Yellowstone River Flooding Impact Update - 22 June, 2022

It’s been over a week since the devastating and historic floods of the Yellowstone River tore bridges and roads out, flooded homes and businesses, and closed Yellowstone National Park for the time being. A lot has happened in this short span, and our community is working hard to restore normality. 

Here’s a few important updates on the situation:

National Forest Reopening 

This morning the Custer Gallatin National Forest reopened much of the previously closed National Forest Lands. That means hiking, biking, and backpacking is back! As always, exercise caution and respect for these wild places. Stay vigilant for changing and dangerous conditions and be safe. This includes all the forest service land on both sides of Paradise Valley east to the Boulder Valley and the Crazy Mountains. See the map below for more info.

The Beartooth Ranger District is still completely closed, as are numerous campgrounds up the Boulder and several sites up Mill Creek. Several roads down Paradise Valley remain closed to traffic - you can view the press release and map on the Custer Gallatin National Forest News and Alerts Page here

Yellowstone National Park Update 

Yellowstone is now back open for the season - but services and roads are limited. The southern loop of the park is open for road traffic. There is a lot to see, and a ton to do on that loop including the Madison Valley, Firehole River, Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, and much, much more. Expect lots of traffic, but just go slow, enjoy the view, and take it all in. Also be aware of the new alternating license plate entry system - read more about it here. 

The Northern Loop of Yellowstone Park remains closed for the time being. Crews are working hard to improve the old stagecoach road from Gardiner to Mammoth to allow the reopening of the Northern Entrance, but we are a ways away from even discussing dates for that. If the Northern Loop does reopen for the 2022 season, it will be a truncated version with Mammoth closed and the road closed past Tower Junction. See the map below for a more detailed overview. 

We’re all working hard to recover from this, so please be patient and kind during your trip. Everyone is doing the best they can, and just remember that if your vacation was messed up - at least it wasn’t your livelihood or home like it is ours and everyone who lives and works in the Park and gateway communities! 

Yellowstone River Fishing Update 

The Yellowstone River has come down considerably since the flooding event, but we’re still in the throws of runoff. This is typically the normal time of year for such runoff, and we wouldn't be fishing the Yellowstone River this time of year anyway. Flows as of this writing are 17,200 cfs and dropping here in town (compare that to the 54k or whatever it was!) and it’s still very muddy. There is still considerably more snow than normal in the mountains, so we have a bit to go on runoff. 

***Update*** - FWP will be lifting the recreational closure on the Yellowstone River starting tomorrow, Thursday June 23. You can read the press release here. If you do float the river at these flows, do so with extreme caution!!

What does this mean for the anglers out there? 

First, keep in mind that this is not the first time in its history that the Yellowstone River has flooded. Being a freestone river, flooding is a natural part of its life cycle. The fish did not get all washed away, and are still here - just as they have been for eons. 

Second, we are likely going to have a very good water year during the summer. If the remaining snow comes out nice and slow like it has been it will feed good flows and cool water temps through summer into fall. 

Third, yes, the Yellowstone is going to have changed. This volume of water is going to have rerouted channels, moved obstacles, changed the very bed of the river in ways that we aren’t even aware of yet. It will take some time to relearn favorite floats and understand how the river has changed. 

Once runoff ends and the water clears we are highly optimistic this will be a great year on the Yellowstone River. Just like every year, the river is high and muddy here in late June but will soon be in good, fishable shape.  

Paradise Valley Roads and Bridges 

At this point, most of the roads and bridges down Paradise Valley are open. The exceptions are several Forest Service roads mentioned above, and 89 S from Emigrant to Point of Rocks. The road from there to Gardiner is for LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY, not sightseers, camera jockeys, influencers and tourists. If you don’t live in Gardiner or are down there helping out - stay out of the way for the time being. 

The Point of Rocks bridge sustained heavy damage, but crews are working hard to get it repaired and safe for traffic again. That date is TBD, and we will continue to provide updates when they are available. 

This has been an incredibly challenging event for our local communities, and many businesses in the tourism sector are already suffering greatly. These businesses are run by friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Support local when and where you can! If you feel like helping, the Park County Community Foundation has teamed up with Greater Gallatin United Way for the SW Montana Flood Relief Fund. You can get more details and donate here.

We will be working to provide updates as they become available and when they are applicable, stay tuned to our website and social media.