July 1, 2022 - Yellowstone River Flooding Impact Update

As we move into July, we are very grateful to be moving on past June. It has been an incredibly stressful month for businesses, locals, and everyone here in Southwest Montana. Here’s an update from our end of things on the situation:

Yellowstone National Park 

As of tomorrow, July 2, most of the North Loop of Yellowstone is back open. There are still some closures in effect, such as heading east toward the Lamar out of Tower Junction and the north entrance road from Mammoth to Gardiner, but visitors are able to drive and enjoy much of the North Loop. Get the full details and map on the Yellowstone Park website here.

Yellowstone is also suspending their ALPS (Alternating License Plate System) as of tomorrow as well. This system restricted access to the park based on what number your license plate ended in. While this did help alleviate congestion, we are all glad to see this going away. 

The North Entrance at Gardiner remains closed to vehicle traffic for the time being. They are working on renovating the old stagecoach road from Gadiner to Mammoth to allow traffic, but that date is TBD. HOWEVER - you can access the North Entrance on foot, to access areas not identified as closed. 

Highways and Roads 

Much of our local transportation infrastructure is back to open and operating. The only major bridge along Highway 89 S was Point of Rocks, and that has a temporary fix. Speed limits are lowered over the bridge, so please be aware. Road access has been restored to Gardiner, but please be aware of ongoing construction through Yankee Jim Canyon. 

A section of the Beartooth Highway did open recently - 23 miles to the ski hill parking lot. There are nighttime closures and the entire route isn’t open, but it is a chance to see the remarkable scenery. Learn more here.

Road access has been restored through a back route to Cooke City and Silvergate. Hopefully the main road connecting these communities with Yellowstone National Park will have some news soon. 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River is dropping, and we are on the tail end of the yearly runoff cycle. Most of the boat ramps and fishing accesses are closed through Paradise Valley and below town. This flood will have caused some pretty impressive restructuring of channels and obstructions, it will take some time to relearn old favorite floats. You can read more in our latest fishing report.

The recent flood event is not normal. The general consensus is that this was a once-in-500-year flood. There were many factors that contributed, all of them out of the ordinary. This was a historic event that will live in our memory the rest of our lives and have lasting impacts to the streams, the region, the communities and the inhabitants that depend on the resource.

As the climate continues to change, more and more of these catastrophic weather events are happening all around the world, to the point of normalcy, which is disturbing, because they are not normal. It’s past time we recognize how intricate and fragile our planet and ecosystems are, and how climate change is affecting them. Then, it’s critical we all examine our own lives and what we can do individually to mitigate the effects of climate change. Our ultimate responsibility is toward our future generations.

National Forest and Recreation 

The Custer Gallatin National Forest recreation closure ended last week, but there are still some affected areas. For us here in Livingston, there are several worth noting. The main Mill Creek road remains closed above Passage Creek, and the West Fork Mill Creek road is closed as well. The bridge leading into Snowbank Campground washed out, and the campground is closed. Six Mile Road is closed at the Gold Prize Trailhead. Undoubtedly there is some other washouts, changes, and smaller damage to trails, roads, and other spots in the national forest, so please be careful out there. 

To find out more about current closures and restrictions, visit the Custer Gallatin National Forest website here.

The dryer and warmer weather over the past weeks is definitely bringing summer recreation into full swing. Trails are dry and traffic is done.? If you’ve been wanting to explore Paradise Valley, the Crazy Mountains, or any of the other incredible places around SW Montana this is the year to do it! 

The flooding did result in a massive cancellation of trips, bookings, and plans for many people. While this has been devastating for local businesses and lodging (we’ll talk about that next), it likely will result in there being overall less people recreating here in Montana this summer. This is a very unexpected trend, especially given the past few years. If you have ever wanted to come hiking, biking, camping or fishing this is your year! 

Economic Impact  

Besides the damage to property, homes, and physical things the real damage is only just unfolding. Gateway communities like Gardiner, Cooke City, Emigrant, Red Lodge and many more have been devastated. Red Lodge is in very tough shape with the incredible damage done to town itself. With the initial media reports of Yellowstone being closed for years, the wave of cancellations was swift and deadly. 

These small towns, Livingston included, depend heavily on tourism dollars for their livelihood. Everyone benefits and depends on the yearly tourism rush. Restaurants, breweries, guides, retail stores, lodging - all these places employ thousands of people who are all wondering how this summer will shake out. 

How can you help?

Come to Montana! Stay in our towns, eat good food, drink good beer, shop at local stores. Dollars spent locally are an investment into places you love and enjoy. This region is back open for business and there is more to do than you could accomplish in a lifetime of summer trips. The region is so much more than just Yellowstone Park.

Come see for yourself.