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Yellowstone National Park offers proposals for permanent road between Gardiner and Mammoth

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Posted at 7:39 AM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 09:47:38-05

Yellowstone National Park is asking for public input on where to build a permanent road between Gardiner and Mammoth at the park’s north entrance.

During a Webinar on Tuesday to announce three proposals for the road, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said: “The north entrance is the second busiest entrance in the park. Regularly in the summer, it can see traffic counts of 3,000 cars per day.”

The road was wiped out in big sections by a 500-year flood in June of 2022. A temporary road was built to reconnect the two communities. Now the park is looking at building a permanent road, one that has to take into mind cost as well as environmental impact, how much it will be able to withstand future events like that big flood, as well as convenience for visitors to the park.

In the presentation, Sholly said all three proposals included measures to resist future floods. He noted ignoring that would be “the worst thing we could do, even though this is a one in 500-year event, we all know that there's a very good likelihood that something like that will occur sooner than 500 years."

The park will choose one of three routes. The first is expanding and straightening out the current temporary route on the Old Gardiner Road, plus easing some of the steeper sections.

Next is what’s called the Canyon Alignment. That would replace and strengthen the Canyon road that was largely washed out in the flood.

The third is called the Center Alignment. That would use some surviving parts of the Canyon Road, then veer off to higher ground around the deepest part of the canyon.

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"We'll launch in and develop an environmental assessment, select a preferred alternative, hopefully sometime this summer,” said Sholly.

Public comment on the final proposal will be collected next fall and a final decision is expected in early 2025. Sholly took care not to endorse any single plan but pointed out that if the Center Alignment or the Canyon Route is chosen, the current temporary road could still play a role.

“You can’t have two roads at every entrance but in this particular case, it may not be the worst idea," he said. "If something were to happen downstream, we’d have a backup road. We were very fortunate to have the Old Gardiner Road available to us. If we didn’t have that we’d probably have been looking at multiple years of Gardiner being cut off from the park.”

Sholly said the Rescue Creek bridge will be rebuilt and any road alternative will provide access and parking for the bridge. While Boiling River access will also be retained, the former swimming area is gone. The river channel changed leaving the popular attraction high and dry.

You can see more details of the three proposals and make a comment on the Yellowstone National Park website.