For the first time since June’s historic floods damaged Yellowstone National Park, crews reopened the road to the park’s Northeast Entrance near Cooke City, Montana, on Saturday morning.

Opening the road to the Northeast Entrance means four of Yellowstone’s five main public entrances are now open to public vehicle traffic.

“We are very pleased to be restoring public access to the northeast corridor just four months after the June flood event,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a written statement. “I commend the collective efforts of the National Park Service, the Federal Highway Administration and Oftedal Construction, Inc. to complete this monumental task in such a short amount of time.”

Yellowstone faced historic flooding, washed out roads

On June 13, park officials closed all entrances to the park and then evacuated Yellowstone after floods washed out roads, damaged bridges, set off rockslides and mudslides and damaged infrastructure, including water systems and power lines. Park officials and crews were able to reopen three of the entrances to vehicle traffic on June 27. But the North Entrance and Northeast Entrance remained closed because flood damage to the main roads was more severe in those areas.

Meanwhile, this week crews continued to work on the Old Gardiner Road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone’s North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Yellowstone officials say they have asked for an additional two weeks on that project to install 5,000 feet of guardrail for public safety. Park officials plan to have that road opened to public vehicle traffic no later than Nov. 1.

“We have set incredibly aggressive timeframes for these repairs and our contractors have worked at lightning speed to get this road safely reopened,” Sholly said in a written statement. “It’s essential that we do not cut corners and we ensure the road meets required safety standards prior to opening. It’s also essential that we finish the job correctly, so we avoid any problems going into next year.”

Park officials said 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles per day would normally use the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana.

Earlier this summer, Yellowstone officials identified mid-October as a target for reopening, saying contractors would work to open roads to the affected entrances before the winter arrives.

In a news release, Yellowstone officials said Oftedal Construction is the primary company contracted to do the work and funding primarily came from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads program. Yellowstone officials did not respond to a follow up question from the Sun asking for an estimate of costs for the reopening projects. A Yellowstone spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Flooding causes dip in visitation to national park

The road between the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, and the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City is open year round, aside from its closure due to flood damage. In the coming weeks, many other roads in Yellowstone National Park will be closed to public vehicle traffic for the winter, park officials announced in a separate press release. The roads slated to close for the winter on Nov. 1 include the West Entrance to Madison Junction, the East Entrance to Lake Village/Sylvan Pass, the South Entrance to West Thumb, Lake Village to West Thumb and West Thumb to Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful.

Updated information about the status of Yellowstone’s roads and entrances is posted on Yellowstone’s website.

The number of visitors to Yellowstone has decreased following the floods and closures. On Monday, Yellowstone National Park officials reported there were 567,587 recreation visits in September. That’s a 36% decrease compared to September 2021, the busiest September in park history, and an 18% decrease from 2019, the last normal year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall for 2022, recreational visits are down 32% from the same time period in 2021, park officials said. Through September, Yellowstone has tracked just more than 3 million recreation visits this year.

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as the world’s first national park. The park is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Most of Yellowstone is located in Wyoming, but small sections extend into Montana and Idaho.