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Yellowstone National Park partially reopens after closure

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YELLOWSTONE – Yellowstone National Park reopened for visitors after a nine-day closure.

Travelers from all across the world were able to come visit America’s first national park closed due to intense rainfall that led to catastrophic water damage, mainly contained to the north side of the park.

According to a news release from Yellowstone National Park, the “south loop reopened this morning, June 22, at 8 a.m. As park officials expected, traffic entering through only three entrances (South, West and East) did cause major backups initially; however, backups have cleared at each entrance. By 12:30 p.m., only 20 cars were in line at the West Entrance.”

East Idaho News attended the opening at the West Gate in West Yellowstone, Montana, as thousands of cars entered the park for the first time in over a week.

“It’s been really busy. I’ve been here since 7, but I heard that people started lining up at like 4:30,” said Yellowstone National Park spokeswoman Linda Veress. “It’s been pretty nonstop. We’re very excited to invite visitors back into the park since the closure.”

Yellowstone National Park Public Information Specialist Linda Veress
Yellowstone National Park Public Information Strategist Linda Veress speaks with Kaitlyn Hart near the West entrance to the park. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

Hannah and Andrew Smith drove to Yellowstone National Park from Oklahoma last week before they learned that the park was closed.

“It took us 26 hours with four little kids,” said Hannah, who ended up staying with her husband and children at a friend’s house in Idaho after they learned of the park’s closure.

Hannah also said she was excited to see Old Faithful, as it was her family’s first visit to the park. But they ended up coming to the park Wednesday in their friend’s cars, which had even-numbered plates, and spent the day in the park.

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Marcus and Mike Harvison, visitors from Tampa, Florida, made it to Yellowstone just in time for the park’s closure.

Marcus is on a month-long road trip that began in Tampa. He then drove solo through Alberta, Canada, met Mike in Denver, and the two decided to drive to Yellowstone National Park.

“It’s the biggest and oldest national park in the country,” said Marcus. “I’m excited to see Old Faithful.”

Angelo and Jacquelene McHorse
Angelo, left, and Jacquelene McHorse enjoy one of Yellowstone National Parks rivers after driving from Taos, New Mexico, for the re-opening of the park. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

Yellowstone National Park implemented an alternating license plate system for admittance, due to a high volume of interest in returning to the park on opening day.

According to the National Park Service website, “Public vehicle entry into Yellowstone National Park will be allowed based on two factors: whether the last numerical digit on a license plate is odd or even, and whether the calendar day is odd or even.”

If you have personalized license plate, with a mix of letters and numbers that end with a letter (for example, YELL4EVR) you will still use the last numerical digit on the plate to determine entrance days. If you have a personalized license plate without numbers (such as YLWSTNE), you will be allowed to enter the park on odd days of the month.

Motorcycle groups that are traveling together may enter on even days only, regardless of license plate numbers.

According to the news release, “less than 1% of vehicles were turned away due to having the wrong license plate number” on opening day.

Click here to learn more about Yellowstone’s license plate policy.

As of opening day, the southern loop of the park is open and available to visitors. Travelers are only able to enter the park through the East, South and West entrances.

According to the news release, fewer than 5,000 cars entered the south loop on opening day through Jackson, Wyoming. At this time of year, the park would normally expect more than 10,000 cars to enter per day there.

Veress said the park is expecting to open northern loop in less than two weeks, though the North and Northeastern entrances are to remain closed for a substantial amount of time due to catastrophic damage to roads and structures in the northern area of the park.

“As we’ve discussed with our community partners, we will monitor this together and make adjustments if necessary,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly in a news release on opening day. “We’re happy to have visitors back in Yellowstone and appreciate the patience of the public and community partners as we continue working through this difficult situation.”

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