National Park Service via Getty
Yellowstone National Park will partially reopen this week, days after a series of historic floods damaged roads, buildings and infrastructure throughout the park.
In an update released Saturday, park officials wrote that visitors will be allowed to enter through the park’s three southernmost entrances beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Entry will be limited by a license plate number system.
“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teams and our partners, we are ready to reopen the South Loop of Yellowstone. It is impossible to reopen a single loop in the summer without putting in place some type of system to manage visits,” said said Cam Sholly, the park superintendent, in a press release.
The park will limit visitor numbers with an alternate license plate system, officials said. If a vehicle’s final license plate number is odd, that vehicle may enter odd days of the month. Even plates, including zero, can enter even days of the month. (Personalised plates with all letters will be considered odd for entry purposes.) Commercial vehicles and people with reservations will be permitted entry.
Fleet officials will refuse non-compliant vehicles, they said.
The license plate system is designed “to ensure the South Loop is not overwhelmed with visitors and to balance the protection of park resources and the economic interests of surrounding communities,” officials wrote.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in a very short time, but there’s still a long way to go,” Sholly said.
The main road through Yellowstone takes the shape of a figure eight. The most severe damage affected the North Loop, which includes the Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs.
The North Loop roads were washed out in several places. Others were blocked by mudslides and downed trees. The gateway town of Gardiner, Montana, just outside the park’s northernmost entrance, was cut off from road access for 24 hours, and drinking water infrastructure in the area are still damaged.
“We anticipate that this area of the park will likely remain closed for an extended period of time,” officials wrote in an update posted on the park’s website.
The South Loop, which is set to reopen Wednesday, includes some of the park’s most recognizable features, such as the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful and the historic Old Faithful Inn.
Summer is by far Yellowstone’s busiest season. More than one million visitors came to Yellowstone in July 2021, the park’s busiest month on record.