Yellowstone National Park Scrambles To Reopen Roads by Deadline After Severe Flooding

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Yellowstone National Park has suffered from massive flooding recently, and it now has less than 20 days to meet its self-imposed deadline. The park designated October 15th as its goal for reopening the northern roads of the park which have been damaged by floods.

“We set a very aggressive target and I think that people need to understand that this is not easy,” said park superintendent Cam Sholly.

However, according to KBZK News in Montana, Sholly believes reaching the deadline is still possible.

“The fifteenth is still doable. We’re always said we’ll continue to do work after the fifteenth, but we want to make sure it’s safe,” said Sholly.

The project will be a huge effort. An old one-lane road that dates back to 1879 will now be updated.

“In a normal project, you’ve got normally years to do something like this. You’ve got years of planning and engineering that went into it. And, you know, we did that in weeks,” said Sholly, who sat down with MTN News at his office in Mammoth.

In the community of Cooke City, business owners tell MTN they have faith in Sholly to open the roads and bring back tourists.

Elkhart Lodge owner Lisa Ohlinger said, “Cam Sholly has been gracious to us. He’s been keeping us informed. He seems to be a really trustworthy guy, and when he tells me that park’s going to be open October fifteenth, I expect it.”

Xanterra’s Mike Keller said NPS ensured Mammoth would be open soon. “We’ve actually been telling people for a while that Mammoth will be open this winter. The National Park Service assured us they would have it ready for us.”

Locals Speak About Yellowstone National Parks’ Closed Roads

In Silver Gate, business owner Ben Zavora can’t wait for the roads to reopen. He said: “I mean really, we’re only three weeks away and we’re going to have the road open again and we’re going to be able to get back to normal.”

Business owners in towns like Silver Gate and Cooke City reside just inside the north and northeast entrances to the park. However, once winter sets in, snowmobiles will remain the only way to get to the small communities. Historic flooding washed out some of these roads back in June.

In Silver Gate, Henry Finkbeiner called the flood “a financial tsunami.”

“We are easily fifty percent down, probably a little more than that down, from last summer,” said Kay Whittle at Antlers Lodge in Cooke City.

Teri Briggs at Big Moose Resort, which lies east of Cooke City talked about the financial struggles. “We’ve been hit so hard from the flooding that happened. We’re down seventy percent to eighty percent of business.”

In describing his losses, Zavora said he was “probably running at about one-third of normal revenue.”

In Cooke City, Ohlinger said: “We were less than fifty percent easy, probably running about forty.”

Additionally, Henry Finkbeiner said talked about the local struggles. “We had two people full time for three weeks giving away, refunding deposits.”

Whittle explained that because of the summer losses, this winter season will be brutal for her.

“This winter there is just no way we can make it through a winter and be down, at all, really,” she said. “And for sure not fifty percent. The winter is so important.”