In June 2022, a 500-year flood swept the flow of water in the Yellowstone River to historically high levels. You might have seen the videos of roads washed away or barns floating past in the turbulent wake. And for much of 2022, times were hard in Gardiner as access to the park remained restricted for the busy season. But a big update is here: Gardiner is open! Here’s what to expect from the flood damage going into the 2023 season.
The images and videos speak for themselves, as does the property damage and the fear that so many residents felt as their homes were under threat. The power of the Yellowstone River was overwhelming after a combined 7.5 to 9.5 inches of rain and snowmelt entered the stream in just 24 hours.
The flood took parts of the road connecting Gardiner to Mammoth with it, and it also swept away sections that provide the only access to the small town of Cooke City through the winter. And as the water rolled in, the flooding brought with it a lot of uncertainty for residents and local businesses.
The National Park Service acted quickly to restore access. But there’s only so much you can do to establish a solution quickly when so much infrastructure has been destroyed. Just over a month after the initial flood event on June 13, work started on a temporary solution.
Crews worked around the clock to improve Old Gardiner Road, a former stagecoach route established in the 1880s, to handle the amount of traffic that it would see. As crews expanded the dirt road, paved it, and installed 5,000 feet of guardrail, work also began on the temporary Northeast Entrance Road to restore access to Cooke City.
On October 15, 2022, the Temporary Northeast Entrance Road opened to the public. As of October 30, 2022, the Temporary North Entrance Road also opened to the public. That means that Gardiner is again connected to Mammoth and to Cooke City through the Lamar Valley.
It’s once again easy for visitors to stay in the gateway community of Gardiner and make it into the park each day without having to drive far. And the local businesses and workers can again count on the visitors who help keep the lights on.
Gardiner is back open for business and booming for the 2023 season, and it’s counting on visitors to help make it through. Outside of the park, impacts from flooding flowed downstream. As the longest undammed river in Montana, flooding is part of the cycle of the Yellowstone. It changes the landscape, for better or worse. And a 500-year flood could certainly happen more than once every 500 years. So now that access is back, it pays to consider regenerative tourism when you plan your trip.
Plan your visit for 2023, and experience all Yellowstone has to offer when you book your stay at a Starry Night property in Gardiner.