What to know if you're hoping to visit Yellowstone National Park after floods recede
It was supposed to be a banner year for America's oldest national park.
Yellowstone turned 150 in March. A whole series of in-person and virtual events were planned to mark the occasion. The park was just days into its busy summer season when catastrophic floods shut it down, forcing more than 10,000 visitors to evacuate.
But they aren't the only visitors impacted.
People planning to visit in weeks ahead are being advised to stay abreast of road and weather conditions due to severe damage. Some parts of the park may stay closed all summer and other parts may require reservations.
Here's what travelers planning to visit Yellowstone this summer should know.
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When will Yellowstone reopen?
It's not clear.
The park says closures will last through at least the weekend.
"All entrances to Yellowstone National Park remain temporarily CLOSED while the park waits for floodwaters to recede and can conduct evaluations on roads, bridges and wastewater treatment facilities to ensure visitor and employee safety," the park posted online Tuesday. "There will be no inbound visitor traffic at any of the five entrances into the park, including visitors with lodging and camping reservations, until conditions improve and park infrastructure is evaluated."
The park has been providing regular updates through its homepage, www.nps.gov/yell.
What parts of Yellowstone are damaged?
Aerial surveys show roads in the northern part of the park appear more heavily damaged than in the south, but park officials need to assess the area more closely before reopening anything.
"Due to the northern loop being unavailable for visitors, the park is analyzing how many visitors can safely visit the southern loop once it’s safe to reopen," the park said Tuesday. "This will likely mean implementation of some type of temporary reservation system to prevent gridlock and reduce impacts on park infrastructure."
Reservations are not typically required to enter the park, but traffic can back up even under regular conditions. Yellowstone is consistently one of America's most popular national parks and saw its highest visits on record last year.
"The National Park Service will make every effort to repair these roads as soon as possible; however, it is probable that road sections in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season due to the time required for repairs," the park said.
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What happens to Yellowstone lodging reservations?
All nine Yellowstone lodges, 12 campgrounds and 293 backcountry campsites are closed through at least Sunday and until further notice.
"If we are not able to provide the lodging or tours/activities you’ve reserved at the time of your reservation, we will cancel and fully refund those arrangements," Yellowstone National Park Lodges posted on its website.
Guests hoping to cancel should expect long hold times as the central reservations line is "experiencing extremely high call volumes."
Potential guests are advised to check Yellowstone's alerts webpage for conditions before their trips.