Yellowstone Park aims for quick reopening after floods

GARDINER, Mont. — Most of Yellowstone National Park should reopen within the next two weeks — much faster than originally expected after record floods pounded the region last week and knocked out major roads, federal officials said.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said the world-renowned park will be able to accommodate fewer visitors for the time being, and it will take more time to restore road connections with some southern Montana communities.

Park officials said Sunday they’ll use $50 million in federal highway money to speed up road and bridge repairs. There’s still no timetable for repairs to routes between the park and areas of Montana where the recovery is expected to stretch for months.

Yellowstone will partially reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced out of the park when the Yellowstone and other rivers went over their banks after being swelled by melting snow and several inches of rainfall.

Only portions of the park that can be accessed along its “southern loop” of roads will be opened initially and access to the park’s scenic backcountry will be for day hikers only.

Within two weeks officials plan to also open the northern loop, after previously declaring that it would likely stay closed through the summer season. The northern loop would give visitors access to popular attractions including Tower Fall and Mammoth Hot Springs. They’d still be barred from the Lamar Valley, which is famous for its prolific wildlife including bears, wolves and bison that can often be seen from the roadside.

“That would get 75 to 80% of the park back to working,” National Park Service Director Charles “Chuck” Sams said Sunday during a visit to Yellowstone to gauge the flood’s effects.

It will take much longer — possibly years — to fully restore two badly-damaged stretches of road …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

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