Hello from Bozeman!
Given the recent news of flooding in the area, we took a drive today to Big Sky and West Yellowstone to soak up whatever information we could about the current situation regarding the National Park and higher than normal waters along the Gallatin River. We were very encouraged by what we saw and heard in talking with the park rangers in West Yellowstone regarding water levels in the rivers. In this post, We will detail out what we saw and learned, but always feel free to give us a call to chat if you have questions, The Rocky Mountain Team can be reached at our main number of 406-530-5337.
We started our day by taking the more scenic route out of Bozeman heading down to Axtell road and crossing the Axtell bridge. The water on the Gallatin River was definitely high, but to some degree expected during a spring run-off. Furthermore, the brown water occurs every year due to the massive amount of mud that comes down with the snowmelt and rain. Within a few weeks the water should start to lighten in color and return to their clear state. The good news is that you can tell the water is receding and relief on the water ways is beginning.
From the Gallatin River, we took Highway 191 and headed towards Big Sky. We stopped at a few campgrounds and fishing spots along the way. Again, we were encouraged to see that the areas are not flooded. People are camping, fishing and white-water rafting! If you are wanting to white water raft, NOW is the time to do it! The water is flowing fast and is high, so it would be an absolute blast! A customer told us the other day he was originally slated for a full day rafting trip and was informed that due to the water speed it would only take half a day.
Once we arrived in Big Sky, we saw that summer construction on the mountain has started. Two helicopters were flying; one working to put in power towers and the other, on the new tram at the top of Lone Peak. The village was fairly quiet as they are getting ready for the summer guests. Up at the top of the mountain, activities were in full swing. The chair lifts were running for scenic view tours; zip line belts were waiting to get the next group up the mountain. Additionally, people were taking hikes on the mountain. There are also tons of activities in the main area for kids including rock climbing, bouncing in a harness, cornhole games, and a playground. All were enjoying their activities and having a blast. Overall, we would say that Big Sky is mostly open for the season!
Continuing south on Highway 191, we headed toward West Yellowstone. When we first arrived, we immediately went to the ranger station and asked them to provide any information they had regarding the re-opening of the park, obviously knowing that this isn’t the official word yet. The first thing they said was that the park will issue an official update by this weekend, with the hopes of this update being by Friday, June 17, 2022. They have crews actively working on assessing the roads, visitor centers, water treatment facilities, etc. right now.
At this time, they are guessing by the next week (June 20-24, 2022), the park would be able to open the Southern loop. This loop includes Norris Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village (Yellowstone Lake), Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village (Upper and Lower Falls). After the re-opening, they explained the park will be on a first come, first serve basis for entry. For example: if the number of cars allowed to enter the park is 500, they will count the number of cars until they reach 500. Once the daily limit is reached, they will prevent any new cars waiting to enter until another car has been reported as having left the park. After this initial re-opening, the plan is to have a reservation system.
This system will be similar to the way Glacier National Park operates. Once the Southern Loop has opened, they will focus on assessing the Northern Loop of the park. The Northern Loop includes Dunraven pass, Tower-Roosevelt, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Norris. The rangers shared that the Northern loop does not appear to have as much damage as originally expected. Thus, this area should be easier to repair, allowing for an earlier opening to the public. Following this assessment, they will focus on repairing Lamar Valley, specifically near the Pebble Creek campground.
You have probably seen on the news that this is one of the places where the road has washed out. The Lamar Valley is a CRITICAL connection for the people living in Cooke City and Silver Gate as this is the primary road citizens use during the winter to travel to other cities. As such, the park ranger said this would be fixed before winter. It is unknown at this time if the Lamar Valley will be open to the public this summer. At the earliest, it may be open by early Fall 2022.
Finally, the road from Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs is nearly completely gone and will need to be rebuilt and rerouted to adjust for all of the wash out and new landscape the river has created. We are guessing this will be unavailable to the public for at least a year or two at this point, but that is pure speculation. We have been told that all of the employees stationed in Mammoth have been moved elsewhere in the park; they are now working with the vendors that support the park to figure out supply points for the year.
Overall, we are very optimistic that the park will be opened soon to welcome visitors. Mother nature had to let us know on the 150th anniversary of the park that she is still in control! As we mentioned earlier, please let us know if you have any questions. I hope this helps clarify some confusion and ease some fears. The Rocky Mountain Team looks forward to seeing you all this summer!
The Rocky Mountain Team