Crowds gather in Yellowstone as the park reopens after the floods

National

“We weren’t going home until we got here.”

A Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen standing near a road destroyed by a flood along the Gardner River a week ago, near Gardiner, Mont., June 19, 2022. Park officials said they expected most parks to open within two weeks thereafter. It was closed in view of the flood. The Associated Press

Yellowstone National Park (AP) – Crowds of tourists gleefully watched as steamy waters shoot past Old Faithful geysers, while others stuck in “bison jams” on picturesque canyon roads, as visitors to Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday were returned to be partially reopened. Flooding.

Park managers raised gates at three of Yellowstone’s five entrances for the first time since June 13, when rivers in northern Wyoming and southern Montana were ordered to evacuate 10,000 visitors after a torrent of rain. had climbed on its banks, which intensified the spring snowfall. Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholey said Wednesday that the cost and extent of the damage were still being assessed.

  • Photos: Shocking damage after floods in Yellowstone National Park

  • Flood left Yellowstone landscape ‘dramatically changed’

Empty streets and parking lots were busy by mid-morning as about 5,000 vehicles entered the park through long lines stretching for several miles (kilometers) at a gate early in the morning. Park officials said in a news release that the backups were gone by noon, and visitation numbers were lower than a typical summer day that drew about 10,000 vehicles.

Paul Nithyananda of Chennai, India gathered around Old Faithful with 1500 people in the afternoon to see it. Nithyananda was touring the western US with his brother and had already seen the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, but nothing said more on his visit than Old Faithful.

“It is wonderful,” said Nityananda, who was so impressed that he waited for about 80 minutes for it to erupt again. “I’ve been watching it in movies and on YouTube but it’s wonderful to see it live.”

Lonnie and Graham McMillan, of Vancouver, Canada, were involved in the so-called “Bison Jam”, where a group of sly animals crossed the street. The bison saw a successful morning in which they had already seen two moose and several deer.

They had come to the park last week, but after they left, they left. They drove for a few days to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and then to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, before returning to Yellowstone as soon as they had the opportunity.

“The whole purpose of our trip was to come here,” said Lonnie McMillan. “We weren’t going home until we got here.”

Record flooding reshaped the park’s rivers and valleys, eroding many roads and leaving some areas inaccessible to their wildlife viewing, possibly for months to come. It hit the summer tourist season, attracting millions of visitors as the park celebrated its 150th anniversary, with a record 4.9 million visits a year later.

Some of America’s first national park highlights were worth re-visiting, including Old Faithful, which shoots bursts of steamy water like clockwork more than a dozen times a day.

But bears, wolves and bison roaming the wild Lamar Valley and the thermal features around Mammoth Hot Springs will remain out of reach. The wildlife-rich northern half of the park will be closed until at least early July, and major thoroughfares in the park diverge near the Montana tourist towns of Gardiner, Red Lodge, and Cook City.

Murice Demirovic, 43, of Miami, and his mother, 70, arrived at the east entrance at around 5:30 p.m. and were second in line for dozens of cars. She and her mother, who is from Bosnia, were visiting national parks on a cross country trip, and Yellowstone was at the top of their list.

However, when they arrived, it was closed due to floods. Demirovic and his mother visited Cody, Wyoming, went to a rodeo, walked some trails, and visited a museum. He had planned to leave the Yellowstone area on Monday, but stopped when he learned the park would reopen.

“It’s the trip of a lifetime for me and my mom, so I had to make sure she sees it,” he said.

To keep visitors down while repairs continue, park managers are using a system that only allows cars with the last digit on their license plates to enter on even days, with a few exceptions. , while the last numbered vehicles with odd numbers may come in odd numbers. Day.

Shawley said park rangers had to turn away less than 1% of people in line because of license plate issues, and they were turning them away before they started in long lines to enter the park.

If traffic becomes unbearable on the park’s 400 miles (644 kilometers) of roads, Sholey said officials will implement a reservation system for entry.

Along the road to the south entrance of Yellowstone in Wyoming, a long, slow-moving line of cars lined up at the side of a road with a sign that had been flashing “Yellowstone closed” for several days, but now drivers. Alerted that the park was open with restricted access.

Gracie Brennan of Kentucky and two of her friends were visiting Yellowstone as part of a tour of the national parks.

“Old Faithful was the main thing I wanted to see, so if we can get there, we have to go either way, no matter what,” Brennan said.

The reopening comes after officials in Yellowstone still downgraded the extent of the damage. Depending on other national park disasters, reconstruction can take years and carry a hefty price tag. It is an environmentally sensitive landscape with a massive underground plumbing system that feeds into the park’s geysers, hot springs and other thermal features. The construction season only lasts from the spring thaw to the first snowfall, a narrow window that means some roads may receive only temporary improvements this year.

This has turned some Montana communities into dead ends rather than gateways to Yellowstone, a blow to their tourism-dependent economies. They are still struggling to clean up the damage done to several hundred homes and businesses that were swept away by the floods.

Montana Governor Greg Gianfort, who received criticism last week for not disclosing where he was out of the country until two days after the floods, was not in the park to reopen on Wednesday. Spokesman Brooke Stroyke said Gianfort was to meet with cabinet members and be briefed on flood response and recovery.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon was also not at the park, his spokesman Michael Perlman said.

Tiffany Jan of Kenosha, Wisconsin, who lined up with her husband and daughter at the South Entrance in Wyoming, said she was excited to see anything that was still open and especially to see the park’s wildlife. was expecting.

“We were actually coming last week and we were getting messages… ‘Don’t come, don’t come,'” she said. “But we were already out here so we changed our plans and made it work.”

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Hanson reported from Helena, Montana. Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report at the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

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