The northern entrances to Yellowstone National Park remain closed after severe flooding has swallowed roads, bridges and homes. State and federal land agencies now expect visitors to seek other outdoor recreation opportunities, drawing crowds and tourist dollars to other areas.
Pam Crowhurst came to Montana from California to visit the state’s famous national parks. Her plans changed when a historic flood hit Yellowstone, which forced her to extend her stay in Glacier National Park.
“So our alternative was that we booked an extra night here so we could keep our site for one more night. And then we go to Butte to see the Lady of the Rockies – I don’t know what that is.
Crowhurst is one of many tourists faced with the decision to change their itinerary after flooding closed most of the entrances from Montana to Yellowstone.
State and federal agencies that manage public lands in Montana are now anticipating an increase in attendance as tourists look for alternative campsites, hiking trails, and fishing spots this summer. This could increase pressure on already overcrowded public lands.
“We’re going to need people to successfully camp in dispersed areas if we’re going to keep up with the level of interest that’s going to be there this summer,” said Cathy Stevens, manager for the Western District of the Bureau of Land Management. The office is under additional pressure because they have few seasonal recreational staff.
The increase in camping attendance during the pandemic has caused issues such as people leaving toilet paper on the ground, improper fire extinguishing, and more interactions between humans and grizzly bears, Stevens said. She expects more visitors to seek out BLM land given the recent flooding in Yellowstone.
Greg Lemon, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the organization is already looking forward to a more busy year.
“With the recent activity in the park, with the flooding and everything, we’ve already seen a pretty big spike in attendance at a couple of parks.”
After the Yellowstone flooding, attendance at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Parks, Pictograph Cave and Chief Plenty Copes has skyrocketed since the Yellowstone flood, Lemon said.
He added that new visitors arriving during the COVID-19 pandemic have prepared the FWP for this challenge.
“From our point of view, I think we are ready to handle the increase in visits.”
Glacier National Park, about a 6-hour drive northwest of Yellowstone, already facing overcrowding issues last year, has put in place an entry ticket system to limit the number of people who can visit the park per day.
Gina Kerzman, a spokesperson for the park, said the park hasn’t changed any plans.
“We have a system in place, we think it works well, and we’re going to stick with it.”
The glacier has also closed roads and trails due to flooding and encourages guests to visit the park’s website for more information on its…