The federal government plans to pump $50 million into fast-tracking road repairs in Yellowstone National Park following record-breaking floods.
The National Park Service said in a statement Monday that Yellowstone’s northern loop — which has been hit with the worst damage — is expected to reopen within two weeks.
Yellowstone’s southern loop will reopen for day use Wednesday, with plans to allow overnight access starting July 1, it said.
The park service anticipates visitor access will be restored to approximately 80 percent of the park by July 4.
The historic national park, situated mostly in Wyoming, and partially in Montana and Idaho, flooded earlier this month due to a combination of several inches of rain and snowmelt across the Absaroka and the Beartooth mountain ranges, according to the weather service. The waters also caused mudslides and left rocks and other debris making roads impassable.
Floodwaters swept away homes, washed away bridges, stranded people in the park and devastated local businesses anticipating the summer tourism season. Around 10,000 visitors had to be moved out of the 2.2 million acre park, which typically sees more than 4 million visitors per year.
The park service has warned that climate change has accelerated the melting of mountain glaciers, “shifting beyond the historical range of variability” and affecting all aspects of park management.
A recent multiteam climate assessment of the park concluded that higher temperatures are causing precipitation that would normally fall on the mountains as snow instead come as rain, and that the decreasing snowpacks will threaten water availability for people living and working in nearby towns.
The park service said the emergency funds will be used to restore temporary access to Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana.
Construction crews and materials that were already in the park for a deferred maintenance project repairing the Grand Loop Road will be diverted to the Old Gardiner Road, a 5-mile gravel road at the north entrance, the agency said.
The park service’s current focus on Old Gardiner Road will be fixing it to ensure access in the winter for emergency services, food and supplies, and the agency said it will evaluate restoring limited visitor access at the park’s north entrance in the coming months.
It said it is also working with the Federal Highway Administration to restore access to Silver Gate and Cooke City, near the northeast entrance to the park. The northeast entrance road remains impassable between Lamar Valley and Silver Gate.
Alicia Victoria Lozano contributed.