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Utah families make new plans after flooding closes Yellowstone National Park

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Campers and visitors waited in lines trying to get inside Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday even though rangers closed the park due to destructive flooding.

Trucks loaded with gravel and sand got inside the park, most likely headed to areas that needed immediate repair.

Everyone else who had plans and reservations was forced to come up with something else to do.

Campers who came to make memories and sit around a crackling campfire had to make new plans.

"We grew up coming every other year," said Mike Ellsworth.

He cherishes his childhood memories of Yellowstone National Park, so he, his wife, and their three kids decided to make reservations in the Canyons section of the park. They made those reservations last year.

"Last June, we booked this trip," said Ellsworth. "It's a special place. The boys have just loved coming up here. They don't want to camp anywhere else."

However, on their way from their Box Elder County home to Yellowstone a couple of days ago, they started getting messages that some of the entrances were closing because of flooding. When they were only about a couple of hours away from Yellowstone, they got word the entire park was closed.

"We saw all the signs over the road pass saying Yellowstone was closed," he said.

Melting snow in Yellowstone's mountains and heavy rainfall for days led to what Yellowstone's park superintendent called a 1000-year flood.

Rivers broke records, as well as roads, bridges and anything else in the way.

For safety reasons, no one was being allowed in the park and all visitors already there were being evacuated.

"It was sad news," said Ellsworth.

They needed to come up with a new plan. Everyone who was visiting did.

Another family traveling from Box Elder County to Yellowstone had made plans months ago, too.

"We were kind of still hopeful that things would change and we would be able to get in but nope," said Ralph Bennett.

Bennett and his family had Yellowstone plans since October.

They decided to go fishing instead and do a little shopping in what quickly became a busier West Yellowstone.

"Other than that, just try to stay warm in the tent," said Bennett with a laugh.

Both families said it's not that bad, though, especially compared to those business owners in Gardiner, Montana, where damage seems to be the worst.

It could take months, if not years, to recover.

"We feel bad for those folks," said Ellsworth.

He and his family are still making memories on this trip. It's just different from what they had planned.

"Playing games at the camp here with the boys. Playing whatever we can do," he said. "We're having fun no matter what."

The big question everyone has: When might Yellowstone open again?

The northern loop could be closed for the rest of the season. The southern loop, which contains Old Faithful, might open sometime next week.

However, park administrators are looking at a reservation-type system to get in since the southern loop alone can't handle the entire park's normal visitation. Details are still being worked out.

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Utah travel and tourismUtahOutdoors & Rec
Alex Cabrero


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