COOKE CITY - Huge portions of Yellowstone National Park will once again be open to vehicle traffic, as the northeast entrance of the park near Cooke City is set to open Saturday.
The roads have been impassible for vehicles after June's historic flooding washed out entire swaths of Highway 212.
Four months later, to the day, construction crews are finishing up repairs that will once again allow vehicles to drive through the park, connecting Cooke City to Mammoth, West Yellowstone, and beyond.
"I think if you asked me June 13, as we started seeing the damage reports, we were evacuating the park, there was no power for 48 hours, 200,000 gallons of wastewater was dumped in the Gardiner River, if you asked me at that point if we’d be standing here today having the conversation that we’re having, seeing the repairs done that we’re seeing, I would say that’s probably not feasible," says Park Superintendent Cam Sholly on Thursday.
The repairs have come at no small cost. Sholly says the park has spent about $50 million repairing roads destroyed by flooding. Crews have brought in about 300,000 tons of material to repair the roads.
"I’ve never seen this level of coordination and collaboration in this short amount of time to get so much done," Sholly said.
As this entrance of the park is set to reopen, businesses in the gateway communities of Silver Gate and Cooke City are closing.
"It’s next season," says Chris Conway, general manager of Silver Gate Lodging and General Storer. "We’re opening back up Nov. 18 to accommodate cross country skiers, snowshoers, people who want to go see the wolves after such a long time with no one getting to Lamar Valley.”
The only park road left open for regular vehicle traffic this winter will be from Gardiner to Mammoth, and that's the last section of major repairs the park has to complete.
Sholly says that will open on Nov. 1.