Latest Updates With Ongoing Repairs at Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park officials have just released new photos and videos of the continuing repairs to the North and Northeastern entrance roads that were heavily damaged during the historic flood event that occurred in June.
The highest priority for park officials for flood recovery is to reconnect the park to the communities of Gardiner at the North Entrance and Cooke City/Silver Gate at the Northeast entrance.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a Friday press release that ‘efforts to reconnect to Gardiner and Cook City/Silvergate are not only on schedule but are exceeding expectations. "We fully expect that access by regular vehicles will be restored by mid-October, but other repairs will continue as weather permits," said Sholly.
Multi-year efforts are expected for the permanent reconstruction of the North and Northeastern entrance corridors; however, the park has been working hard to find temporary solutions to reconnect those communities before winter arrives in the park.
Some of the plans include efforts to provide two-lane access to the temporary (Old Gardiner Road) that will connect Mammoth Hot Springs to the North Entrance at Gardiner by October 15, and weather permitting, continuing improvements beyond that time frame.
From the Tower Junction to the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City/Silvergate, efforts are underway to repair five damaged sections to be available for regular traffic by October 15, again, with more repairs following that date, weather permitting.
These temporary repairs will allow access by regular vehicles between Tower Junction and Cooke City/Silver Gate.
Park officials express their thanks and support to the many workers that have been building and repairing roads and infrastructure in the park since the historic flood in June, as well as their pride in the hundreds of volunteers who have worked so hard to reopen Yellowstone National Park.
We spoke to Yellowstone National Park Director Cam Sholly on Friday afternoon as he was checking the progress on road restoration to reconnect the northern and southern parts of the park.
He said the progress so far has been nothing short of extraordinary.
“We're still less than three months from the event, and I would say that the progress that we've made in the park and with our partners outside of the park has been tremendous,” began Sholly. “I'm very pleased with where we are right now as far as the temporary repairs go in the north entrance road in northeast entrance road, and I feel like we're going to hit the timelines that we've set and get Cooke City/Silvergate and Gardiner reconnected by mid-October.”
Sholly looked back on the fact that no one was killed or even seriously injured in the catastrophic June flooding.
“First of all, it was a miracle, and thanks to the team in Yellowstone taking proactive measures that no one lost their lives or were seriously injured as we evacuated the entire park in about 24 hours,” he said. “We were grateful to be able to get half the park open and just eight days and 93 percent of the park open about 20 days after the event, but that 7 percent that is still closed is essential.”
Sholly described his conversations with the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Corps of Engineers about getting the infrastructure restored as quickly as possible.
“We had Corps of Engineers and Federal Highways and a lot of folks come in and look at the damage in the Gardiner River Canyon, and they found it to be substantial enough that it was going to be unrepairable, at least in the short term,” he said. “We've worked hard over the last two and a half months with the Federal Highway Administration and with HK Contracting, and they've done a terrific job. They've already put two lanes on over three of the four miles up to Mammoth (Hot Springs) and have substantial work already occurring on the rest of it. Same thing with the Northeast Corridor, in that, crews are doing a phenomenal job in the most heavily damaged sections there they have the three sections already one-laned and that corridor also, I feel like will be on the same timeframe as the old Gardiner road for mid-October for reopening to the public.”
Getting the park ready for the huge number of tourists that Yellowstone ordinarily handles is a big challenge, but Sholly said the effort is already underway.
“We're working hard with federal highways and the contractors to make sure that road is adequate to handle tour buses and not have length restrictions and things like that,” he said. “So, once we get that paved and ready to go, there'll be some cleanup work I think we'll do over the winter, weather permitting. That will mean a fairly normal back and forth for folks to connect from Gardiner into the park, and the same thing with the Northeast entrance road, we feel like we're going to get those temporary repairs in place and that they're going to be substantial. They're going to allow traffic to flow as normal as possible and we will work on what options we want to look at for the long term over the upcoming years.”
Sholly was asked about his feelings for the employees of Yellowstone Park and all the others who have worked so hard since the flooding disaster.
“You know Americans can be very proud of the team and their performance during this disaster,” he said. “It wasn't just the park service team but our partners in the park, our partners, in federal highways and the Department Transportation, the Department of Interior and the Secretary of Interior have been fantastic and very supportive, the governor, members of Congress, communities, counties, you know, we're all in this together and we've enjoyed incredible support.”