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'Golden Gate' of Yellowstone National Park to get $22 million upgrade

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Posted at 7:26 AM, Jun 19, 2024

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - A $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will pay for a major upgrade of the “Golden Gate” area in Yellowstone National Park.

The narrow canyon topped by Rustic Falls opens to a wide-open view of a plateau leading to the park interior. Superintendent Cam Sholly said it’s a great welcome to the park for many people.

“When you crest the top at Swan Lake Flat you really get a full exposure to the Yellowstone landscape,” Sholly said during a news conference announcing the grant. It’s one of just five awarded nationwide for park and reservation projects under the bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Sholly said while the project will make it easier for people to appreciate the Golden Gate, it’s mostly about safety.

“We’ve had a lot of rock fall over the past years directly onto that road," he said. "It’s just a matter of time before some of those rocks hit cars. We’ve been very fortunate.”

“There are so many millions of visitors that come to the park, we want to make sure that the experience is the best, and starting with that is safety and security,” added Joan Mooney, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, Department of the Interior.

Near the waterfall, project manager and National Parks employee Dan Rhodes pointed out that the road only slowly gives up its secrets to travelers.

“There’s three prominent noses," Rhodes said. "There’s a nose up on top, this one, and then the one over the viaduct. Those keep you from seeing the view right straight through and it creates a sense of anticipation of what’s coming up ahead.”

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He confirmed that the finished Golden Gate project will bear a lot of similarities to the already completed Gibbon Falls area. He said that effort served as inspiration for this one. But he added that the Golden Gate poses some special challenges.

“We’ll be removing approximately 70,000 cubic yards, or 98,000 tons of rock,” Rhodes said.

A special challenge will be ensuring that the rock does not fall on and damage the existing viaduct which Rhodes said is in good condition and will be reused.

Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt acknowledged that the three-year project will create issues for park visitors.

“You can’t just shut it down for everybody," Bhatt said. "It’s a critical route for tourists, all the people that live and work in the area. They’re going to work through the blasting, they’re going to have to work through the construction.”

Sholly said that blasting will be done after Labor Day when the park is less busy so that the road can be closed while the blasts occur.

Sholly also reminisced about the history of the Golden Gate.

“From 1885 it’s the first stagecoach wooden bridge that took visitors on stagecoach from Mammoth south into the park,” he said.

Bhatt smiled while talking about his love of Yellowstone.

“Clearly, Yellowstone is a jewel for the nation,” he said.

Now a part of that jewel is about to get a few new facets.