfect But Expeditious

Diane Shober, Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said that although the system is imperfect, it is a way to expedite the opening of Yellowstone to tourists. 

“Quite honestly, folks, if we were waiting for a full reservation system to be implemented, we would not have access to Yellowstone until well after the Fourth of July,” said Shober. “And I just don’t think that we can afford that kind of economic impact on all of us. I would much rather have this in place for an opening tomorrow, on the 22nd of June, than waiting for a full scale reservation system to be implemented two to three weeks down the road.” 

“There’s going to be people that are upset,” Sholly acknowledged. “Most of those center on big groups that are traveling together. The problem is, that could turn into a free-for-all really quickly, and be really hard for people transactionally at the gate to sit there and go, ‘Well, these three cars behind me are with me.’ So there’s going to be some upset people.”

However, there are some exceptions to the alternating license plate rule. Current commercial use operators with active commercial use permits, including commercial tours and motorcoaches, will be allowed to enter regardless of license plate number.

Mail and delivery services, as well as employees and contractors, will also be granted access regardless of the calendar date.

Additionally, visitors with proof of overnight reservations in the park, including at hotels, campgrounds and in the park’s backcountry, will also be granted entry any day, according to the website for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Yellowstone’s primary concessionaire. 

Because internet connectivity and cell phone service can be unreliable, Xanterra officials recommend that visitors either have a printed copy of their reservation confirmation or have that confirmation saved as a screen shot on their smart phones.

Because of the level of interest and an expectation of high visitor numbers, Sholly said the three entrances that are open as of Wednesday will be well staffed, and have extended hours.

“We’re probably going to go to a 24-hour staff cycle,” said Sholly, regarding personnel manning the gates at the three entrances that are open as of Wednesday. 

License Plate System “Good For the Gateways”

“This is actually going to be really good for the gateways,” Sholly said, “both the immediate primary gateways and secondary, because we’re basically guaranteeing people access to the park 50% of the time. And the in-between day they’re going to need to stay in the gateway (communities) to do things while they’re waiting for their next day to come along.” 

What’s Open?

With the exception of Canyon Lodge & Cabins, Canyon Campground and Madison Campground, all of Xanterra’s in-park operations, including lodging, campgrounds, food services, gift shops and tours, are open, according to Xanterra’s website.

Canyon Village is currently open for day use only, according to the website, but lodging there – as well as the campgrounds at Canyon and Madison – are expected to reopen on June 29. 

Officials say infrastructure damage and repair work at Canyon Village has resulted in the delay of opening full operations until at least June 29.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts has a full list of in-park restaurants on its website, which details hours of operation as well. 

What’s Closed?

All lodges and facilities north of Norris Junction and Canyon Village have been closed for the 2022 season, according to the park’s website, although Sholly said park officials are working to open what’s known as the “North Loop” as early as two weeks from now.

“What we’ve done is pushed all of our staff out to make sure we can handle whatever’s coming (Wednesday),” said Sholly, “and if things level off and it’s not bad, the infrastructure is ready to hold traffic on the north end. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the staffing ready to go for that. So I think that’s very possible within the next two weeks or less, and see how that goes.”

Segments of the road between the north entrance in Gardiner, Montana, and Mammoth Hot Springs have washed away and there is a significant rockslide at Gardner Canyon as well. 

A segment of the road near Soda Butte Picnic Area was washed away between Tower Junction and the northeast entrance at Cooke City, Montana as well, while mudslides and downed trees are blocking other portions of the road. 

The newly-opened Dunraven Pass, which had been closed for the last two years for maintenance, is also closed due to a major mudslide. 

“Yellowstone National Park is opening,” said Shober, “and that does not come without a lot of hard work, planning, and dedication from the National Park Service. And so I just feel like it’s really important that we all take that into consideration considering what could be, and where we were a week ago today and what we were dealing with.” 

“There was no loss of life. It could have been really, really bad,” Sholly said. “Thanks to a lot of proactive closures the night before by our public safety staff, we didn’t have people on the road.” 

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Harley Rally Will Go On: Cody & Yellowstone Work Together To Accommodate 500 Motorcyclists

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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. 

500 Motorcyclists

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.

Adjusting Rules

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. 

Big Deal

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.

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Yellowstone Prepares To Reopen But Businesses Still Hurting From Floods

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s good news for visitors to Yellowstone National Park — beginning Wednesday, about half of the park will reopen to visitors. 

Lodging will soon be available, and some vehicles will be allowed to drive the south loop to access attractions such as Old Faithful and the Lake Hotel.

But businesses in the gateway communities surrounding the park are still struggling with the impacts of the flood which forced the park’s closure last week. 

“We were going to have one of our best summers this year,” said Terri Briggs, owner of the Big Moose Resort at Colter Pass near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. “And over half my people have canceled on me, clear into September.”

Although the park’s south, west and east entrances are to open Wednesday, its north and northeast entrances, where damage was more extensive, will remain closed.

Briggs told Cowboy State Daily that work to reopen the northeast entrance near Cooke City is not as high on the priority list as is work to reopen the north entrance between Gardiner and Mammoth.

“(U.S. Sen. John) Tester went with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) over to Gardiner and Red Lodge, but never came up here,” she said. “So they haven’t evaluated here. Why have we been kind of left out, or halfway, or did they just not come to this area? And I realize it’s only been seven days since this happened, so I know the wheels are slow.”

Briggs, also the president of the Colter Pass/Cooke City/Silver Gate Chamber of Commerce, said of the three communities, Silver Gate was hit the hardest.

“The Grizzly Lodge, all their cabins have got silt in them, because they were right in the flow,” Briggs said, “and so most of Silver Gate has damage because the creek came up so high there. Roads, buildings, of course their water supply is damaged.” 

Pahaska Teepee Closed

Just south of Cooke City, as the crow flies, lies Pahaska Tepee Resort, which was built by Buffalo Bill Cody as a hunting lodge in the early 1900s. 

Pat Wood, an employee at Pahaska, said rising water from the Shoshone River forced the resort to close June 13 and lay sandbags to protect the property.

“We had some issues where the river crested into our wells,” Wood told Cowboy State Daily. “But thank God, on the east side, the road didn’t get washed out, and the building didn’t get washed away. Definitely, there were times where we weren’t sure, we were definitely holding our breath a little, but by the grace of God, we fared much better than our friends on the north side.”

Wood said Pahaska shut down when Yellowstone’s east gate did, early June 13, forcing staff to cancel room reservations and close the restaurant.

“Because the river got into our well, we could not have people in our rooms or in our restaurant,” Wood said. 

Like businesses near the northeast entrance, Wood said cancellations started rolling in immediately.

“People just started canceling because the parks shut down,” she said. “And because of the news coverage, it went like wildfire, people just calling left and right canceling.”

Wood said over 30% of the summer reservations for Pahaska, which is to open Wednesday, have been canceled so far.

“Just this last week, we’ve had people canceling, they’re just watching the news, and they’re like, ‘Well, we’re never going to get in,’” she said. “So whether it’s July, August, September, they’re taking back their reservations.”

Wood said the cancellations have been hard on the staff at Pahaska, as well.

“My staff is frustrated,” she said. “We have a skeleton crew right now, but they’re just hanging tight, hoping that everything goes forward.”

The tourists who were planning trips of a lifetime to Yellowstone National Park are frustrated as well, Wood said.

“We’ve had people be really kind and understanding, and then we’ve had people that are just ticked off, and somehow it’s our fault,” Wood said. “Mother Nature flooded the park, so it’s always a little difficult to try to help people that are just frustrated.”

Near the northeast entrance, Briggs pointed out that the closure is particularly difficult for new business owners.

“Here in Cooke City alone, we have got at least four, maybe five new business owners that bought it last fall, this winter, and are opening this spring,” Briggs said. “I can’t imagine, being able to, but having no business on your first year.”

Briggs said there has been some movement to reopen nearby Beartooth Pass, which residents use to access Red Lodge, Montana. The pass is closed off on the Wyoming side near Long Lake, just past the Top Of the World store.

“The park maintains the road from the (northeast) entrance all the way to the Montana State Line,” she said. “I don’t know whether there is some dirt that is on the road, but they were bringing up an excavator for a couple days.”

Briggs pointed out that although the northeast entrance is closed,  nearby communities are still accessible from Cody via the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

“The animals are out here,” she said. “Just two days ago a moose walked through the back yard here. There’s been a bear down the road in between here and Pilot (Peak).”

Briggs said as a community, business owners are trying to rebrand their message to potential visitors.

“We’re not just Yellowstone and Lamar Valley,” she said. “We have got fishing, we’ve got hiking, we have horseback riding, we have side by sides… plus the K-Bar-Z (ranch), he has horses, the Skyline has horses, so we have other things for people to do, other than to go into the park.”

And Briggs said that as difficult as the situation is, it is just temporary.

“I know they said something about 80% (of the park opening) in the next two weeks, the park did,” Briggs said, “but I’m hoping by September that we can at least do a (north) loop.”

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Only Memories Remain For Park Service Workers Who Lived In Doomed Yellowstone Home

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Tim Glover considers himself lucky.

Glover was one of 10 people who, prior to June 13, lived in a beautiful house on the Yellowstone River outside of Gardiner, Montana. 

He and seven other Yellowstone National Park employees, along with their families, enjoyed the patio attached to the multi-family home owned by the National Park Service, along with the views it offered.

But on the evening of Monday, June 13, their home fell into the Yellowstone and floated down the river, carrying with it years of memories and thousands of dollars of personal property.



“When we went to bed at night on Sunday, there was no concern or anything, everything looked the same,” Glover told Cowboy State Daily. “The river hadn’t surged yet. First thing in the morning on Monday, when we looked out the window, all the dry space had been taken away. It was within three feet of our porch, our deck. 

“Part of our little patio area out there had already been washed away,” he continued. “The earth was unstable. We had a power pole in front of the house that was starting to shake already.” 



Glover, who works at Mammoth as a supply technician, knew that the road from Gardiner to Mammoth had been closed, but had been given no other details. He and his neighbors had no inkling that the highway linking their community to their workplace had already fallen partially into the river.

“At about 6:30 in the morning, we started the quick evacuation,” Glover said, “and there was just no warning at all. No phone calls, no nothing. It was just us in the house, one of my neighbors looked out the window and then started banging on the door saying ‘Hey, we’ve got to get out of here.’”

Glover said that within 30 minutes, city staff arrived, made sure that the house was clear and put up “caution” tape. 

“Then that started the long, long day of us pretty much just waiting,” Glover said. 

Mid-morning on Monday, the residents watched the power line in front of their home go down, which took out the electricity to Mammoth – then the river began tearing away pieces of the building. 

And all they could do, Glover said, was watch.

“When the power pole went in at 9:30 in the morning, the house didn’t fall in until like 7 o’clock at night,” said Glover, who has been a seasonal employee in the park for the last four years and had been hired full-time just six weeks earlier.

Glover said he approached two separate officials about whether or not he could go into the house to collect personal belongings, and ultimately decided to take the chance.

“I don’t know exactly what time they had deemed it unsafe, but nobody up there stopped me from going in,” he said. “And I made 5, 6, 7 trips in and out of the house.”

Glover said of the five apartments in the building, all but one family was home the night before disaster struck. 

“The family of four downstairs, with the two young daughters, they’re actually visiting family in California right now,” Glover said. 

He explained that one of his other neighbors, TJ Britton, was able to reach them.

“TJ got a hold of that family and told them what was happening,” Glover said. “They told him where the key was at, he got into the house. I think he got passports, a lockbox, and a jewelry case and that was it.”

Glover said he had finally left the area after spending much of the day waiting when the house slid into the water and floated away around 7 p.m. Monday.



“We didn’t see it live,” he said. “But I got to see the video of it, and it was one of those things – I didn’t have a lot of years there and I just felt worse for everybody else. 

“When they evacuated that morning, and just stood there, the young married couple, it’s like they started letting go,” he continued. “Now I’m seeing a grown man and a woman holding each other crying. And TJ and his wife, TJ’s been there 15 years, they got married eight years ago. Here’s another grown couple crying.”

Glover said that there was an air of disbelief among the residents.

“People didn’t go back into the house like I did,” Glover said, “because they honestly thought they were going to get back in. Like, we might lose the house, it might be structurally unsound, but we’re going to go back in and get our stuff out.” 

Glover said although he’d only lived in the house for a little less than three months, it was long enough for him to fall in love with the location.

“It was a beautiful property,” he said. “I’ve done my seasonal stuff here at the park for the last four years, bopped around the little cabins and condos and stuff … so for me to get hired full-time and then get assigned to that house was like a dream come true.”


Courtesy, Yellowstone Insight

For other residents, though, losing the house was truly losing their home.

“TJ Britton, he’s lived there for 15 years,” Glover said. “Like, he’s raised kids in that house. His daughter got married out on the patio. He built this big custom driftwood arch that was just beautiful. But by the time we got up in the morning, that was gone already.” 

Glover was able to gather most of his personal belongings that had any value, but said that as a “minimalist,” very few of his personal belongings were irreplaceable. 

That wasn’t the case for some of his other neighbors.

“The Cannetas lived downstairs,” he said. “They lived 13 years in the Grand Tetons, so they’ve acquired a bunch of stuff. They had a moving truck bring stuff up when they moved up here in January. They lost almost everything.”

Glover said that all of the former residents of the house have found temporary shelter. He and the Cannetas are currently staying at the Youth Conservation Corp camp near Mammoth.

“Everybody was offered park housing, but three of the groups denied it, from my understanding,” said Glover. “They are still living down in Gardiner and Jardine (Montana). But the family of four is still out in California. Their oldest daughter, which I think is four, is really, really struggling with this. So they’re keeping her out there with family, just to help everything settle down out here, and then they’re coming back.”

Several fundraising sites have been launched to help the families displaced by the disaster. A fund for Mike and Katy Canetta has so far raised more than $36,000; a local non-profit has raised more than $56,000 to this point for all the families and individuals who lived there. 

Glover said that he hasn’t decided whether or not to accept financial help, as he personally hasn’t lost as much as some of his neighbors.

“I don’t think any of us are to the point now that we’ve actually sat down with pen and paper, and figured out mathematically what’s the value of everything that we lost,” he said. “In all honesty, I went out of my way to not pay attention to that at this point in time.”

What he’s doing now, Glover said, is trying to get back to normal. He said he’s been offered some overtime work in the park, as part of an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to get Yellowstone ready for visitors as soon as possible.

But some of his neighbors are taking some time off – and using that time to search for some of their lost belongings.

“TJ and his wife are two of the ones that are doing that,” Glover said. “They are actually combing up and down the river, finding our stuff everywhere. There’s a suitcase 31 miles up the road that’s TJ’s and Victoria’s that has most of their wedding pictures in it.”

TJ’s wife Victoria posted on Facebook asking for permission from private landowners along the river to search debris piles for personal belongings that were swept away in the flood.

“We have found quite a few things so far & keep hearing about more,” she wrote. “For instance, that is our canoe wrapped up in the tree in Yankee Jim Canyon. We’ve heard of refrigerators & freezers & coolers & many other numerous things laying around. Right now, even pieces of clothing or parts of the house mean so much. If so, please comment, PM, or text one of us to let us know?”

Glover said that he’s been sent photos from other Facebook users when they find debris, and some of those photos show items that belong to him.

“I’m sitting (at a coffee shop in Bozeman) drinking my coffee, I’ve got my computer, and I get a text message,” he said. “In it is a picture of my brand new nightstand sitting in the dirt with the drawer still in it at like mile marker 5.”


Courtesy, Tim Glover

Jill Sholly, Superintendent Cam Sholly’s wife, has been keeping in touch with Glover since the flood last week. He said he texted Jill the photo of the nightstand as soon as he received it.

“So I sent her the text, and it’s just like ‘Hey, listen, I just received this picture of my nightstand sitting in the dirt at mile marker 5. I bet everybody in City Brew coffee did not expect to walk in for coffee and see a grown man cry.’”

Glover said he hopes that others who find debris will continue to reach out.

“I don’t care if I get a shoe,” he said. “If I ever have a mantel, it’s going on it. If anyone asks, ‘Why do you have a shoe?’ I’ll say, ‘Because that survived the worst flood that Yellowstone’s ever seen.’”

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New Yellowstone License Plate Entry System “Sucks,” According To Critics

in Yellowstone/News
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RELATED: Superintendent Warns Not To Swap License Plates, Car Will Be Impounded

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park will reopen on Wednesday to visitors with even-numbered last digits on their vehicle license plates, a new system that some fear may put a wrench in some visitors’ travel plans.

And while a former Department of Interior official believes the system might be the best way to keep the park from being overwhelmed by crowds while officials work to repair damage done by last week’s floods, others believe it is too restrictive.

“It sucks,” said Richard Jones, who owns an Airbnb 27 miles east of the park’s east entrance. “It’s really screwing up people’s plans.”

Under the system devised with the assistance of gateway community residents, those who have license plates that end with even numbers can enter on even-numbered days of the month, while cars with odd-numbered plates can enter on odd-numbered days.

Vanity plates will be treated as if they end with an odd-numbered digit, unless there is a digit on the plate, in which case the number will determine what day that person can enter.

Those with reservations for overnight accommodations or backcountry stays in the park will not need to follow the license plate system.

“Minor Adjustment”

“I can see how it’s effective and how it’s the least intrusive solution for visitors,” said Rob Wallace, a former assistant secretary for the Department of Interior who oversaw the National Park Service. “It will be a minor readjustment. I’m hopeful it will work.”

Wallace said the recent Yellowstone flooding, which forced the park’s closure and evacuation on June 13, was the most significant he has ever encountered in a national park. 

Although the park’s southern loop is set to open Wednesday, its northern loop is not scheduled to open in about two weeks. 

The license plate system was designed to control access to keep the southern loop from becoming overwhelmed by tourists.

However, Jones said he has already lost two reservations at his Airbnb property this week because of the restrictions on park entry, costing him a few thousand dollars.

The license plate system is designed to alleviate pressures on the park infrastructure and make sure the west, south and east entrances of the park are being treated equally. 

However, fewer visitors enter the park through the east entrance outside Cody than the other two gates, so that community’s customer base is already smaller and may shrink even further, Jones said.

Jones added he is concerned many people will cancel their Yellowstone trips completely because of a perception that most of the park was decimated by the flood and not worth visiting.

As a result, the the pressures Yellowstone National Superintendent Cam Sholly is trying to mitigate with the license plate system will not exist because of a decline in overall traffic, he said.

“The premise is wrong,” he said. “The premise they will be overrun is false.”

Basing entry on license plates is similar to the system former President Jimmy Carter initiated in 1979 to respond to gasoline shortages.

“It’s always some agenda to control something,” Jones said.

This year was set to be the first in about five years that all of the park’s roads were be open. 

Even after opening the northern loop in about two weeks, extensive damage caused to the park’s northern loop roads will limit access to the park to about 80%.

However, the vast majority of the park’s roads remain undamaged and some of its most popular attractions such as Old Faithful, Lake Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are still accessible. 

For tourists who planned their Yellowstone vacations months in advance, it may be a setback, but the license plate rule only applies to those who don’t have overnight reservations to stay in the park and does not affect outside tour groups.

Request Numbers

Corey Field, manager for Hertz Car Rental at Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, said he has already had customers request certain license plate numbers. He worries if too many requests come in for certain plates, it will lead to complications and unfulfilled demands. 

Field also brought up the scenario of someone who wants to rent a car with a license plate that will allow them to travel to West Yellowstone through the park and then return the next day to Cody, which will not be allowed under the current license system.

“There are concerns,” he said. “We have to start looking at all the factorial numbers.”

The new system may also put a damper on visitation by those already in the area who only want to or are only able to visit the park for a single day.

Jones sees this part of the new rule as elitist and solely catering to high-dollar customers who can afford to stay in the park. He also pointed out the local travelers who may want to visit the park or travel through it to get to another destination and as being unfairly impacted.

“It affects the little people the most,” he said. 

Rick Hoeninghausen, director, sales & marketing for Xanterra, the park’s concessionaire, said the Old Faithful Inn, Lodge and Snow Lodge, Lake Hotel and Lake Lodge, Grant Village, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Bridge Bay Campground, Grant Campground will all open on Wednesday, offering lodging, food service, gift shops and tours. 

Canyon Village will be open for day use only through June 28. On June 29 Canyon Lodge, Canyon Campground and Madison Campground will open their overnight accommodations and campsites.

Reservations Or Timed-Entry

Yellowstone said in a Saturday press release it will adjust or implement a reservation or timed entry system, if necessary, after three to four weeks of using the license plate system.

Reservation systems are not a new concept within the national parks system. Initiated in response to COVID-19 concerns and record visitation in 2021, many parks had reservation systems in place entering this summer season, but Yellowstone did not enact such measures.

Arches National Park in Utah, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Yosemite National Park in California all started the summer with time entry reservations for daytime visits, while several other parks started or already have reservation systems for certain hikes and drives within their respective parks. 

Sholly has not expressed enthusiasm about instituting reservations at Yellowstone but has said certain parts of the park may install booking systems in 5 to 10 years from now. 

Wallace is not aware of any national parks employing a license plate reservation system in the past. He said Yellowstone’s license plate system may prove to be revolutionary within the National Parks Service.

“Yellowstone may come up with the answer,” he said.

Jones, meanwhile, questioned why the park is having problems dealing with tourism when it faced two record visitation years in a row.

“We had two record years of visitation in a row and now big problems,” Jones said.

Jones, who worked for the U.S. Park Service for 25 years and spent time as the chief ranger at the Virgin Islands National Park, said if he were Yellowstone’s superintendent, he would have fully opened the park on Monday and allowed entry through all three gates.

“If a problem develops you can always shut it down,” he said.

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Yellowstone Gets $50 Million To Fast-Track Opening; Northern Loop To Open In 2 Weeks

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Park Superintendent Cam Sholly (right).
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By Cowboy State Daily

Emergency funding of $50 million will be made available for Yellowstone National Park to begin work to repair damages caused by last week’s historic floods, park officials have announced.

At the same time, officials announced the park’s northern loop should be open in two weeks or less, restoring access to 80% of the park less than three weeks after flooding damaged park roads and infrastructure and forced its evacuation.

The announcements came Sunday during a visit to the park by National Park Service Director Chuck Sams, when he and Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly.

The park was closed and evacuated June 13, when floods caused by heavy rains and melting snow damaged portions of the park’s northern loop, with the worst damage occurring on U.S. Highway 89 linking the park’s north entrance near Gardiner, Montana, with its northeast entrance near Cooke City, Montana.

$50 Million Emergency Funds

The $50 million will be used to restore temporary access between Gardiner and Cooke City, work that will be done by crews that were already in the park working on a 22-mile repair project between Old Faithful and the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Those crews will be put to work improving the Old Gardiner Road highway to provide access between Yellowstone and Gardiner.

Park officials announced Saturday that the park’s southern loop will open Wednesday, providing access to Madison Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village, Canyon Village and Norris through its southern, western and eastern entrances.

Opening of the northern loop, which had not been expected to occur until later this summer, will provide access through the northern entrance at Gardiner to Dunraven Pass, Tower, Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris, the park service said.

Officials continue their work to determine when the park’s northeastern entrance near Cooke City might be reopened.

“Currently, the northeast entrance road is impassable between Lamar Valley and Silver Gate,” the park said in a statement. “Cost, funding and timelines are not yet available for these long- or short-term repairs to the northeast entrance road but will be released as soon as possible.”

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Wyoming Reservoirs Fill Rapidly After Historic Yellowstone Flooding

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Reservoirs in northern and central Wyoming are filling up — and fast — in the wake of historic flooding that forced the closure of Yellowstone National Park last week.

Earlier this spring, water storage at the Buffalo Bill Dam was only at 60% of its capacity. But after last week’s flooding, inflows have increased dramatically, bringing levels at Buffalo Bill, Yellowtail and Boysen reservoirs to near-full.

“(Buffalo Bill) Reservoir came up approximately 13.5 feet in the last seven days,” said Elizabeth Cresto, acting Water and Civil Works Branch Chief for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Wyoming Office.

“Think of a football field 1 foot deep,” Cresto said, explaining how officials measure water storage in acre-feet. “So inflows into the reservoir equated to about 142,000 acre-feet of water flowing into our reservoir in the last seven days.”

For a reservoir that has a capacity of 647,000 acre feet, that equates to over 21% of the total storage of the reservoir coming into Buffalo Bill in just a few days.

“Incredible Storms”

Cresto said the inflows to Buffalo Bill from the north and south forks of the Shoshone River increased from an average of 8,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) on June 6 to 15,200 cfs on June 13.

“Last month, when we were forecasting inflows into Buffalo Bill, we were not expecting that to fill,” Cresto told Cowboy State Daily. “With the incredible storms we’ve gotten between Memorial Day and this last week, and higher temperatures, we’ve now gained enough water in the mountains that we are going to fill Buffalo Bill, and we are adjusting releases from the dam to manage the reservoir levels as we approach filling it up.” 

Clayton Jordan, hydraulic engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Montana Office, told Cowboy State Daily that reservoir levels remained low throughout the spring due to lower amounts of snowmelt in the high country.

“The snowpack runoff was delayed due to the colder temperatures that we’ve been experiencing,” he said. 

But with a sudden rise in temperatures the second week of June, that mountain snow began to melt quickly. Add to that a powerful, wet storm system that hovered over southwest Montana at the same time, and the mountains released all at once the moisture that otherwise would have come down more gradually.

“A week ago when the temperatures warmed up, it melted a lot of snowpack that was delayed, and pushed inflows pretty high to all the reservoirs,” Jordan said. 

Yellowtail, Boysen

The capacity of Yellowtail Reservoir near Lovell is more than 1 million acre-feet and Jordan said after last week’s flooding, the reservoir is currently at 966,000 acre-feet, nearly 95% full with 100,000 acre-feet coming in just in the last two weeks.

That amount of storage usually isn’t reached until the end of June or early July, according to Jordan.

“The delayed runoff kind of sped things up quite a bit,” he said. “The runoff was a little bit more efficient. Because of the faster rate we got, we saw more of the runoff.”

Jordan pointed out that water inflow into Boysen Reservoir, just south of the Wind River Canyon in central Wyoming, increased so dramatically that the Bureau of Reclamation had to double the reservoir’s outflow from 2,300 cfs to 4,800.

“At the end of (May), the content of Boysen reservoir was 590,000 acre-feet,” he said. “And then as of midnight (Thursday night), the content is 696,000,” Jordan said – an increase of 106,000 acre-feet of water in just two weeks, one-seventh of the entire capacity of Boysen reservoir. 

“We were going into the runoff season with below-average snowpack,” Cresto explained, “and then we had this cool wet period where we normally would experience runoff, but we had really low runoff in April and May. And then we had abundant moisture on top of it. So we’ve really delayed the runoff season and we’ve compressed it a little bit.”

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Yellowstone To Open On Wednesday; Three Of Five Entrances

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Yellowstone National Park officials on Saturday announced that the south loop of Yellowstone will re-open to visitors on Wednesday, June 22 at 8.am.

The south loop is accessed from the East entrance (Cody), the West entrance (West Yellowstone), and South entrance (Grand Teton/Jackson).

Areas accessible include Madison, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, Canyon Village, and Norris, as well as the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center. 

The northern loop of the Park, meanwhile, which encompasses the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Lamar Valley will remain closed, the park said.

Areas in the south loop that will remain closed include Canyon Village Lodges & Cabins, the campgrounds at Canyon, Madison, Norris and Lewis Lake, as well as the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center.

“Less than six days ago, Yellowstone National Park was hit with devastating floods,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said on Saturday. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teams and partners, we are prepared to reopen the south loop of Yellowstone.”



Reservation System

Officials stressed that not everyone will be able to enter Yellowstone at once.

“It is impossible to reopen only one loop in the summer without implementing some type of system to manage visitation,” Sholly said, explaining that a balance must be struck between the demand for visitor access, park resource protection and economic interests of the communities.

Keeping those priorities in mind, the park will institute an interim visitor access plan. The interim plan, referred to as the Alternating License Plate System (ALPS), was suggested as a solution by gateway communities during major public engagement with the park this past week.

“My thanks to our gateway partners and others for helping us work out an acceptable temporary solution for the south loop, while we continue our efforts to reopen the north loop,” Sholly said. 

The ALPS system allows entry based on whether the last numerical digit on a license plate is odd or even, corresponding to the odd or even calendar date. Personalized plates comprised of all letters (for example, YLWSTNE) will fall into the “odd” category, and plates with a mix of letters and numbers but that end with a letter (for example, YELL4EVR) will be considered using the last numerical digit on the plate.  

Anyone attempting to enter any of the gates on dates that don’t correspond to the odd/even system will be turned away.

Exceptions

However, officials say operators with active commercial use permits will be allowed to enter regardless of license plate number, including commercial tours. Commercial motorcoaches will also be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number.

Additionally, visitors with proof of overnight reservations in the park’s hotels, campgrounds and backcountry will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number, as will essential services like mail and delivery services, and employees and contractors.

Sholly acknowledged that the system isn’t perfect, but is the best option at the moment – and in the meantime, the National Park Service is building a new reservation system that will be ready for implementation if needed.

“As we go through the reopening process, we will monitor the system’s effectiveness and work together to make adjustments that may be necessary,” Sholly said. 

Over the next few weeks, Park managers and staff will monitor the license plate system and its impacts on resources, infrastructure, operations, and staffing. If concerns are noted, they may make adjustments.

Connecting Roads

Park managers are evaluating plans to reopen roads connecting Canyon Village, Tower Junction, Mammoth Hot Spring and Norris, according to officials – however, this will not happen initially. 

“We will also reopen new sections of the park as repairs continue to be made,” Sholly said.

Park officials and staff are also working to reconnect Mammoth Hot Springs to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate as soon as possible with temporary solutions, while long-term reconstruction is planned.

“It is critical for visitors to stay informed about this interim system as we evaluate its effectiveness,” Sholly said. “They should plan ahead and be patient with us, as we are still managing significant recovery while moving into this operational phase.”

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Communities Near Yellowstone Worried About Economic Impact Of Closure

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Photo by Wendy Corr.
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

The closure of Yellowstone National Park after the devastating floods this week has put a sizable dent in the projected income for businesses small and large in northwest Wyoming.

Although the National Park Service intends to reopen the park’s south loop sometime next week (from the east, south and west gates), the closure has already had an impact on gateway communities.

“The first couple of days after the flood, it was mass pandemonium, because everybody was being led out of the Park,” said Diane Syring, who with her husband owns the Parkway RV Campground in Cody. “Now we’re getting cancellations, or re-bookings for the end of the summer.”

Syring said the campground has been fielding phone calls from potential visitors inquiring about the status of access to Yellowstone, but she added she and her husband expect very light occupancy until the Fourth of July. 

That’s when things will become more “normal,” Syring said, thanks to an anticipated increase in visitors for Cody’s annual Stampede Rodeo celebration.

Dan Miller, who operates and performs in a music performance attraction in Cody, said his business has been affected by the shutdown, as many motorcoach companies have canceled tours to the area.

“Our summer was off to a fabulous start, until this all happened,” Miller said. “After 18 years in business, 99% of our clientele are tourists traveling in the motorcoach industry. So, obviously, this has been a setback for us. Our prayer is that it’s a temporary setback.”

Unknown Impact

Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, told Cowboy State Daily there’s no way to tell at this point exactly what the economic damage will ultimately be.

“We’ll be doing some projections of our own, based on visitor volume and not having Mammoth available, not having Tower, you know, all of those places, that’s going to be a lot less inventory,” Shober said. “I think we could make a pretty educated guess… But it’s going to be a little bit hard.”

Misinformation is also hampering efforts to get a handle on the economic situation, according to Sarah Growney, who owns a retail store in Cody.

“I won’t even tell you what the rumor mill is that I’ve been hearing in my shop this morning,” she said, referring to false assumptions held by customers that the park would be closed for the rest of the summer. “The amount of misinformation that gets spread is crazy, which makes it all the more important for us to get out the facts.”

And it’s not just small businesses in gateway communities that are feeling the hit. The National Park Service is missing out on millions of dollars in revenue just on park entrance fees alone.

Last June, Yellowstone recorded 938,845 visitors. That breaks down to an average of 30,285 visitors per day. Assuming each vehicle entering the park carries an average of three passengers and pays an entrance fee of $35 per vehicle, that’s up to $353,325 the Park is missing out on for every day Yellowstone remains closed.

Not Only Northwest

But northwest Wyoming isn’t the only region that will experience the economic shockwave. Shober referred to the motorcoach cancellations as an example of the impact Yellowstone’s closure will have in other parts of the state.

“Tauck (Tours) also books with the TA Guest Ranch outside of Buffalo,” Shober said, “so now they’ve canceled their overnights in Cody because they can’t go into Yellowstone – and now they’re canceling in Buffalo, Wyoming, a half-day’s drive away. And so, those are going to be the ripple effects.

“Hopefully, it’s going to be minimized to just a couple of weeks,” Shober continued. “But you know, I don’t know yet.”

According to a press release issued Friday morning, park officials intend to reopen the south loop sometime next week, albeit with new visitor management measures instituted to limit the strain on resources. 

“We have an aggressive plan for recovery in the north and resumption of operations in the south,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said.

And Sholly reminded those on a conference call with Cody businesses Wednesday that the situation is still fragile.

“My goal is to balance access to Yellowstone to the best degree possible,” Sholly said, “and at the same time giving you some predictability in relationship to the people that we want to come to Cody, the reservations that have already been made.”

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Beartooth Highway Closed Again: Flooding Will Keep Road Shut Down For Undetermined Time

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The Montana portion of the Beartooth Highway, a major corridor linking Red Lodge and Cooke City and running through both Montana and Wyoming, has been closed due to substantial flood damage, the Montana Department of Transportation announced Friday.

The department said Montana’s portion of the 65-mile highway will be closed for an undetermined amount of time to allow for the repair of damage caused by flooding on Monday.

The Beartooth Highway, U.S. Highway 212, is a major corridor and destination for tourists traveling between Wyoming and Montana and Yellowstone National Park. 

Lori Ryan, public information officer for MDOT, said the department hopes to have the road reopened at some point this summer.

“DOT will move as quickly as possible so it’s good to reopen,” she said.



Ryan said the road washed out in six areas, in some areas creating ruts as deep as 100 feet, in the Gallatin National Forest northeast of Yellowstone National Park.

This section of road is relatively flat, making it much easier to repair compared to other portions of the highway, where elevations reach nearly 11,000 feet and switchbacks are common. Ryan said the road work will begin next week. 

Heavy rainfall on top of a substantial spring snowpack that included three feet of recent high-elevation snow led to substantial flooding in parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming earlier this week, causing damage and forcing the evacuations of Yellowstone and neighboring communities. 

A prolonged Beartooth closure could be bad news for the businesses in Yellowstone’s gateway communities in southern Montana and northern Wyoming that depend on summer tourist travel for their year-long income and are already reeling from the loss of Yellowstone travel. 



Top of The World Resort, a vacation rental and convenience store located on the Wyoming side of the pass, is one of these businesses.

Its owner, Jerett Miller, can’t catch a break.

Last summer, Miller lost the cabin he had just paid off outside Red Lodge in the Robertson Draw Fire. Now, Miller, who also runs a UTV rental business in Red Lodge, has to contend with the effects of decreased tourist business. 

Miller said 60% to 70% of Top of The World’s customers come from the Montana side of the pass, while another contingent comes from the Yellowstone’s northeast entrance Park outside Cooke City, Montana, which is also closed for the foreseeable future. As soon as the roads closed, Miller said his sales decreased from $3,700 per day to $130.

On top of all this, Miller said his customers have been canceling reservations for both cabins and UTVs.

“Pretty much all my reservations cancelled,” he said. “I’ve been getting cancellations all week long. All week long giving money back.”

Top of The World, which Miller bought last December, is still open for business and he said conditions on the Wyoming side of the pass are relatively normal. Miller said the road is currently open up to Long Lake, about 11 miles south of the Montana border, with camping fully available in the area.

Cody Beers, a spokesperson for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said he was not aware of any damage on the Wyoming side of the highway and added construction has been ongoing on that side of the pass this week. Beers said he does not know when the pass will reopen. 

Beers said a bridge outside Crandall was partially damaged when high water scoured its bottom. He said travel on the bridge will be reduced to one lane while WYDOT workers and staff from Park County Road and Bridge work on the structure.

Miller said the previous owners of Top of The World dealt with a similar situation when they started the business the same summer most of the Beartooth Highway washed out. This gives him optimism for the future.

“They only had about half the amount of business they normally get but they survived, we will too,” he said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon said he would issue an emergency declaration in response to the historic flooding. The declaration will allow the state to seek federal funding assistance for necessary road repairs.



Cooke City and the area around the northeast entrance were hit hard by the recent flooding. 

Cooke City resident Jessica Baumgartner said Silver Gate is “in shambles” and the fence surrounding the Cooke City baseball field was completely wiped out. She said a few houses in the area experienced flood damage, including her own, where there was still standing water in her basement on Thursday evening.

The Montana National Guard sent helicopters to assist in search and rescue efforts in Roscoe, outside Red Lodge, and Cooke City, said Andrew Harper, a Red Cross staff member.

Cooke City and Silver Gate, with a combined population of about 100 people, depend on the summer tourist season for the bulk of their income. The towns are difficult to reach in the winter, blanketed with more than 200 inches of snow and only accessible by snowmobile from the east or a tedious route through Yellowstone from the west.

Baumgartner said the idea of summer tourism being cut off by the floods is worrisome. She said she hopes Cooke City and Silver Gate will be able to attract some visitors when the Yellowstone east entrance outside Cody opens back up, as it is unlikely the northern section of the park will open this summer. She also said 10% to 30% of the towns’ visitors come from the Montana side of the Beartooth Highway.

“It’s a huge concern,” she said. “We’ve already had a huge amount of bookings cancel.”

Baumgartner said only about 10% of the customers she had booked for her vacation rental business have indicated they still want to come.

Baumgartner and her husband own about 30 vacation rentals and just started a new restaurant in town this summer.

“We’re definitely in the hole and we’re hoping this summer we would make a comeback,” she said.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden issued a federal disaster declaration for Montana. The declaration makes federal funding available to state and local governments, tribes, and nonprofit groups for emergency work and repairs in the Montana counties o Carbon, Park, and Stillwater counties, the White House said. 

Gordon  said he has been communicating with Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and state agency heads about a coordinated response.

“This has been extraordinarily hard on a lot of people and we are doing all we can to assist,” Gordon said in a press release. “Thankfully, visitors have been evacuated and we can go about helping local communities, businesses and others address the historic impacts of this flood.”

An evacuation order issued for Cooke City and Silver Gate on Thursday turned out to be a false alarm, but Baumgartner said she and her family won’t be leaving if another evacuation is called.

“We’re going to stay, this is where we live,” she said.

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Yellowstone To Adopt Reservation System In Wake Of Floods

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By Jim Angell and Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park will adopt a reservation or timed entry system to prevent overloading of the park’s southern loop while its northern loop remains closed due to damage caused by flooding, according to park Superintendent Cam Sholly.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Montana, which took the brunt of the damage from the floods, with damages to the state’s roads estimated at $29 million.

Sholly, speaking during a town hall meeting with Cody residents Wednesday, said the park needs some way to control visitation to the park’s southern section to keep its infrastructure from becoming overwhelmed as people who planned to visit the park’s northern loop change their travel plans.

“What we can’t have happen is so much visitation on one loop of the park that the wastewater treatment, the road infrastructure fails and then we end up having to close the southern end of the park for a long period of time like the north end will likely be” he said.

The park was closed and more than 10,000 visitors were removed Monday as torrential rain and melting snow resulted in rivers being swollen to record levels.

The floods washed out portions of the roads in the park’s northern half and Sholly had said earlier it is unlikely the road between the Montana communities of Gardiner and Cooke City will be reopened this season. The park’s northern loop itself is expected to remain closed for an extended period of time.

Reservation System

Park officials are turning to a reservation/timed entry system in anticipation of larger visitation numbers in south Yellowstone, Sholly said, to allow as many people as possible into the park once it reopens, tentatively scheduled for Monday.

Sholly said the park is working with gateway communities to develop a workable system that will let people who had planned to visit still get an experience in the park, although it may not be as extensive as they originally planned.

It may take three to four weeks to develop the system, Sholly said, and until it is in place, people will be allowed to enter through the park’s east, south and west entrances without reservations, although some services may be limited.

As an example, he said the number of rooms available for overnight stays in the park will probably be reduced 

“What we learned in COVID is that the more overnight occupancy we have, the higher the workload is for the park and for the staff,” he said. “If we’re going to have everybody able to come in without reservation for three weeks, then we need to minimize visitation in the overnight category. And then once the (reservation) system kicks in, we’ll increase the number of overnights to balance out with day use.”

No Unlimited

The park will not be able to handle unlimited day and overnight access while the north loop is closed, he said.

“What we can’t have is full overnight accommodations open and have full access for visitors through three entrances of day use,” he said. “It’ll be a predictable nightmare that will end up probably making us close the entrance stations in the middle of the day … which is going to cause a lot more heartburn with people.”

However, he added other services, including food and gasoline, will be available by the time the park reopens.

The reservation system being developed will be based in part in systems being used at other national parks, Sholly said.

While the system may not be perfect, it will help the park accomplish its goals of continuing to allow visitors to enter, he added, and it will be fine-tuned throughout the season to make sure it is working as intended.

Montana Damage

Montana suffered the largest amount of damage, with preliminary damage estimates to transportation infrastructure at $29 million.

To that end, President Biden has approved a disaster declaration for Montana after Gov. Greg Gianforte requested an expedited declaration.

Wyoming Declaration

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon was expected to sign an emergency declaration on Thursday although damage to Wyoming’s roads and bridges in the Yellowstone area was “minimal” on Wednesday, according to the governor’s office.

“This has been extraordinarily hard on a lot of people and we are doing all we can to assist,” Gordon said in a news release. “Thankfully, visitors have been evacuated and we can go about helping local communities, businesses and others address the historic impacts of this flood.”

Goodwill

Cowboy State Daily continued to receive stories Thursday of companies and individuals reaching out to help those in and around the park whose plans may have been disrupted by the floods or whose homes or belongings were damaged.

On Wednesday, a rental car company told a Florida family not to worry about their rental cars that they couldn’t return to the agency’s office.

On Thursday, U-Haul companies in Montana and Idaho announced they were offering 30 days of free storage and container usage near Yellowstone for people affected by the flooding.

“As our neighbors deal with this disaster and seek help with the recovery process, we want to provide them with a clean, dry place to store their possessions,” said U-Haul Area District Vice President Doug McIntier, who oversees operations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Where Is He?

Meanwhile, Gianforte came under fire on Thursday after leaving on a personal trip before the flooding occurred and failing to tell the public where he was.

A spokeswoman declined to tell the press where the governor traveled, leading to a hail of criticism in the state.

“In a moment of unprecedented disaster and economic uncertainty, Gianforte purposefully kept Montanans in the dark about where he was, and who was actually in charge,” Sheila Hogan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Again, we ask, where in the world is Gov. Gianforte?”

The Montana Free Press ran a story with a headline asking: “Where Is Greg Gianforte”

The article noted that the governor’s office would not disclose where Gianforte was despite “related requests over the past two days.”

A professor at Montana State University said the governor’s lack of communication was a big mistake.

“The fact that [the flooding] is so extreme and his office has just been pretty recalcitrant about where he is and what’s going on is not great,” Professor Eric Austin told the Montana Free Press.

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Wyoming To World: We’re Still Open For Business

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

The closure of Yellowstone National Park during the height of the tourist season has left tourism-dependent businesses in and around the park scrambling.

But communities surrounding Yellowstone are encouraging visitors to come to the region anyway.

Each month in the summer, an average of 1 million visitors come through the five gates of Yellowstone, bringing a necessary economic boost to the communities in the outskirts of the Park. With the closure of the entire Park for a week, and the northern area of the Park for the rest of the summer, many tourists are canceling their plans to visit northwest Wyoming.

Open For Business

But Diane Shober, Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, told Cowboy State Daily that the message should be instead, Wyoming is still open for business.

“To the rest of the country, Wyoming was never closed,” she said. “Yellowstone National Park has been temporarily closed. We don’t want any of those people who have plans throughout the summer to cancel those. We still want people to come to Wyoming.”

Shober said that the messages coming from the state tourism office in recent days have been directed to the visitors whose plans were canceled when Yellowstone closed Monday.

“This week has been more triage messaging around people who are already here, or who are on their way, to try to help them plan ahead, make plans, be ready to do other things,” said Shober.

Come to Cody

Yellowstone National Park isn’t the only game in town, pointed out Tina Hoebelheinrich, director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce.

“What we’re really telling folks is, you know, to base camp here in Cody,” said Hoebelheinrich. “We’ve always said that Cody is a destination on its own. We have lodging available right now, we have tent spots available right now, we have camping spots available right now. And so when the park does become available, it’ll be a great spot to be in.”

A Facebook thread for Cody residents listed a variety of ideas for visitors who can’t get into Yellowstone. From the Pryor Mountains north of Lovell to Ten Sleep at the base of the Bighorns, there are day trips and activities for tourists to enjoy.

“Don’t forget Old Trail Town and the museum in Meeteetse,” wrote one Cody resident. “Nightly rodeo, gunfights at the Irma… and all the wonderful shops on main street and other locations around town.”

“Sometimes we forget what there is to offer, as we take it for granted,” he continued.

Don’t Forget Greybull

Deanna Werner is the director of the Greybull Chamber of Commerce. She said she’s been in contact with some of the other Chambers in the area, reminding them that the Bighorn Mountains have a lot for visitors to experience.

“I’ve been pushing the golf course, the dinosaur track site, the Bighorn Mountains for camping and fishing,” Werner told Cowboy State Daily.

“We have just as much here in the Bighorns as they do in Yellowstone – we just don’t have as many buffalo or geysers,” she said.

Rodeo And More

Sarah Growney owns The Thistle, a gift shop in Cody. She told Cowboy State Daily that it’s important for the word to get out that there is still a great deal to do and see, even though Yellowstone is temporarily closed.

“We’ve got the rodeo, we’ve got the Trolley, we’ve got paddle boarding and kayaking,” Growney said. “And even in Red Lodge (Montana), they just posted today that their business district is open now. So I just feel like we need to get that across, that it’s still a great destination. I still feel like, because of the beauty of it, the east entrance is the best entrance.”

That type of communication with visitors is exactly what Shober advises to mitigate any economic loss from the closure of Yellowstone.

“The opportunity for the local community to engage with them right now is really key to having people stick around,” she said.

Still Busy

Growney said because many tourists have been unexpectedly shut out of Yellowstone, she’s actually had a very busy day at her store.

“I’ve had people in my shop who definitely had planned on going to Yellowstone and were unable to go,” she said. “For me personally, I feel like I’m kind of benefiting right now from having some people trapped in town.”

But Growney pointed out that news about Yellowstone’s closure may scare off potential visitors for the rest of the summer – so she said it’s important that the word gets out that Wyoming is still open for business.

“The tour buses can still come through,” she said. “They’re not going to be prohibited. So I think we need to get that out to you know, not just locally but nationally.” 

“Take a moment, stop in the small towns,” Shober added. “There’s plenty of things to see and do.”

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Stranded Florida Family Of 14 Stunned At Kindness Of Yellowstone-Area Residents

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Florida family has come away from the disaster in Yellowstone with a deep appreciation for the people of Gardiner, Montana.

Mandy Callahan, a teacher from Bonifay, Florida, was on a long-planned trip to Yellowstone National Park with 13 other members of her family, and had spent five days exploring the area when disaster struck.

“We’ve had this trip booked for a year,” Callahan told Cowboy State Daily. “We took three of our children and their husbands, and five of our grandchildren, and my mother.”

Callahan said the family rented a large VRBO property in Gardiner, as well as four vehicles, with which they drove through most of Yellowstone the first few days of their trip. Then on Monday, the group decided to take a trip south to the Tetons.

“We went, and the north entrance was closed,” Callahan said. “And so we decided we would just hang out in Gardiner that day, thinking that it would open back up. We just didn’t realize the seriousness of it at that point.”

Roads Closed

Later that day, Callahan said they had begun hearing rumblings that the roads surrounding Gardiner had been closed due to flooding.

“People started telling us that the bridges were out, and that there was no way to get out,” she said. “And we started seeing footage of the north entrance, the roads between Mammoth and the north entrance, and we started to panic a little.”

Being a teacher on summer vacation, Callahan teased that she would have been fine hanging out in Gardiner until August – but the rest of the family had livelihoods to return to in Florida, and being stranded in Montana wasn’t part of the plan.

Rental House Owner

However, in the short term, Callahan said they needed to be prepared to ride out the worst of the disaster – which she had been told, alarmingly, could last several weeks.

“I contacted the VRBO owner – this guy, I just cannot say enough about him,” she said. “I talked to him and I said, ‘Please tell me they’re being overly dramatic.’ And he said, ‘I’m afraid, from what I’m seeing, they’re not.’”

“And so he immediately said, ‘But listen, you stay there as long as you need to. You’re safe. You have shelter.’ And he said, ‘I’ll figure out the minimum cost that it takes me to keep the electricity on and the place operational, and I’ll do a long term rental for you.’”

As the flood waters had done unknown damage to the local water and wastewater systems, the VRBO owner, who was at his home in California at the time, warned the Callahans that they would have to take care with the water.

“He immediately contacted me and said he had gotten a boil-water notice. And he said go get water and fill up as many containers as you can. And then he called us back and said, ‘don’t drink the water, even if you boil it.’”

Guardian Angel

The Callahans received more than just advice and shelter from the VRBO owner, Rob Hammond. Callahan said Hammond sent over a neighbor to check on their family.

“​​He said, ‘I have friends in Gardiner if you need anything, I can call them and they can come over,’” Callahan said. “And he called a neighbor and sent her over, and she knocked on the door and said, ‘I’ve spoken to Rob, what do you need? What can I get you?’ And then she realized we had littles with us, and she came back with stuffed animals or our three littles. It was just so sweet.”

But the Callahans were still looking for a way to get home, if possible. Callahan said they found a pilot that was willing to fly them out of Gardiner to Bozeman, Montana, in order to catch a plane home. But that meant they would have to abandon the four vehicles they had rented.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

And as much graciousness as they received from the owner of their rental house, Callahan said they experienced that much from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car agency in Bozeman as well.

“I spoke directly to the (Enterprise) manager at the Bozeman airport, and she said, ‘Listen, we have to keep it on record, we have to keep it rented to you, but I’m going to rent the car to you for $2 a day and issue you a credit,’” Callahan said.

“She said, ‘Just please leave the car somewhere safe, and bring us the keys and we’ll go get it when the roads are repaired.’”

Free VRBO

Another contact that had been made in planning for the trip also offered to assist the family.

“(He) said, ‘Listen, if you can get out of Gardiner and into Bozeman, we have a VRBO apartment in Bozeman and you can stay there for free,” Callahan said.

But as much as the family was concerned about being stranded, those concerns were alleviated when they found out that the road from Gardiner north through Paradise Valley would open back up Tuesday.

“So much was offered to us that we didn’t have to take advantage of, but you know, people just didn’t hesitate,” Callahan said. “They just did everything they could to help.”

Thank You

Before the family left, they started returning some of the kindnesses that had been extended to them.

“The man that owns the home said that the people that cleaned for him are actually outside of Gardiner and they couldn’t get in,” Callahan said. “So we cleaned the house for him. And he called the local food bank for us and someone from the local food bank came and picked up all of our leftover food.”

Callahan said that Hammond is now opening the house to Park families who have been displaced by the flood.

“You know, the bad guys get all the airtime,” said Callahan, “but there really are good people in the world. There really are.”

“My prayers go out to everyone affected by the flood,” she added, “and I will forever be grateful for the good people in this great little town.”

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Yellowstone Towns Filled With Stories Of Close Calls After ‘1 In 500 Year Flood’

in Yellowstone/News
Courtesy, Matthew Thomas
21031

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Taylor Monfort-Eaton woke up to the sound of water pouring into his Red Lodge, Montana, basement apartment around 4:30 a.m. Monday. 

When he opened his front foyer door, the water started gushing in.

“It was pouring through like a waterfall,” he said.

The water came in at such a velocity he could not get the door closed. He knew he had little time. 

Grabbing only his cell phone, Monfort-Eaton stashed his guitar in the highest place possible and started looking for an exit. 

The front door wouldn’t open.

“I was freaking out when my door wouldn’t open for sure,” he said.

But the former Boy Scout and Virginia Military Institute student kept a cool head. Wading through his living room in his bare feet, Monfort-Eaton, 28, grabbed a shoe and kicked open a window he climbed out of.

“Fifteen minutes later (sleeping) and I would’ve been dead,” he said.

His roommate found him standing outside barefoot, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. The two then went to the town shelter to dry off.

Monfort-Eaton’s story of a close call was just one of a number told Cowboy State Daily by residents of Red Lodge and nearby Fromberg in the wake of historic flooding that left Yellowstone National Park and surrounding communities inundated. 

The flood in Red Lodge came on quickly Monday, growing steadily worse through the night, as nearby Rock Creek reached flows of more than 2,000 cubic feet per second, knocking out a handful of bridges. Water came pouring through U.S. Highway 212 and smaller Red Lodge side streets, submerging entire blocks in its wake. 

Upon returning home two hours later, Monfort-Eaton found his Honda Civic halfway submerged in a sinkhole the powerful flood waters had chewed away in the pavement. 



“I’ve lost everything I own, but I’m alive and grateful for that,” he posted on Facebook.

Also destroyed were nearly all of his belongings, save for his guitar, found still inside its case, floating in a few feet of water in the foyer. The instrument did suffer some water damage, but is still usable, Monfort-Eaton said. To save this keepsake, a 1968 Ovation given to him by his father, means everything.

“It’s the one thing I have of his that I carry everywhere,” he said. “When I left that behind it was devastating.”

Picking Up The Pieces

The previous record high flow on Rock Creek was 1,320 cfs in 1935, leading authorities in Red Lodge to define this flood as the worst to hit the area in around 500 years.

Nearly all standing water in town had disappeared Tuesday night, leaving a scene of immense destruction behind. 

The southern portion of U.S. Highway 212, Red Lodge’s main street, was covered with large boulders and other debris sitting atop more than a foot of sediment, looking more like a dried riverbed than any kind of road.



And more may be in store for the town with high temperatures predicted to reach the 80s Friday and Saturday, followed by rain Sunday and Monday. A combination of warm temperatures and steady, heavy rains led to Monday’s flooding.

“I’m extremely concerned because they say the worst hasn’t come yet,” resident Day Lynn Dodd said. “It’s definitely going to happen but is it going to be worse than this?”

Disaster After Disaster

Due to the possible second wave of flooding, the sandbags erected against Monday’s flooding are being left in place in town. 

Meanwhile, water service has only been partially restored in town and even residents now receiving water must boil it to safely use it.

The flood is the second natural disaster in as many years the town has dealt with. Last year, the Robertson Draw Fire came dangerously close to city limits, burning more than 25,000 acres of wilderness and homes in northern Wyoming and taking one life.

Red Lodge resident Pam Peterson said the flood is an important reminder of the tight bonds shared by those in the community.

“The fire did it for us last summer and this event is doing it this summer. We don’t need anything else next summer,” she said with a laugh.

When Peterson fled her house on Monday she forgot deodorant but did remember two cans of bear spray.

“I am a true Montanan,” she said.

Eerie Soundtrack

Dodd said she could hear large boulders being pushed through Rock Creek on Monday night, providing an eerie soundtrack to the already dire scene.

Her basement was flooded and she lost appliances due to water damage. Still, she was thankful the rest of her river-side property was unscathed and her cats survived without injury, as the water level rose to the lower portion of a picnic table sitting nearby. Her white picket fence stopped most of the debris that would have entered her yard. 



Dodd was one of the lucky ones. Multiple homes fell into Rock Creek and entire properties were swept away in a manner of seconds.

“I was very very lucky, very fortunate” Dodd said, a Texas native. “I’ve never seen it flowing down the street like a river.”

Rescues

Peterson, a pastor at Red Lodge Community Church, had her dogs Buddy and Bonnie rescued from her home by Nate Winning, another Red Lodge resident. Winning strapped on a wet suit and kayaking helmet to get the job done.

“Buddy thought he was going swimming,” Peterson said, while Bonnie, a poodle, was not so interested.

Theresa Whistler, a Red Lodge City Council member, said she is floored with the way community members have come out to support each other, volunteering construction equipment, water pumps and their time. Countless volunteers spent the past two days laying out sandbags, distributing food and bottled water, offering free lodging and holding barbecues.

“There’s nothing like a natural disaster to bring people together after all the divisiveness of the past four years,” she said. “Everybody is helping each other and that’s really what Red Lodge has always been about.”

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has already issued an emergency declaration in the wake of the flooding and Whistler said the town will be applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency relief.

Andrew Harper, a Red Cross staffer running the shelter at the town’s rodeo grounds, said his organization has received such an influx of food and goods it will start turning away donations away soon. He’s also had about a dozen volunteers helping at the shelter

“It’s been an amazing outpouring of support,” he said.

Fromberg

About 30 miles away to the east in Fromberg, water still flowing through the town made it difficult to assess how much damage the town had incurred as of early Tuesday evening. East River Street, a main corridor through the town, was the color of chocolate milk, filled with a river of water headed downhill.

Brent Boggio, a member of the Fromberg Fire Department, expects significant damage in the town of 395 people.

“I honestly think it’s going to hurt a lot of people; it’s going to break (them),” he said. “We’re going to have people who have a total loss out of this.

“I think it’s going to hurt this town a whole lot,” he continued.

Boggio said many people didn’t have flood insurance because they didn’t know they needed it or they were turned away by certain companies that said they didn’t need it due to a perceived low likelihood for flooding in the area. 

When it comes to water damage, he said, a little bit goes a long way.



As water continued to flow through town Tuesday evening, about 10 residents gathered at the Two Bear Tavern and Eatery, where the mood was friendly but somber.

One resident said the flood was the biggest the town had seen in at least 100 years.

“This is history,” resident Sharon Walton said.

Shortly after Geri Peffers was advised by a law enforcement officer to leave her Fromberg trailer on Monday, she was told the same thing by her son.

“He says, ‘If we don’t leave real fast Mom, the truck ain’t going to get out of here,’” Peffers said.

Peffers gathered up the bare necessities, including the ashes of her late husband and other son, and the two high-tailed it out to the shelter at the local high school. She said the water was so deep the truck bed started getting pushed around in the water.

“I don’t want to have another heart attack, it was nerve wracking,” she said.

Her trailer was relatively dry when her son made a trip to check on it Tuesday afternoon, but the whereabouts of her cats are still unknown. She was uneasy about the idea of him wading through the streets filled with up to four feet of water, potholes, and dangerous undercurrents.

“I already lost his brother, I worry about him, he’s my caboose,” she said



Peffers said she knew of one local couple who had the cabin they were building completely wiped out by the flood.

Kolbey Wassenaar, a member of the Fromberg Fire Department, expressed frustration that Red Cross had set up a shelter in Bridger, a larger town with much drier conditions.

“It seems like every time there is a natural disaster, we get screwed,” he said.

Kim Waterfall, a Red Cross volunteer at the shelter in Bridger, said there was some home damage in that town and about five people stayed at his shelter Monday night, including one person who brought a canary.

“We don’t allow cats or dogs though,” he said.

Wassenaar wants people to take evacuation orders seriously, as a few helicopter rescues took place for people who disregarded warnings to leave their homes.

“That’s money and resources,” he said.

Community Support

Thousands of people have rallied around the cause to support these flooded southern Montana communities. 

A fundraiser for Monfort-Eaton and four of his co-workers has already raised $10,715 on GoFundMe. 

Monfort-Eaton said he’s also received free lodging, money and hugs from friends and strangers in town. He moved to Red Lodge one month ago from Rochester, N.Y.

“For them to embrace me the way they have in a short amount of time, it’s overwhelming,” he said. “I’m committed to the rebuild. I’m going to stay along. As long as Red Lodge needs me, I’m going to feel a drive to help.”

Cody residents Matthew Thomas and James Ries have spent the past few days shuttling emergency supplies collected through a donation drive Thomas organized to affected Montana communities. The pair have brought supplies to shelters in Bridger, Fromberg, Columbus and Red Lodge, hauling with them a trailer and pallets of bottled water. Due to Montana Highway 308 being closed because of the flooding, the pair had to drive 45 minutes out of their way to reach Red Lodge.

Thomas said as a Christian and member of the Outpost Community Church, his faith compels him to help.

“Everyone is your next-door neighbor,” he explained. “The goal is to show the love of Christ to others.”

People can assist victims of the flood at rlacf.org/…/carbon-county-disaster-fund/ and volunteer at carbonalert.org/incidents/. Go to co.carbon.mt.us/departments/disaster-emergency-services/?fbclid=IwAR1KA4e5Jq7yUrgjQOEKFNUmwwKFTEYngbtOAk_nHpSJVWdktBl8yZ-ByQs for flood updates.

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Yellowstone Flooding: No Death, Only Destruction

in Yellowstone/News
Courtesy, Yellowstone Insight
21063

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Remarkably, no one was seriously injured or killed in the flooding that destroyed roads and bridges, caused buildings to fall into rivers and displaced thousands of employees and visitors from Yellowstone National Park on Monday.

“I’ve heard this is a 1,000-year event,” said Yellowstone Superintendent am Sholly said during a news conference Tuesday. “From what I understand, one of the highest cubic-feet-per-second ratings the Yellowstone River recorded was in the 1990s at 31,000 cfs, and Sunday night we were at 51,000 cfs. So that gives you a bit of context of how big this was from the last major high water event at the park.” 

No Deaths

However, Sholly pointed out that the only damage done to the park by the flooding was done to the landscape – no living creatures, human or wildlife, have been harmed due to the rising waters, as far as National Park Service staff can tell.

“As of right now we don’t think the animals are being largely affected,” Sholly said, “except there’s no visitors – at least currently – watching them.”

The flooding prompted the park’s closure and led park officials to remove at least 10,000 visitors from the park on Monday.

Sholly said one person at Madison Campground did die as a result of a cardiac arrest but added the incident was not flood-related.

“There has been at this point no injuries – knock on wood – to employees, either,” he said.

Not Out Of The Woods

But the danger may not be over. Sholly noted that the forecasted high temperatures for the upcoming weekend could trigger another flood event.

“There’s about 12 inches of snow left up there,” he said. “If we get the right mixture of warm temperatures, rain on the snow, we could see something further this weekend, and we’ll see what happens there.”

The Storm

Sholly explained that Sunday night and over the weekend, Yellowstone National Park received 2 to 3 inches of rain that fell on approximately 5-1/2 inches of snow. The precipitation and associated warming temperatures melted the snow and caused a major flood event in most of the northern range of Yellowstone, swelling the Yellowstone and Lamar rivers, and all of the associated tributaries, to levels not seen before in the park’s recorded history.

“These supercell storm features have hit around this country before,” said Bob Smith, Professor of Geophysics and Geology at the University of Utah. “But I have not experienced one that big around Yellowstone, and I’ve been working there for 65 years.”

Smith, who witnessed the strength of the storm Sunday from his house in Moose, Wyoming, compared the damage to the park to that caused by a significant earthquake.

“This storm is very similar in characteristics to the effects of a magnitude 7 earthquake,” Smith said. “The damage, the extent, people having to be rescued, management putting into effect emergency procedures. I’d call this thing a practice earthquake.” 

Road Damage

The visible landscape of the northern part of America’s first national park is most likely changed forever, as Sholly noted that U.S. Highway 89 between the Montana communities of Mammoth and Cooke City will likely be rebuilt on a different footprint.

“This is not going to be an easy rebuild,” Sholly said. “Obviously things that we’re going to need to do to stabilize once the water comes down, is assess what the full damage is along the length of that corridor, but also with the right people assessing whether it makes sense to build here in the future.” 

Sholly pointed out that developed areas of the Park sustained damage, as well.

“We lost our sewer line here in Mammoth,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve done a temporary fix on that, but that’s been a big challenge. We had power out for about 36 hours here in Mammoth and other parts of the Park, and the town of Gardiner still does not have potable drinking water.”

On the Zoom conference call Tuesday, Sholly showed photos of destruction throughout the northern part of Yellowstone, pointing out where roads have been completely washed away and where the Yellowstone River has potentially changed its course permanently.

“One section in the intersection between Lamar Valley and Cooke City is another example where the road’s been completely washed away,” he said, “and so we’ll be evaluating whether or not we need to make some roadway realignments.”

Much of the damage done to the Park is not visible from the paved highway, Sholly pointed out. 

“There are literally hundreds and hundreds of bridges in the back country that we’ll need to do evaluations on moving forward,” he said. “There is a lot of debris, especially in areas where the rivers ran across the roads and brought down substantial numbers of trees, which will require considerable work.”

The House In The River

A video that has been viewed thousands of times in the last few days shows a house in Gardiner, Montana, collapsing into the river. Sholly said the building was a multi-family dwelling that housed six Park employees.

“It was fairly immediately Sunday night compromised by high floodwaters, to the point where we evacuated it first thing on Monday morning,” Sholly said. “(Monday) night somewhere around 7 p.m., this entire structure succumbed to flood waters and went into the Yellowstone River just north of Gardiner. That entire structure floated on the water for about five miles.”



A video taken farther downstream showed the house crashing into pylons of a bridge, destroying the building completely.

One of the employees that had been living in that structure posted to Facebook Tuesday that he and his coworkers lost almost everything.

“We had less than 30 mins of evacuation time,” wrote the employee, “so we ended up throwing a lot of our possessions into the sage at the side of the house.” 

No Timeline For Reopening Some Parts of the Park

Because of the damage done by the devastating flood event, Sholly said park officials will likely not reopen the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana, for the rest of the season. Additionally, water and sewer lines in Mammoth were damaged, which will affect the decision to re-open the Mammoth hotel.

“There’s a way we could open that, and people could access it from the south,” Sholly said. “But unless we get the wastewater treatment infrastructure back in place, We won’t bring large numbers of visitors back into Mammoth.”

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Yellowstone To Remain Closed Until At Least Sunday; World Travelers Adapt

in Yellowstone/News
21023

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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.

Elvis Lives

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.


Courtesy, Andrea Albertini

“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.


Courtesy, Donna Frishe

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.

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Northern Loop Of Yellowstone Road Closed For Summer, Says Superintendent

in Yellowstone/News/weather
20995

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The northern loop of Yellowstone National Park will be closed for “an extensive time” due to damages caused by historic flooding, the park’s superintendent said Tuesday.

Cam Sholly, speaking during a news conference Tuesday, told the more than 100 reporters listening in that at least one road in the park, the northern route linking the Montana communities of Gardiner and Cooke City, will probably be closed for the rest of the season.

The timeline for opening the rest of the park will depend entirely on what park officials find when they are able to enter the park and examine the damage done by Sunday and Monday’s flooding.

“We will not know exactly what the timelines are, what the costs are or any of that information until we get teams on the ground who can actually assess the situation,” Sholly said.

From 2 to 3 inches of rain fell on the park on Sunday and Monday, speeding the melt of snow left by a weekend blizzard and swelling rivers to record levels.



Massive Damage

The flooding forced the closure and evacuation of the park and washed away numerous roads and “hundreds” of bridges used in the park’s trail system, Sholly said.

He added the damage as most severe in the park’s northern loop.

“The [damage] to the northern loop is going to be more extensive and require condition and damage assessments that need to be done to figure out what the plan is there for a reconstruction strategy,” Sholly said.

Sholly said he hoped to reopen the park’s southern loop within a week or less, but added that decision would also depend on an assessment of the situation.

He added is working with gateway communities to determine when the southern loop can best be opened.

Southern Entrance

However, he did note during the conference that the southern portion of the park could not accommodate all of Yellowstone’s visitors, which can amount to 1 million or more per month in the summer.

This could mean that when the park does reopen, timed visitations or reservations might be implemented to try to handle the influx of visitors, but Sholly was not firm on this.

“We do know that half the park cannot accommodate all of the visitation,” he said.

Sholly said Monday’s closure was the first caused by flooding, although he noted the park was completely closed two years ago during the COVID pandemic.

Sholly said he did not know the exact number of visitors who had to be removed from the park on Monday, but he estimated it was somewhere around 10,000 people. Another several thousand were also removed from Gardiner.

However, this did not mean everyone left the park.

There were still around a dozen backcountry campers inside of Yellowstone as of Tuesday afternoon, but Sholly said park officials have been in regular contact with the recreationists.

“We know they’re safe and they’re making their way out of the park,” Sholly said. “They had more time to get out compared to frontcountry visitors and cars.”

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Yellowstone Won’t Open Until Water Is Safe

in Yellowstone/News
21006

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

The reopening Yellowstone National Park to visitors will depend in part on how safe the water is.

That was one of the takeaways from a Zoom news conference held by park Superintendent Cam Sholly on Tuesday afternoon.

The park closed Monday when unprecedented flooding washed away roads and damaged infrastructure throughout Yellowstone, prompting the evacuation of all visitors and shelter-in-place orders for communities surrounding the park.

Because of the considerable damage to infrastructure such as power lines and water and wastewater pipes, lodging properties within Yellowstone National Park won’t be able to reopen anytime soon.

“We’ve been out of power here in Mammoth for about 30 hours, and we’ve had multiple power failures in other parts of the park,” Sholly said. “Because power has been out for as long as it has, we’ve had wastewater treatment facility failures in multiple locations, backup generator failures, reinforcing the decision to move visitors out of park as a good one.”

Infrastructure

But all of that infrastructure is going to need to be checked and evaluated before visitors are allowed back in the park, Sholly said. 

“The Mammoth Hotel could open,” said Sholly, “but we’ve got substantial damage to water and sewer lines in Mammoth and Gardiner (Montana, the community just north of the park’s administrative offices).”

Mammoth is currently cut off from the north and east, as the Yellowstone River consumed sections of the highway in both directions. However, once the park reopens, visitors could access the community from the south.

“But unless we get the wastewater treatment infrastructure back in place, we won’t bring large numbers of visitors back into Mammoth,” Sholly said. 

Sholly noted that once the southern loop of Yellowstone reopens, facilities at Canyon could be open to visitors again, but he said park staff is monitoring the safety of the water there as well.

“Canyon right now, we would include in the reopening of the southern loop,” Sholly said. “We have had high water/wastewater treatment issues there that we’re monitoring, and so before we make a decision to open any of the hotels and properties in the southern loop, or start allowing Xanterra to take reservations for those properties, campgrounds or hotels, we want to make sure that that infrastructure is capable of supporting high numbers of visitors.”

Dangerous Levels

Sholly pointed out that because the rivers in Yellowstone are still running at dangerous levels, evaluating the damage is difficult.

“The water is extremely high,” he said. “We’re not putting teams in harm’s way at this point. When the water subsides, probably early next week, we will be pulling together a large number of people from different agencies around the country to come to Yellowstone and help us assess what the damage is to various infrastructure in the park.

“We’re doing our best job to stabilize the situation until we can get the water down, assess what the damage is,” Sholly continued. “And then we’ll work on a plan together for reopening as it becomes feasible.” 

Looming Weather

Sholly noted that there are conflicting predictions about this weekend’s weather forecast, explaining that another high water event could occur.

“We still have somewhere around 12 inches of snowpack left,” Sholly said, “and if we get warming temperatures and the right mixture of precipitation like we did Sunday, we could have another flood event coming through Yellowstone in the upcoming four or five days.”

A spokesperson for Governor Mark Gordon said the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security was providing water where it may be needed, in locations such as Pahaska Teepee near the East entrance to Yellowstone.

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Communities Around Yellowstone Open Doors To Travelers Displaced By Flooding

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Residents of communities all around Yellowstone National Park are opening their doors, hotel rooms, and campgrounds to visitors whose plans to stay at the park have been destroyed by flooding.

The closure of all five of the park’s entrances on Monday has caused a chain reaction for both visitors and locals. Tina Hoebelheinrich, director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, said her staff has been fielding phone calls and re-directing tourists since the park shut down yesterday.

“Lots of families, lots of foreign travelers have been in the visitor center, trying to devise ‘Plan B,’” said Hoebelheinrich.

She pointed out that while roads were damaged and impassable at only two of the five entrances, power outages and water quality concerns have facilitated the closure of the other gates into Yellowstone and the evacuation of the park.

“We know this morning that Canyon does not have power; Lake does not have power; Grant does,” Hoebelheinrich said. 

Hoebelheinrich noted that the chamber staff has been coordinating with local lodging properties to find rooms for visitors who have been turned away from the park.

“We have lodging available right now,” she said. “We have tent spots available right now. We have camping spots available right now.”

Other communities have extended hospitality to displaced visitors as well. 

Deanna Werner, Greybull Chamber of Commerce director, said she has been communicating with tourism organizations both locally and at the state level, reminding them that Greybull is a great place to base a Wyoming vacation.

“I have been calling all the hotels and motels, campgrounds, and seeing what they have available,” she told Cowboy State Daily, “and calling the Cody Chamber of Commerce letting them know to bring the tourists over — Greybull’s open!”

Other communities surrounding the Park have opened parking lots to RVs and campers, and GoFundMe pages have been set up to assist families displaced by flood waters. 

Meanwhile, a group in Cody has organized a drive to bring food and other supplies to Red Lodge, Montana, where flooding caused extensive damage.

“I got here right at about 7:45 this morning, and people started showing up,” said organizer Mark Musser. “As soon as we’re full here, I think we’re going to take this trailer, we have an overflow trailer. So we’re going to haul this trailer, and head to Montana.”

Musser said volunteers will continue to accept donations throughout the coming days, as the extent of the damage has yet to be determined. 

“Basically, the essentials,” Musser said. “They need baby food, paper goods, and we’ve got bedding, we’ve got towels, paper goods, dog food, cat food, human food. We’ve got a lot of water, and we’re getting some Gatorade for the first responders coming down now. 

“And we’ve had a lot of people donating money, we’ve been passing that off to people in the community who are going out to the stores and buying stuff and coming back” he continued. “So the response has been tremendous.”

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Yellowstone Works To Empty Park, Restore Roads, Provide Services To Stranded Communities

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By Leo Wolfson, Jimmy Orr and Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park officials continued their efforts to clear the park of visitors on Tuesday as they made plans to repair extensive damage caused by record flooding.

Park Superintendent Cam Sholly, in an email outlining the park’s long- and short-term objectives in the wake of the flooding that forced the park’s closure Monday, said the park was still working to clear the park’s southern loop on Tuesday morning.

In addition, the park was working to determine whether it needed to begin evacuations of the park’s backcountry as well.

At the same time, the park was working make roads such as the Old Gardiner Road passable to allow people who have been stranded by rising waters and collapsing roads a way out of the area.

“Work should begin on this today or tomorrow once precipitation subsides,” Sholly’s email said. “Plan will be to use this road for (administrative) and to evacuate visitors from Gardiner (Montana) should (U.S. Highway) 89 remain impassable.”

Sholly’s email was delivered Tuesday morning, while the park planned to issue more detailed information during a news conference at 4 p.m.

Torrential Rains

The Montana communities of Gardiner, Red Lodge, Cooke City and Silver Gate have been heavily impacted by the flooding, the result of several days of torrential rain falling on melting snow.

Silver Gate, just north of the park, received more than 2.8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Cooke City reportedly received 5.5 inches.

Sholly said one of the park’s objectives in the short term would be to remove visitors in Gardiner and supply the town’s residents with food, water and medicine as necessary. In addition, the park is trying to find lodging for park employees who lost their residence when a house used by park employees toppled into the river on Monday.

Calm Despite Upheaval

Despite the problems in Gardiner, a private guided tour company based in the community said the town’s residents remained calm.

“We are all blocked in and have no roads to drive out,” Yellowstone Insight posted on Facebook.

The company also commented on the loss of the park employee house, posting photos of the building as it broke away from its foundation and fell into the river.

“As the sun set over Gardiner this evening, a house was swept away, only to be given the execution blow by the high water trying to get below the Corwin Springs Bridge just 7 miles down river from Gardiner,” the post read.

By Tuesday, a “GoFundMe” page established to help those living in the house, who reportedly were forced to leave many of their belongings behind, had raised more than $16,000.

Another “GoFundMe” page established Monday to help pay for repairs caused by flooding outside of the park had raised $130 by Tuesday afternoon.

Safe Water Supply

In addition to flooded and collapsed roads in and around the park, the flooding damaged the park’s water and wastewater systems, destroying sewer lines in Gardiner and Mammoth. Sholly’s memo said the park has already started work to repair the damage.

While the floods were more damaging and dangerous in the park’s northern half, its southern half was closed in part due to damage to the water and wastewater systems.

Videos posted by the park to its Facebook page showed portions of the park’s North entrance road washed out by the floods.

There was no mention in Sholly’s email about restoring roadways and infrastructure in park’s northern loop, but he did reference changes to the park’s southern loop reservation system.

“(The park will) prepare strategy for reservation system for southern loop for the remainder of the year,” it said. “We will not allow full visitation into the southern loop when it reopens and are working on options to control the amount of visitors who can enter the park.”

He added it was unlikely the southern loop would open before Saturday.

More Help Needed

As park officials developed their plans, a part-time Cooke City resident said he was unhappy more attention as not being paid to the community, which was out of power as of Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Kearney is a part time Cody resident who owns a vacation rental cabin in Cooke City. He’s frustrated with the government for not giving Cooke City more National Guard support, as he said the town requested before flooding started on Saturday. As of Tuesday afternoon, he said there was one National Guard member stationed at the town.

“They should’ve been a little more prepared,” he said. “Once again our government officials are failing to perform again.”

Due to the difficulty of bringing gravel and heavy equipment to Cooke City from the only road that can access it right now in Cody, waiting for water levels to fall is likely the most immediate solution the town of 140 residents can hope for. 

Kearney said the situation in Cooke City is improving as the level of Soda Butte had receded slightly. But many concerns still remain as rising temperatures later in the week will bring the creek levels back up again.

Kearney said the road from the Northeast Entrance into the Lamar Valley is still passable, but he has no idea beyond that.

It’s a tough situation to bear for Kearney, who also owns a motel in Cody. He said the gas prices have put a damper on that business, with visitor numbers falling by about 40% from last year so far this summer.

“The whole economy is slowly coming apart,” he said.

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Wyo Meteorologist Don Day Scoffs At Media Blaming Climate Change For Yellowstone Flooding

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming meteorologist is taking exception to claims that the historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park this week is the result of climate change.

Don Day, the founder and CEO of Day Weather, on Tuesday scoffed at the statement of a Los Angeles Times reporter that warm weather on the East coast, wildfires in the southwest and the Yellowstone floods are proof of the weather phenomena.

“This is what climate change looks like,” Sammy Roth, an LA Times energy reporter, said in an emotional tweet.

Day, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, differed with Roth’s conclusion.

“If these people had any understanding of weather history or what has happened in the past with weather and climate across the globe, then they would have an appreciation that things like this happen all the time and they happened all the time before the Industrial Revolution,” Day said.

No matter what the weather, Day said, some people will will blame climate change for everything.

According to proponents of the concept, Day said, in the absence of climate change, there would be no floods, no fires, no heat waves, no blizzards and no extreme cold.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Day said. “These are totally sensationalistic and emotional statements.”

Yellowstone was closed and evacuated Monday in what at least one former federal official said was the park’s first complete closure in its 150-year history.

Park officials were prompted to take the action by flooding of area rivers swollen to levels not seen for decades by torrential rain and melting snow.

The flooding wiped out roads in the northern part of the park and damaged water and wastewater systems. Superintendent Cam Sholly has said it will be at least Saturday before the southern half of the park can be reopened.

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Clarks Fork Of Yellowstone River At Highest Flood Level Ever Recorded

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Rivers in and around Yellowstone National Park have swollen to record levels this week, destroying roads, sweeping houses off their foundations, and stranding visitors and residents in the area.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey, which tracks river flows and water levels in the area, showed the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River was at the highest flood level ever recorded, according to Cheryl Miller, a hydrologist with the USGS.

“It is the highest flow we have on record, and that’s 100 years’ worth of data,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “Previously, the highest discharge was in 1981 at 14,800 (cubic feet per second) and today we measured 23,900.”

Torrential rains have fallen for the past several days on melting snow left by a blizzard in the area, resulting in flooding, rockslides, mudslides and collapsing roads that prompted park officials to remove all visitors from the park Monday



Rivers across the area are running well above normal, according to the USGS, which has almost 300 stream gauges in Wyoming and Montana, including some in locations where river depths have been monitored for almost 120 years.

The stream gauges collect data every 15 minutes and on the hour the information is transmitted to the internet.

Jason Swanson and Jacob Neumiller, USGS employees based in Casper, were on a bridge over the South Fork of the Shoshone River on Monday afternoon, measuring the stream flow and validating the readings from an upstream gauge.

Those gauges showed that the South Fork of the Shoshone River, which runs from the Absaroka Mountains in Yellowstone National Park, is flowing more than four times faster and higher than this time last year. As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, the Shoshone was running at 6,060 cfs. On the same date and time last year, the river was flowing at just 1,310 cfs.

The Clarks Fork, which flows southeast into the Shoshone National Forest in northwest Wyoming, east of Yellowstone National Park, then northeast back into Montana, has blown by its previous record high levels near Belfry, Montana, just across the Wyoming state line. 



Measurements Monday showed its depth at 12.76 feet – compared to the previous record high of 9.97 feet on June 9, 1981. 

Miller noted that the water level has risen sharply just over the last few days.

“On June 9, (the river) was down more like 5 feet of gauge height at Clarks Fork Yellowstone,” she said, “where today it’s up to almost 13 (feet).”

But Miller said that the current flooding situation has affected the agency’s ability to report at some locations.

“We lost the gauge on Rock Creek up (in Red Lodge, Montana) because the river bridge washed away,” she said.

More Wild Video From The Flooding In Yellowstone; House Breaks Off Into Raging River

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

More dramatic images and video emerged on Monday from the flooding in Yellowstone National Park.

Bridges have been ripped apart, roads have crumbled and fallen into rivers, and whole downtowns have been turned into raging waterways.

Monday afternoon, photographer Deby Dixon captured video footage of park employee housing falling into the Yellowstone River.

Courtesy Deby Dixon, Deby’s Wild World

Dixon said townspeople from Gardiner, Montana, gathered near the doomed structure to watch “as the Yellowstone River continues to rage.”

Steve Rupno, another resident, took footage of the same house but on the other side of the river and provided a vantage point showing just how the swollen river was pounding against the foundation of the structure.

“More of the hill just gave [away],” he called out.

With every passing moment, dirt, rocks, and parts of the foundation broke off into the water.

A nearby garage was first to go. It was all but a certainty as nothing was under more than half of the structure. It was teetering out over the river as the waters pounded the riverbank.

And just like that, gravity won.

“The house might be okay, only time will tell,” Dixon said.

Time did tell and the house was not okay.

The weather belied the situation.

It was sunny with little wind. But the elements were too much as the house finally succumbed to the waters.

In the video Dixon captured, nothing was said.  It was a fait accompli.

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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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Huge Flooding Forces Evacuation Of Yellowstone National Park; Wild Videos Show Destruction

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park was emptied of visitors on Monday for what some believe was the first time in its history as continued rains exacerbated flooding that forced the closure of all of the park’s entries earlier in the day.

The park’s northern loop was evacuated Monday morning and officials began removing visitors in the southern loop in the afternoon, said park Superintendent Cam Sholly.

“We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we’re able to assess the damage throughout the park,” he said. “It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time.”

Torrential rains falling on melting snow created what the park called “extremely hazardous conditions” and led to flooding, rockslides, mudslides and road collapses, forcing the evacuation of the park’s northern loop Monday morning.

“Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the park’s southern loop, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin to move visitors in the southern loop out of the park later today in coordination with our in-park business partners.”

Ryan Hauck, executive director of the Park County Travel Council, told Cowboy State Daily that Sholly told him the park should re-open in two days.

Rob Wallace, a former assistant secretary for the Department of Interior who oversaw the National Park Service, told Cowboy State Daily he believes this may be the first time in the park’s 150-year history it has been completely closed.

There was no immediate indication of how many visitors might have been in Yellowstone when the evacuation order was issued.

Rain had been falling on the area for several consecutive days, speeding the melt of snow left by a weekend blizzard and creating the historic floods.

As of Monday morning, a number of locations in and around the park reported receiving more than 1 inch of rain in the previous 24 hours. The rain was particularly heavy at Silver Gate just north of the park, which recorded 2.8 inches of moisture.

Getting Out

People leaving the park reported having to drive through flooded byways.

Ben Smith, a resident from Utah, took video while he was getting out of Silver Gate, Montana, about 2 miles north of Yellowstone, heading east to Cooke City, Montana — normally a 3-minute drive.

Smith told Cowboy State Daily that he found the last way out of Silver Gate over a small bridge above the Bannock Trail.  

A video shows him crossing a river following two other vehicles and driving through rushing water.

Moments later he posted another video showing a front loader and fire trucks helping other vehicles across the washed out roadway.



Other video surfaced on social media throughout the day including a bridge getting washed away in Carbella, Montana, near Tom Miner Basin.



Another video in Gardiner, Montana, showed a riverside home losing its deck as the swollen waters ripped it from the house into a river.


Red Lodge, Montana, near the northern Wyoming border, is dealing with rampant flooding as well. The 19th Street bridge was severely damaged, causing water to flow through downtown Red Lodge. 

Video from Red Lodge showed a submerged roadway and the remnants of the 19th Street bridge, according to a Twitter user who filmed the flooding.

“Flood waters through that guys house,” she said,  “That’s his garage.  Gone.  Rock Creek Is flowing down Broadway.”

Red Lodge Fire reported one area of the town was under an evacuation order beginning at 7 p.m. Monday.

Public shelter was being made available in town.

RLF said Rock Creek and the West Fork of Rock Creek appeared to have crested and will soon see a reduction in flow and height. The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone was not expected to crest until around midnight Monday and was expected to rise another 12  to 18 inches before cresting.

The fire department said the Clarks Fork crest will be at a historic level of around 10.5 to 11 feet. The record high is 9.5 feet.

As visitors left the park, nearby communities unaffected by the flooding offered assistance in helping them find lodging and food.

Ryan Hauck said his organization has been receiving “dozens” of calls from people visiting Yellowstone now searching for a place to stay in Cody.

His organization sent out notifications on social media letting the public know his staff will help people with re-booking efforts. Yellowstone concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection put out a similar notice letting people know PCTC is available.

To the south in Jackson, Teton County was providing camping space at its fairgrounds and state officials were working to provide shelters as needed for people who were removed from the park.

Monday afternoon, the park’s South, West and East gates remained open to allow visitors to leave, but Hauck said Sylvan Pass near the East Entrance may close soon due mudslides and other extreme conditions.

The North and Northwest entrances were already closed. Hauck said he received word from Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly the Park will be closed for the next two days before reopening on Thursday.

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Yellowstone Closed Through Wednesday Due To Massive Rockslides, Flooding

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

All entrances to Yellowstone National Park were closed Monday and would be through at least Wednesday as heavy rain falling on melting snow caused significant flooding and road damage, park officials announced.

Calling it “extremely hazardous conditions,” authorities evacuated the northern portion of the park due to flooding, rockslides and mudslides caused by record rainfall.

Park officials announced on Monday afternoon that the park would be closed to visitors until at least Wednesday.

“Red Lodge, Montana, is a river right now and we have some flooding on the west of Cody,” Cody Beers, a Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman, told Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve never heard of Yellowstone closing the entire park to inbound traffic, though.”

Footage from the storms showed roads collapsing into raging rivers and logs piled high on the shores.



The electricity was out in several areas of the park as of Monday morning.

All inbound traffic to the park was halted until conditions stabilized and park officials could assess damage to the roads, bridges and other facilities. The visitors turned away included those with lodging and camping reservations.

Many of the park roads could be closed for an extended period of time, according to park officials.

“It’s just been multiple days of rain up in this area, plus we had snow on Memorial Day weekend,” Beers said. “It’s a rare day when we have water levels that reached the bottom of our bridges.”

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said flood advisories surround Yellowstone because of the “huge amount of snow” coupled with the significant rain.

“I don’t think anyone thought the runoff would be as big as this,” he said.

Beers said WYDOT will continue to monitor the weather events in the northwestern portion of the state and how they might affect roads.

He recommended anyone traveling toward Yellowstone wait a day or two for officials to figure out how long certain roads will be closed and whether the rainfall in the area will continue.

“Be careful out there, because Mother Nature’s fury is showing itself right now,” Beers said.

Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly said on Monday that staff’s first priority was to evacuate the northern section of the park, where there were 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,” Sholly said. “Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the park’s southern loop, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin to move visitors in the southern loop out of the park later today in coordination with our in-park business partners.”

Sholly said it was likely the northern loop of the park would be closed for a substantial amount of time.

“I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and of our gateway community partners who are helping us through this major event,” he said. “We appreciate the support offered by the Department of Interior, National Park Service and the Montana and Wyoming governors.”



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Wyoming Artist Creates “How-To-Die In Yellowstone” Coloring Book

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Although too early to call it a stocking stuffer, those who plan ahead may want to stock-up now.

With the recent spate of bison gorings, moose stompings, and bear maulings, it may make a family think twice before booking a trip to Yellowstone or any other national park in the West.

Because one minute, the family is enjoying a snack while watching Old Faithful erupt and the next minute Aunt Carmen has been depantsed by a bison or the 9-year-old daughter has been flipped by a buffalo.

To help parents teach their children that Yellowstone National Park is not Disneyland, a coloring book has been created by Wyoming artist Andy Robbins.

Not For Everyone

“Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book” is not the average coloring book. It gets graphic at times but the author forewarns crayon artists of its gory content.

“This coloring book isn’t for everyone!” the preface reads. “It depicts scenes of graphic violence, including disembowelment, dismemberment, electrocution, and immolation. Recommended for mature colorists only!”

On Robbins’ website, he further cautions: “ If there’s a way to die in Yellowstone, you’ll find it pictured here, ready for your coloring enjoyment.”


Andy Robbins, Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book

One of the first pages available for coloring shows the unfortunate results of a bison impaling a young woman who is holding a selfie stick. 

How to color the spraying innards is up to artist, of course, although one Instagram user recommended silver for the selfie-stick, pink for the kidneys, and burgundy for the bowels. 

“I can’t stop laughing,” she said. “That book is excellent.”


Andy Robbins, Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book

On another page, a young man who seems to be boiling in a hot spring can be brought back to life with crayons.

A tourist, meanwhile, is taking a photo of the bubbling corpse on her smart phone while a younger boy nonchalantly watches with a juice box in hand.


Andy Robbins, Yellowstone National Park: A Cautionary Coloring Book

Even more graphic pages follow, like the depiction of two bears dining on a hiker. The hiker, incidentally, looks similar to the guy who just got boiled. If so, not a great vacation for him.

One bear has a severed arm in its mouth with the hand still holding what appears to be bear spray.

The other bear seems to be enjoying the hiker’s foot while his car keys, intestine, and heart are all airborne.  

There does appear to be some gratuitous violence on this page, however, as an eyeball is popping out of its socket for no apparent reason.

Saying that, there are plenty of opportunities for good coloring on this page. So unnecessary violence be damned.

“Practical and fun!” wrote one commenter. While another said, “Oh, the grandkids will love this!”

Five Stars


Everyone on Amazon appears to love it as well.  Five stars across the board, which is hard to get.

“A masterpiece!” wrote one reviewer, acknowledging that a sense of humor is required for maximum enjoyment. “Just received this book and I can’t stop laughing as I flip through the pages.”

Another reviewer found the book “informative.”

“I had a lot of fun coloring these pages and learned a lot about how to not die in Yellowstone National Park,” she wrote.

Downloadable Map

For those who don’t want to wait to receive the book, there is a handy map available to download which could be of some assistance.

Just in time for Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary celebration, Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher and graphic artist Tim Mandese created a map of Yellowstone entitled “Scaldings, Maulings, Murders And Other Unnatural Deaths” for your enjoyment.

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Realtors Say Fans of “Yellowstone” TV Series Trying To Buy Ranches In Wyoming

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wendy@CowboyStateDaily.com

“We’re with the Yellowstone. Nobody’s gonna mess with us.”

That quote, spoken by the character “Jimmy Hurdstrom” on Paramount TV’s popular series, “Yellowstone,” embodies the spirit of the show, set on the fictional Dutton family ranch just outside Yellowstone National Park.

The popularity of the series has encouraged would-be Duttons to try their luck out west, hoping to acquire their own piece of property to launch their own family legacy.

“One client I had told me they always wanted to be a cowboy,” said Julie Snelson with Peaks to Prairie Realty in Cody. “Then they started watching ‘Yellowstone’ and came here and bought a house. It was because of their fascination with the show, and they just wanted to be by Yellowstone. They even said it’s kind of an obsession.”

“These are highly educated professionals,” she added.

House In Yellowstone?

Snelson told Cowboy State Daily that she has had other clients contact her because of their interest in the television show – and were under the mistaken impression that they could actually live in the Park.

“A gentleman called me and said he wanted to purchase a home in Yellowstone,” Snelson said. “I explained that is not possible. Then I started explaining the lay of the land – the North Fork (highway between Cody and Yellowstone), the National Forest and then National Park. So then he wanted to buy a property in the National Forest…  He said he was unhappy on the east coast and he just knew living by Yellowstone would change his life.”

“A lot of people are wanting to move out of the crazy, chaotic big cities and come to a more comfortable, relaxing town such as Cody and all over the Bighorn basin,” said Jona Harris, a realtor in Cody. “They want that out of town experience, with the river running through their property.”

Harris, who is a big fan of the show, said the appeal of the show, for her, is the intrigue – characters backstabbing each other, the romances, the twists and turns of the plot.

But she acknowledges that the romance of the mountain setting could be inspirational to those who don’t live here.

“I do see the correlation between the show and then wanting to come out here and have the experience of the old cowboy vibe,” she said.

The same thing is happening in Montana. An investment group owner told CNBC that the demand for property has spiked since the TV show began.

“We’ve had an influx of all sorts of wealthy individuals looking for ranches,” Robert Keith, founder of boutique investment firm Beartooth Group, told CNBC. “They’re looking to own really amazing large properties.”

Low Inventory

However, those large properties really aren’t that available, at least in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming realtors have very little to offer right now in terms of large ranch properties. Many such locations were snatched up in 2020 and 2021, when city dwellers with extra cash were looking for a less restrictive place to live.

Because of low inventory and high demand, housing prices have skyrocketed, impacting property taxes for residents.  So the added interest by fans of the “Yellowstone” series has put more pressure on an already-stretched housing market.

“We don’t have, like, large ranches,” said Harris, “but we do have some options for that out of town living that offers acreage.”

Residents of northwest Wyoming caution, though, that there’s a difference between what people see on TV and what it’s actually like living in the mountain west.

“The show never depicts the winter or the wind,” said Cody resident Lance Mathess. “Winters here are harsh and long. Like the bison, you have to be built to survive.”

However, Mathess told Cowboy State Daily he’s still a big fan of the “Yellowstone” series.

“I like the almost Godfather-esque flavor of the show,” he said. “Like Don Corleone, John Dutton displays an overwhelming patriarchal caring for his family and his legacy. In fact, a great deal of the show mirrors The Godfather in many respects.”

Going to Wyoming

Although the show is set in Montana, the title “Yellowstone” does link Wyoming heavily to the setting. However, the Cowboy State is only really referenced when the Duttons want to off someone that has crossed the family.

“You want off this ranch, you got it,” said the character Rip Wheeler in one episode. “I’ll drive your *ss to the train station myself.”

The “train station” refers to a roadside cliff in Wyoming that the Dutton family and ranch hands use to dispose of the dead bodies of anyone who has crossed them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Wyoming fans of the show are any less interested in celebrating the success of the series. Cole Hauser, the actor who plays Rip Wheeler in “Yellowstone,” will be the grand marshal in Cody’s Stampede Parade on July 4.

“I’m so excited because he and Beth are my favorite couple on the show,” said Harris. “And so I do think that him coming and being the marshal of the Fourth of July parade is really going to bring a whole new vibe to the parade.”

So long as no one gets taken to the train station.

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Yellowstone’s Mount Doane Is No Longer, Name Changed To ‘First Peoples’ Mountain’

in Yellowstone/News
20813

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

A prominent peak in Yellowstone National Park will now honor Native American heritage.

On Thursday, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved the change of 10,551-foot Mount Doane to First Peoples’ Mountain.

The federal body responsible for maintaining uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government voted 15-0 for the name change. 

In 2019, the Wyoming Board on Geographical Names (WBGN) issued a recommendation with a 6-2 vote that the name be changed to First Peoples’ Mountain. Shelley Messer, chairman of the WBGN, said she was informed by a member of the national board that the state’s board recommendation was taken into consideration.

“It feels good to be appreciated,” Messer said.

Mount Doane, located near Yellowstone Lake and the East Yellowstone Park entrance outside Cody, was named after Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a Cavalry officer in the U.S. Army.  He escorted the historic Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition into Yellowstone in 1870, one of the first missions to explore the Park region. 

However, earlier that same year, Doane led an attack, in response to the alleged murder of a white fur trader, on a tribe of Blackfeet Native American people in Montana. During what is now known as the Marias Massacre, at least 173 were killed, including many women, elderly tribal members and children suffering from smallpox. 

Doane wrote fondly about this attack more than 20 years later and was said to have bragged about it for the rest of his life.

The State board studied the matter for around two years before making its vote. 

“We’re pleased,” Messer said. “We put a lot of effort and time into researching that.”

Yellowstone conducted outreach to all 27 associated Tribes over the past several months and in May, the National Park Service gave its approval for the name change. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Council also pushed for the change.

Linda Veress, a spokesperson for Yellowstone, said a similar name change occurred involving Indian Pond, located just north of Yellowstone Lake. 

“Park superintendent  P.W. Norris named the lake Indian Pond in 1880,” Veress said. “For unknown reasons, another superintendent changed it to an offensive name in the 1920s. A park place-names committee restored the name Indian Pond in 1981.”

Still being considered is a proposal to rename Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley to Buffalo Nations Valley. This change involves Ferdinand Hayden, an explorer and geologist who supported naming the mountain for Doane. 

Hayden also allegedly advocated for the genocide and extermination of Native Americans in the 1871 Geological Survey, but it unclear how involved he was in the writing of this publication.  He is also credited with convincing Congress to make Yellowstone a national park.

There is also a task force working under U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s 2021 order to rename all American landmarks containing the word “squaw.” It will present results this fall.

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Wyoming Radio Host’s List Of Top Places To Get Gored By Bison Is Accurate — And Helpful

in Yellowstone/News
20709

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

In the spirit of those top-ten lists ranking things like best restaurants in an area, top coffee shops, or lowest-priced gas stations, a Wyoming radio host on Monday put together a humorous — and timely — list called “5 Best Places To Get Gored By A Bison In Wyoming.”

Although Glenn Woods’ list was meant to be funny (and it is), there’s also a lot of truth to it. There are places in Wyoming where you stand a much better chance of getting gored, flipped, impaled, dismembered, or stomped-on by wild animals than others.

Yellowstone is a top destination evidenced by the bison incident last week near Old Faithful where an Ohio woman was tossed 10 feet in the air after being gored.

She lived through it which helps keep the conversation light. But it’s not hyperbole to say that danger lurks around every corner in the Park.

From grizzly bears to scalding hot pools, from rutting elk to speeding cars, Yellowstone demands respect. Therein is where Mr. Woods’ list helps get that message out.

Norris Geyser Basin

Two months ago, Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher and graphic artist Tim Mandese created a map of Yellowstone, coinciding with the Park’s 150th anniversary, which details just how dangerous the location is.

“It ain’t Disneyland,” Kocher said in introducing the map, which has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

Columnist Rod Miller agreed in a subsequent column where he mentioned that slower-thinking visitors “become involuntary participants in the “Yellowstone Park Guaranteed Instant Weight Loss Program.”

The staffers in the public affairs office in Yellowstone spend much of their time reminding the public of Yellowstone’s dangers — like the hot springs.

No fewer than 18 people have died over the years at the Norris Geyser Basin because of the scalding hot, acidic water that – from a distance – is a post card of loveliness.

“They’re so beautiful, and they look like little pools of water, but in reality, there are so many dangers associated with (the hot springs),” said Linda Veress, public affairs specialist for Yellowstone National Park. “People walk off the boardwalk, they can fall through, and they can scald themselves.”

Veress pointed to the example of the 20-year-old woman from Washington state, who last October suffered burns on over 90 percent of her body when she attempted to rescue her dog, which had run into one of the hot springs. 

“And you know, people aren’t used to seeing geyser basins and hot pools where they come from,” Veress added, “so they might not recognize the dangers associated with that, and they might wander off the boardwalks to go explore. And that’s never a good idea.”

Backcountry Hiking Trails

Hiking in the backcountry of Yellowstone puts humans in the crosshairs for wild animal interactions. Six fatalities due to wildlife occurred just north of Yellowstone Lake over the years – all from run-ins with grizzly bears in their natural habitat.

The geyser basin is also the scene of multiple fatal attacks by wild animals. At least four people have died in that area of Yellowstone in the last one hundred years or so – three bear maulings and one bison attack. 

“We try to put out so many safety messages about how to hike safely in bear country,” Veress told Cowboy State Daily. “Hike in groups of three or more, carry bear spray and know how to use it, and stay out of the bear management areas when they’re closed to visitors.”

Veress pointed out the importance of maintaining proper distance from wildlife in Yellowstone.

“The distance people should stay away from wildlife is 100 yards from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife,” she said, using the analogy of the number of tour buses between visitors and animals.

 “That’s 3 buses away from bison,” she said, “and that’s the 25 yards. And then 8 buses for bears and wolves, and that’s around 100 yards.”

Roadways

Just like in urban areas, traffic accidents pose a danger to humans and animals alike. But in Yellowstone, Veress pointed out, the circumstances vary a bit.

“Some of the most dangerous places to be in the park are on the roadways,” Veress said. “Quite a few roads are narrow, windy, not a lot of shoulders, and people are looking around and enjoying the scenery and the wildlife. And we have quite a few traffic related accidents.”

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly has stated that the most congested areas in the Park are the 2.2 percent of Yellowstone in which vehicles travel. And Veress noted that the speed limits in Yellowstone are much lower than many visitors expect.

“It’s not like driving outside the park,” she said. “Where here inside the park they can come around the corner and there are people who (have parked) in the middle of the road. I’ve seen it before, where they stop in the middle of the road, throw open the doors, and run out to take photos. That’s not anything that you would see anywhere else but in a national park like Yellowstone.”

Chilly Lakes

Last year, a man’s body was found on the shore of a lake in Yellowstone National Park. Park officials reported that 67-year-old Mark O’Neill died of hypothermia in one of the larger bodies of water in the Park, Shoshone Lake – where the water temperature averages just 48 degrees. 

O’Neill and his brother, both experienced outdoorsmen and former National Park Service employees, were reported missing in late September. The body of O’Neill’s brother, retired Navy SEAL Kim Crumbo, has never been found.

“The water here in the park is high elevation and is awfully cold and so it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in,” Veress said. “The two people who went missing on the lake last year, they were very, very experienced, but the weather came in, the weather can change really fast in these high elevations. So it’s really important to be prepared, as well as to check the weather before they come.”

The National Park Service does attempt to educate visitors about the dangers of Yellowstone, handing out flyers to travelers as they enter the Park’s gates, as well as posting signs to warn tourists about various hazards. 

But often visitors fail to recognize that Yellowstone is a naturally wild place in which humans are just guests.

To learn more about how to stay safe in Yellowstone, visitors can go to the Park’s “safety” web page at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/safety.htm

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Yellowstone Is Not Hosting A “Motorized Cooler Bear Run” To Celebrate Its 150th

in Yellowstone/News
20655

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Reports that Yellowstone National Park has authorized a “bear run” to celebrate its 150th anniversary are not true.

Cowboy State Daily, on Saturday, received a number of emails from readers wondering about the authenticity of an announcement which describe a “Motorized Cooler Bear Run” where participants mount motorized coolers at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone and try to outrun bears all the way down to the south entrance.

One reader wondered if the event was scheduled to coincide with the park’s sesquicentennial celebration.

“I understand that Yellowstone is proud of its heritage, but this could be dangerous,” wrote Alicia Jessen. “Surely, there has to be a better way to raise money for the park than doing this. I hope wisdom prevails and they cancel this horrible idea.”

Fake News

Although such an event would likely attract great interest, it’s all fictitious. 

The colorful flyer, which shows a man being chased by a bear on a motorized cooler announcing the contest, was created by the founder of the popular Facebook group: “Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots.”

Jen Mignard told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday that she created the poster because she thought it would be a “pretty humorous joke” and was surprised that anyone took it seriously.

“It just goes to show that idiots abound,” Mignard said with a laugh. “Our group has been infiltrated by the people we’re showcasing.”

She may have a point. There are clues on the flyer which should give it away as a joke.

First, there’s the event itself. One might think that’s enough.

If not, well, the date of fictitious event doesn’t exist — June 31. 

It also states that her Facebook page (Invasion of the Idiots) is sponsoring the event and then there is the actual photo — clearly photoshopped.

Regardless, it’s just another day for her four-person team who moderate the page and nothing, she said, is really is that shocking to any of them.

Invasion of the Idiots

Mignard said she created the group back in 2016 as sort of an emotional support group for “locals who have to deal with the fallout of tourists and the asinine things that they sometimes do.”

“It was right after that guy had gone for a dip in the one of the thermal pools and all they ever found was his watch,” she said.

It was the same year, Mignard said, where a tourist thought a baby bison was cold and put it in the back of his car. 

“It was just constant that year,” she said.

The page has grown from 15 members in 2016 to more than 52,000 now and it continues to grow.

As for the Motorized Cooler Bear Run? Mignard said expect more fictitious events to occur later this year. 

“We have more events planned for the future,” she said, mentioning a possible “running of the bisons” coming up soon.

“We’ll keep you apprised,” she said.

In the meantime, anyone wanting to participate in the fake bear run needs to be aware that, according to the rules on the flyer, participants need to bring their own motorized cooler although rentals will be available on a first-come, first served basis.

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Man Brings Starlink On Tesla To Work Remotely From Yellowstone

in Yellowstone/News
20599

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

As society becomes more dependent on the Internet, visitors to what used to be among the most remote areas of the country — Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks — are finding ways to stay connected. 

One business owner from Idaho has taken that idea step even further as he uses advanced technology to work remotely from Yellowstone.

A video showing his Tesla on the side of the road in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone with a Starlink satellite dish perched on its hood has created a bit of a stir.



Some commenters on the YouTube video think it’s a bit much. “Do we really need internet that bad?” one person asked.

On the other hand, “If I had the option to sit in the middle of the woods and work online I’d do it too,” read another.

And that’s exactly what the driver, Idaho Falls-based web designer Jarom Manwaring, told Cowboy State Daily he was doing last week when the video captured him multi-tasking while in Yellowstone National Park.

“That was the first time I really went out and used it,” Manwaring said of the Starlink satellite. “And it worked great. I had the time of my life. I saw a beautiful grizzly I got some pictures of, I saw a den of coyote cubs and a den of wolf cubs. I just had the best 24 hours, it was wonderful. Until I got back and saw that video.”

Manwaring owns his own web design company, Manwaring Web Solutions, which builds and markets websites. Because his business requires almost constant connectivity, if he ever wants to get away from the office, he needs to have a reliable internet connection wherever he goes.

“A business owns you as much as you own it,” Manwaring said. “You know, we host websites for hospitals and such, I need to make sure that I am accessible.”

Accessible Anywhere

Which is why Manwaring said he made the investment in a remote Starlink satellite system. A lifelong Idaho Falls resident, he said he grew up with Yellowstone as his backyard, and enjoys wildlife photography. But he said it was difficult to find cell service in the Park to check in with work.

Now, he said, he has the best of both worlds.

“When Starlink came out, I mean, that was really a game changer,” Manwaring said. “The idea of being able to be accessible whenever I needed to be, wherever I might be, and it was very exciting.”

The setup wasn’t cheap, Manwaring acknowledged – Starlink’s equipment costs about $600, with monthly charges of $100-$125, and he had to buy a 2,000-watt battery to power the portable satellite uplink equipment.

“I ended up buying one that’s called a Bluetti,” he said. “It’s big and heavy, but it powers everything. It’ll probably power a Starlink setup like that for maybe 24 hours total.”

Work Together

But because he drives a Tesla, Manwaring said, the two machines act symbiotically.

“One of the benefits of having a Tesla is, I’m sitting on a 100-kilowatt-hour battery, so that takes about 2% of my Tesla to fill that battery back up,” he said. “So I can have it plugged into my car while I’m driving around and keep it topped off.” 

And the National Park Service is doing more to assist drivers of vehicles like Manwaring’s Tesla. 

“Yellowstone has, I think, made more concerted efforts at having charge stations for electric vehicles than Grand Teton National Park,” said Manwaring. “To my knowledge, there’s not a single publicly available electric charging station in Grand Teton National Park; versus with Yellowstone, there are several of them – in Mammoth, there are some at Old Faithful, Lake, and Canyon, and then some outside the Park. 

“If I go to West Yellowstone or Jackson, they have Tesla superchargers,” he continued. “I can fill my car from empty up to the brim in an hour. If you’re going to spend any amount of time in the Park in an electric vehicle, you need access to these.” 

Never Turn Car Off

There are also ecological benefits to driving an electric vehicle through Yellowstone, Manwaring pointed out.

“There’s no exhaust in a Tesla,” he said. “Before I had my Tesla, I had a big F-350 that I would drive through the park, and I was always really conscious about, if I was sitting somewhere for too long, maybe waiting for a bear that’s expected to be in the area or something, of idling for too long.”

But when he would turn his truck off, Manwaring noted, he would either get cold or hot, depending on weather conditions. 

“What’s awesome about a Tesla is you don’t really ever have to turn it off,” he said. “So you can get somewhere and stop and just tell it to keep the climate control on. And that’s one of the things that I love the most about the car, if I’m being honest.”

For drivers of electric and combustion-engine vehicles alike, cell service is also a priority. At a meeting in Cody last week, Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins told community leaders that Grand Teton has improved its internet and cell service availability.

“When you visit Grand Teton this summer, one of the things that you’ll be able to do is make better use of your electronic devices,” Jenkins said. “Years of work – we have expanded the broadband and cell coverage in the Park. Just about every developed area in the park has cell coverage now.”

Not Addicted

But contrary to what the viral video inferred, Manwaring’s Tesla isn’t “addicted” to the internet.

“They do work best when they have a cell phone connection, because all of the infotainment and the navigation features rely on that,” he explained. “But (when you don’t have cell service), it’s not like all the screens go dark and you’re flying blind. It’s just that anything that required a data connection stopped working. Honestly, it doesn’t feel much different than if you were in a regular engine vehicle.”

Now that he’s got his remote work setup, Manwaring said he has the ability to spend more time doing the things he loves.

“I wouldn’t be able to spend very much time up there if I had to be disconnected,” he said. “I’d probably have to find a different hobby.”

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Yellowstone FedEx’d Three Bison To Alaska For $50,000

in Yellowstone/News
(Photo illustration Tim Mandese)
20505

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

One of the many priorities for Yellowstone National Park administrators is the repopulation of healthy, genetically pure bison herds across the United States.

And when bison from America’s first national park are sent to Native American tribes throughout the country, the animals absolutely, positively have to get there — well, maybe not overnight, but quickly. 

So it’s no big surprise a nationally known shipping company was called in to help.

The park is sending bison to tribes across the country so they can begin their own bison herds to honor the culture of the tribes.

“Bison are really important culturally and historically to the tribes,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly. “The genetics of the Yellowstone bison are very pure, and so it’s been fantastic to get the Yellowstone bison on to 19 different tribal lands.”

But when a tribe from Alaska requested bison from Yellowstone last fall, the tribe’s preferred method of shipping was… unusual.

“They actually drove the three bison from Fort Peck (Montana) all the way to Seattle,” Sholly told Cowboy State Daily, “and then put them in a FedEx crate. And obviously they were configured so the bison were comfortable, and then put them onto a plane and flew the bison up to Alaska.”



Sholly said from the airport, the three bison were transferred to a barge, where they floated to the tribe’s island community.

“I understand the bill was like $50,000,” he said. “The government didn’t pay for it, it was tribes and philanthropy and some other ways of paying for that.” 

Federal Express declined to be interviewed for this story.

The export of Yellowstone bison to tribes across the country is an ecological triumph.

Yellowstone is the only place in the lower 48 states to have a continuously free-ranging bison population since prehistoric times. However, as of 120 years ago, there were only around two dozen bison left in Yellowstone National Park due to decades of hunting and poaching. 

Since 1902, however, Park officials have made a dedicated effort to rebuild the herd. As of the summer of 2021, there were a total of about 5,450 bison in the two primary Yellowstone herds (northern and central). 

Park managers have been so successful in repopulating the species that they now face the challenge of managing the migratory bison that frequently roam beyond the park’s borders and onto private land, as well as land managed by other federal agencies.

Save The Bison

In an effort to keep the herds at a controllable number, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) was established in 2000. The eight groups involved in the plan, who play a role in making decisions about Yellowstone bison, include tribal nations.

“Tribes were here for 10,000-plus years before Yellowstone ever became a Park,” Sholly pointed out, stressing the importance of including Native Americans in the conversation regarding the Park’s bison herd.

One of the goals of the IBMP is to reduce the number of bison that are consigned to slaughter every year, Sholly noted.

So rather than send the animals off to be butchered, the federal government, state of Montana and the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes at Fort Peck created a program in which animals are held in a quarantine facility to ensure they are free of the contagious disease brucellosis.

“We’ve just put a $1 million into the expansion of our bison conservation transfer program, which puts live, disease-free bison on to tribal landscapes,” Sholly said. “We’ve transferred over 200 In the last two and a half years to Fort Peck, where the Assiniboine and Sioux are, in concert with the Intertribal buffalo Council. Those 200 bison have been transferred to 19 tribes across nine states, including Alaska.”

The first export of bison from Yellowstone occurred in 2019, when park officials moved 55 bison to the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Because Montana law prohibits the live transfer of Yellowstone bison to new areas unless they are first certified as brucellosis-free, the animals had been held at the quarantine facility for 17 months and had undergone rigorous testing for signs the disease that induces abortions in pregnant cattle, elk, and bison.

“We need to continue to reduce the potential for transmission of brucellosis to livestock,” Sholly said. “The bison we’ve transferred up to the Assiniboine and Sioux in Fort Peck have gone through the brucellosis protocol, so they’re deemed brucellosis free… and allowable to be transferred to the tribes.”

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Finally! Yellowstone’s Highest-Altitude Road Open For First Time In Two Years.

in Yellowstone/News
20159

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The Fourth Earl of Dunraven would be pleased.

The pass that is named in his honor, which is the highest altitude road in Yellowstone National Park, will open for the first time in two years on Friday, with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the Anglo-Irish nobleman for whom the nearby Dunraven Peak is named.

It’s been a while since drivers could use the road. It’s been closed for the last two years as part of a $28 million improvement project.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said the work was sorely needed.

“This is a section of road that hasn’t been worked on since the 1930s,” he said.

Since 2020, with Dunraven Pass closed, anyone traveling the northern loop of roads in Yellowstone has had to go miles out of their way to access the Northeast Entrance from the south or east.

“Once again, the circle between Cody, Cooke City (Montana), Lamar Valley, Dunraven and back to Cody will be back open,” Sholly said. 

The opening of the road will be celebrated by Park staff, as well as Cody community leaders, as the area is closest to the East Entrance of Yellowstone. There will be an official ribbon cutting at noon on Friday.

And it’s not just Cody leaders who are anxiously awaiting the opening of Dunraven Pass.

“We’re excited to be able to tell people they can venture back to there,” said Katrina Wiese, the CEO of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

Nearly 9,000 Feet

The pass, at 8,859 feet, is the highest pass in Yellowstone. The 6-mile road, which splits off from the Grand Loop Road, leads to Mount Washburn and connects Tower Junction with the Canyon developed area.

Nearby Dunraven Peak was named in 1878 by Henry Gannett, a geographer working with the U.S. Geological Survey. Gannett was inspired by Lord Dunraven’s 1876 book, The Great Divide, in which Dunraven devoted over 150 pages to Yellowstone, after his participation in a hunting expedition there in 1874. 

The pass on the Grand Loop Road between Tower and Canyon was named for the nearby mountain.

More Road Openings

Dunraven Pass won’t be the only scenic route opening Friday. Two other scenic drives in the area — the Beartooth Highway just northeast of the Park, and Highway 14A over the northern Big Horn Mountains — will also open for the season.

However, other popular routes in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks will be undergoing reconstruction this summer.

“The largest project that we have going on at Grand Teton this summer is the wholesale reconstruction of part of the Moose-Wilson Road,” said Chip Jenkins, Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. “That’s the road that goes from Moose, where park headquarters in the visitor center is, to the Jackson Hole resort village.”

Jenkins and Sholly both praised Congress for making road construction projects like these possible – especially considering the increased traffic that the Parks have witnessed in recent years.

“Thanks to funding from Congress, the Great American Outdoors Act has provided a significant amount of funding to parks here in Wyoming,” said Jenkins. 

At the celebration of the opening of the Old Faithful Inn earlier this month, Sholly noted that construction projects such as these are absolutely necessary.

“We are doing the very best that we can to protect the infrastructure of this park,” he said. “And at the same time, understanding that we’ll continue to have deferred maintenance needs. And we’ll continue to need to make future investments to protect the investments that we’re making today to prevent them from deteriorating into the future.”

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With Surging Visitation, Yellowstone Superintendent Worries About Working Toilets Not Old Faithful

in Yellowstone/News
20082

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

High visitor numbers at Yellowstone National Park don’t pose a problem for the park’s natural resources, according to Superintendent Cam Sholly.

But if certain infrastructure and staffing needs aren’t met, those nearly 5 million people visiting the park each year may have trouble finding a working toilet, Sholly told Cowboy State Daily.

At Cody’s annual “Parks Day” event, when superintendents from area parks and leaders of state agencies converge in Cody, Sholly and Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins told local business people and community leaders that increased visitation isn’t their biggest concern.

“This notion that you see in the press many times about visitors overrunning the parks is not happening in a large part in Yellowstone,” Sholly said. “Most of that park never sees a visitor. Of Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, 1,750 acres are roads, parking lots and pull outs… Our numbers show that upwards of 90% (of visitors) never get more than a half-mile away from their cars.”

Sholly acknowledged that there is a significant issue with visitation at certain times of the year in certain places in the park, but those pressures would not result in a “cap” on visitation to Yellowstone.

“We’ve really embarked on a very aggressive monitoring program to articulate and be able to determine what the actual impacts to Yellowstone resources are, that are correlated to visitation,” Sholly said.

“There’ll be some areas of the park in the future years where you won’t just be able to show up whenever you want. You’re going to have to do a little bit better trip planning,” he said. “That’ll come together, that’s not imminent, but that is something that we’re thinking about at Midway Geyser Basin, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris, Old Faithful.”

“We’re not going to surprise you and say ‘Hey, guess what, next year there’s going to be a reservation system in Yellowstone,’” Sholly continued. “We’ll have plenty of time to look at options and figure out what’s happening.”

Affecting Infrastructure

Rather than harming the natural resources of the Park, Sholly said, the increasing numbers of visitors each year is instead affecting the infrastructure of the developed areas.

“The impacts of having a million more people flushing the toilet five times a day on your wastewater treatment facilities – that’s a big impact,” he said. “Especially when your wastewater treatment facilities, and we’ve got 10 of them, are already over capacity. The impacts of cleaning, you know, 700 bathrooms four times a day instead of two, or emptying 2,500 garbage cans three times a day instead of one. 

“Guess what that takes?” Sholly asked. “That takes people.”

In 2019, Tony Aiuppa, Engineer Equipment Operator, traveled 18,000 miles within the park and pumped 330,000 gallons of human waste.

“Some would say it’s the most important job in Yellowstone. Well, if it’s not number one, it’s definitely number two,” Aiuppa said.

Securing Housing

But Sholly said the staffing concerns don’t center around hiring enough qualified people. Instead, it’s securing housing for the increased number of staff required to serve the higher number of visitors.

“If you just take Mammoth (Hot Springs) as an example, we have 100 employees in Mammoth that live in Gardiner (Montana, the closest community), and they bought their houses in the 1990s, early 2000s, when it was affordable,” Sholly explained. “And 60 of those 100 are going to retire in the next 12 months. So, when you go to replace those 60 positions, where are they going to live? 

“The cheapest house in Gardiner is like $699,000 for 1,171 square feet,” he noted. “And then every rental is an Airbnb or VRBO.” 

Sholly noted that he has heard criticism about how as superintendent he is too focused on the park’s infrastructure. But he defended his position.

“Where do you think a wildlife biologist is going to live?” he asked. “Or a scientist, or whatever, the bathroom cleaner? They can’t afford $699,000. I mean, there’s no rentals, and if there were rentals, they’d run $3,000 plus a month.”

Need More Housing

Jenkins noted that administrators at Grand Teton National Park are also putting a tremendous effort into making sure staff there have proper housing.

“At Grand Teton, we have 85% of our entire workforce housed in government housing,” he said. “We all pay rent, and that rent goes back into maintaining our facilities, but we project that within six years it will probably be up to 95%.”

Jenkins noted that a recent budget request to Congress would earmark almost $8 million for housing across the entire National Park Service.

“A significant portion of that would actually come to Grand Teton to help us construct new housing, as well as adaptively reuse historic buildings that are not currently being used,” Jenkins said. “We would rehab those and turn those into housing for employees, so that we could support people coming to the park.”

Sholly noted that his focus is on improving the condition of existing housing, and increasing the amount of housing available to Yellowstone staff.

“There’s a direct correlation between high-quality housing and performance,” he said. “We’ve put about $7 million in three years into improving housing in Yellowstone, but that’s just improving the existing inventory of housing that we have. That does not address the issue (of increased housing).”

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Yellowstone’s ‘Mount Doane’ Likely To Be Renamed ‘First Peoples Mountain’

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A push to rename a mountain in Yellowstone National Park now named after a U.S. Cavalry officer who led an attack on Native Americans in Montana has received a significant boost.

The National Park Service gave its approval to a plan to change the name of the 10,551-foot Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain, the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names was told during its meeting on Wednesday.

The name change will be given official consideration in the U.S. Board of Geographic Names meeting on June 9. 

Shelley Messer, executive director of the State Board of Geographic Names, said in a Thursday phone interview that a recommendation from the Park Service typically “weighs pretty heavily” for the U.S. Board in its decision making. 

Namesake History

Mount Doane is named after Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a Cavalry officer in the U.S. Army who escorted the historic Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition into Yellowstone in 1870, one of the first missions to explore the Park region. 

However, earlier that same year, Doane led an attack, in response to the alleged murder of a white fur trader, on a tribe of Blackfeet Native American people in Montana. During what is now known as the Marias Massacre, at least 173 were killed, including many women, elderly tribal members and children suffering from smallpox. 

Doane wrote fondly about this attack more than 20 years later and was said to have bragged about it for the rest of his life.

The effort to rename Mount Doane is part of an ongoing campaign nationally to replace what are seen as derogatory or inappropriate names for geographic features with more acceptable names.

One of the latest efforts stems from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s 2021 order to rename all American landmarks containing the word “squaw.”

“It seems to be kind of a sign of the times,” Messer said. “People are becoming more aware, more socially conscious, kind of questioning what values are accepted.” 

Less Contentious

The effort to rename Mount Doane may be a little less contentious than others, as Musser said Doane was even criticized by his peers while still alive. 

According to Yellowstone Insider, in 2014 the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council voted to pursue a name change for the mountain and in 2017 a protest for this effort was held outside the North Entrance of the Park by the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Great Sioux Nation tribes. 

“We’re not against certain names,” William Snell, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, told the Guardian in a 2018 story. “But we’re not for names where individuals have been involved with genocide, where elders and children have been killed and there have been some traumatic events in our history that don’t meet standards of honor.”

Members from Rocky Mountain group and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association submitted a petition for a name change to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names around this time, prompting the state board to begin studying the issue. 

“We are a very deliberate board,” Messer said. “When considering a name change, we always take the view of history at the time. It’s not an easy process to recognize a new name.”

Two years later, the State Board recommended, on a vote of 6-2, that the name be changed to First Peoples Mountain.

Opposition To Change

Despite Doane’s sordid past, in 2018 Park County commissioners voted against recommending this name change, along with a proposal to rename Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley as Buffalo Nations Valley, citing a need to keep history intact and recognize local heritage. 

The change in the Hayden Valley name involves Ferdinand Hayden, an explorer and geologist who support naming the mountain for Doane and also allegedly advocated for the genocide and extermination of Native Americans. He is also credited with convincing Congress to make Yellowstone a national park. 

In 2019, the state Board of Geographic Names voted 7-2 to oppose renaming Hayden Valley.

Jennifer Runyon, a geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey and advisor to the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names, said the U.S. Board of Geographical Names is still considering comments and communicating with tribal leaders on that matter.

“Words Matter”

However, the process to rename Mount Doane may be nearing an end, eight years after the campaign began, five years after the state Board of Geographic Names started addressing the matter and three years after its members voted on the change. 

Although this may seem a long time, it is nowhere near as long as it took to rename Mount Denali in Alaska. After the Alaska Legislature requested a name change from the federal government in 1975, the effort was blocked until 2015, when former President Barack Obama officially renamed the mountain.

With all of these recent considerations, the State Board of Geographic Names, a body made up of local surveyors, historians and artists, may have gained a higher profile than in years past.

“Words matter — that’s the bottom line,” Messer said.

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Wyoming Celebrates 150th Anniversary Of Yellowstone National Park

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There are 423 national parks in the United States – but Yellowstone was the first. 

Dedicated in 1872, this year marks 150 years since America chose to set aside this 2.2 million acres of geological wonders.

And on Friday, dignitaries gathered at Old Faithful Inn to take part in the anniversary celebration.

Friday morning at the Old Faithful Inn, Gov. Mark Gordon pointed out that Yellowstone National Park is the centerpiece of the country’s wilderness experience.

“Yellowstone is sort of a touchstone,” Gordon told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s what we think about when we think about something that is truly, truly American. 

“And so this place, at 150 years, I think it’s an opportunity for us to re-engage with the wildness and to re-engage with this heritage that is truly remarkable for Wyoming, and for the nation as well,” he continued.



Gordon and other dignitaries came to Yellowstone on Friday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Ame