Yellowstone damage

The confluence of Slough Creek, left, and the Lamar River, which damaged Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance road. Days before, the creek’s waters filled the valley, leaving behind the muddy pools pictured here.

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told the Jackson Hole Daily on Wednesday afternoon that it may be possible to connect Cooke City, Montana, to the national park’s inner loops before the end of the season.

The fix would be temporary, Sholly said, and is still a ways off. But he said he was “optimistic” after hearing from Federal Highway Administration officials that there may be ways to bridge four damaged areas between Tower-Roosevelt and Cooke City.

Doing so could open the Lamar Valley, home to some of Yellowstone’s most sweeping vistas and best wolf watching, to some form of visitation.

“There’s a good chance that we’ll have the temporary reconnection done before the fall or going into the winter at least,” Sholly said.

In the meantime, Sholly said, Yellowstone is considering ways to allow people to use roughly 5 miles of the Northeast Entrance road just west of Cooke City that weren’t severely damaged by the floods.

“I’m not sure what that looks like,” Sholly said. But he plans to talk with Cooke City residents today about the idea.

Sholly’s statement comes after the Federal Highway Administration sent Yellowstone $50 million that the park is using to, among other things, find temporary fixes to reconnect Gardiner and Cooke City to the national park after floods destroyed roads connecting them.

Both Montana towns are relatively small gateway communities whose economies rely heavily on Yellowstone, and many Gardiner residents work in Mammoth Hot Springs, the park’s administrative headquarters.

Park officials are in the process of improving the Old Gardiner Road to reconnect Gardiner. That’s an old dirt road that runs mostly parallel to the north entrance road that was destroyed.

The idea there is to upgrade the Old Gardiner Road for convoys, and eventually allow commercial operations like Gardiner-based wildlife tours to access the park with clients on that byway.

Yellowstone hasn’t laid out plans for reconnecting Cooke City because there’s no other road like the Old Gardiner Road running alongside the heavily damaged northeast entrance road, Sholly said.

He didn’t divulge plans Wednesday, but did change rhetorical course from roughly a week earlier when he said the road through the Lamar would likely be closed for the season.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Environmental Reporter

Billy Arnold has been covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the people who manage it since January 2022. He previously spent two years covering Teton County government, and a year editing Scene. Tips welcomed.

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