Yellowstone National Park, which suffered major damage from record flooding in its northern reaches just over two weeks ago, has announced it is reopening its northern circuit, which had been closed to travelers since the flood event. The park also announced that, as a result, it will do away with the alternate license plate access system designed to ease visitor traffic through the park’s west, south and east entrances.
According to an announcement from the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park will reopen the north circuit on Saturday, July 2, to all visitors. The newly opened North Loop will allow visitors to access these previously closed portions of the park: Norris Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs, Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower-Roosevelt, and Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass).
“We are pleased to reopen the north Yellowstone area to the visiting public less than three weeks after this major flood event,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We have tried to balance major recovery efforts with reopening as much of the park as possible. . . We have greatly appreciated the tremendous support of the Department of the Interior; the National Park Service; the Federal Highway Administration; and our partners in congress, community, district and state.”
For trout anglers, these changes will restore access to coveted stretches of the Yellowstone River between the Black Canyon and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. They will also provide renewed access to trails that provide hiking access to Yellowstone’s Black Canyon, which offers excellent fishing opportunities for native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. But the announced reopening of the north loop does not include the reopening of the park’s north or northeast entrances, nor the north and northeast access roads. According to the Park’s announcement, “The North Access Road (Gardiner, Montana to Mammoth Hot Springs) and the Northeast Access Road (Cooke City/Silver Gate, Montana to Tower-Roosevelt) remain closed to visitor vehicular traffic while repairs temporary are completed.”
For trout anglers, that means routes that provide access to some of the most sought-after trout water in the park—including road-accessible portions of the Gardiner River (via the park’s northern entrance) and the park’s famous creeks and streams. The Lamar River Valley—such as Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek, Cache Creek, and the Lamar River itself—will remain closed, limiting the impact on fishing opportunities within Yellowstone National Park.
Map showing upcoming road closure changes in Yellowstone National Park. Green areas are currently open, blue areas will reopen on July 2, and red areas will remain closed for now (Image credit: Yellowstone National Park / Mapbox / OpenStreetMap [modified]).
“What park crews have accomplished in just a few weeks is nothing short of amazing. The fact that major sections of Yellowstone are already reopening serves as a testament to the park staff’s dedication to its visitors. That said, as long as two north entrances remain closed, the impact on access for most trout anglers is somewhat limited,” said Chris Hunt, author of Catching Yellowstone’s Wild Trout. “Certainly the biggest change is increased access to significant portions of the Yellowstone River south of its confluence with the Lamar. And, anglers will have renewed access to recreational streams like Tower Creek, Blacktail Deer Creek, Lava Creek and others. But that doesn’t happen. It doesn’t dramatically change the fishing algebra.”
The park has indicated it is committed to fully reopening the park, stating that “Reconnecting the park to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate remains Yellowstone’s highest priority for flood recovery.”
In the meantime, all indications are that the park is doing everything it can to continue increasing access for anglers and all other visitors to Yellowstone National Park. In addition to reopening the north loop, the park clarified that visitors are welcome to enter the park on foot through closed entrances to fish and hike. in areas not identified as closed. According to his announcement, the park is also considering authorizing bicycle access through these entrances, up to points where riders would encounter damaged road sections.
Mollie Simpkins, of Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana, asked travelers to note that “Although the north and northeast entrances to the park remain closed, businesses throughout Gardiner, throughout Paradise Valley and Livingston are open – such as countless miles of wilderness hiking, sightseeing opportunities, and trophy headwaters (including the Yellowstone River north of Gardiner) outside the park. The lack of clarity on how these floods affected our region has led to a dramatic decrease in tourism. normally the get is greatly reduced and it is hurting every business involved in tourism.” In its announcement, the NPS also indicated that “park staff are working with guides and commercial facilities in Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate to further expand access to the park where possible.”