The forces of fire and ice have shaped Yellowstone National Park over thousands of years. It would take decades before humans could tame it enough for tourists to visit, often from the comfort of their cars.
In just a few days, heavy rain and rapid melting snow caused dramatic flood that could permanently change the human footprint of the park’s terrain and the communities that have developed around it.
The park is closed to visitors for the first time in 34 years.
Historic floodwaters raged through Yellowstone this week, ripping off bridges and flooding nearby homes, pushing a popular fishing river off course – possibly permanently – and possibly forcing children The road was almost torn off by the fast flowing water that had to be rebuilt in new places.
“The landscape has literally and figuratively changed dramatically in the past 36 hours,” said Bill Berg, a commissioner in nearby Park County. “It’s a bit ironic that this spectacular landscape was created by violent geological and hydrological events, and it just wasn’t very helpful when it happened while we were all settled here. it.”
The unprecedented flooding has displaced more than 10,000 visitors from the country’s oldest national park and damaged hundreds of homes in nearby communities, though there were no reports of injuries or damage. network. The only visitors left in the giant park that spans three states are a dozen campers still making their way out of the countryside.
Director Cam Sholly said the park will likely close within a week and the north entrances may not reopen this summer.
“I’ve heard this is a 1,000-year event, whatever that means these days. They seem to be happening more and more often,” he said.
Sholly noted some weather forecasts include the possibility of additional flooding later this week.
The northern portion of the park is “likely to remain closed for a substantial period of time due to impacted, severely damaged infrastructure,” the park said in a Tweet Tuesday.
The park’s website says visitors planning to travel to the park in the coming weeks and months should check for updates.
⚠️UPDATE (June 14 @ 6:38 p.m.) ️
The northern portion of Yellowstone is likely to remain closed for a considerable length of time due to the affected, severely damaged infrastructure. Visitors to the park early must be informed of current, road and weather conditions https://t.co/mymnqGvcVB pic.twitter.com/li6Vwy4qLt
– Yellowstone National Park (@YellowstoneNPS) June 15, 2022
Days of rain and rapid snowmelt devastated parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming, where they swept away cabins, swamped small towns and lost power. This has hit the park as a summer tourist season that attracts millions of visitors that have grown in their 150th anniversary year.
Some of the heaviest damage has occurred in the northern portion of the park and in the gateway communities of Yellowstone in southern Montana. National Park Service photos north of Yellowstone show a landslide, bridges washed away and roads mutilated by the floodwaters of the Gardner and Lamar rivers.
In Red Lodge, a town of 2,100 people that is a popular jumping off point for a scenic route into the Yellowstone highlands, a creek running through town jumped its banks and flooded the main walkway, sending salmon swimming along the way. a day later. sunny.
Residents described a horrifying scene as the water went from dripping to rushing water in just a few hours.
At least 200 homes were flooded in Red Lodge and the town of Fromberg.