Projects aimed at improving safety, access and experience on park roads
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. – There will be three major road improvement projects in Yellowstone National Park beginning in 2022. All three projects will cause major delays (Lewis River Bridge, Old Faithful to West Thumb and Yellowstone River Bridge) and two projects (Old Faithful to West Thumb and Lewis River Bridge) will have overnight closures.
The National Park Service decided to begin the Old Faithful to West Thumb and Lewis River Bridge project simultaneously to complete both in the same two-year time window. Otherwise, impacts to visitors would have occurred over four to five years.
“It’s important the visiting public understand the major delays that will occur in 2022 and 2023 and impacts to the South Entrance Road,” said superintendent Cam Sholly. “While we always strive to execute projects in the least impacting way, the Old Faithful to West Thumb and Lewis River Bridge projects will seriously disrupt travel entering and exiting the park’s south entrance and visitors should plan accordingly. We very much appreciate the funding received through the Great American Outdoors Act to complete these critical projects.”
Addressing the deferred maintenance backlog is part of the NPS core mission to preserve national parks and provide a world-class visitor experience. In 2018, Yellowstone reported a conservative backlog estimate exceeding $586 million, more than half of which is related to park roads. With the completion of these three projects, the park will reduce its deferred maintenance backlog by about $103 million.
1. Lewis River Bridge
Location: Nearly 10 miles north of the South Entrance on the South Entrance Road
Access: Beginning spring 2022 until fall 2023, expect up to 20-minute delays around the Lewis River Bridge while roads are open to wheeled vehicles (May-Nov.1). In addition, there will be occasional overnight closures between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. April-June and September-November. Check Park Roads for updates. Nearby pullouts and the trail to Lewis River Falls will be closed during construction.
Improvements: Built in 1960, the deteriorating Lewis River Bridge will be replaced. The replacement will be built directly east of the existing bridge to preserve safe visitor access between South Entrance and West Thumb. In addition, the newly designed parking area that serves the popular Lewis River Falls Overlook Trail will be slightly expanded to reduce vehicle congestion. Widened walkways and better pedestrian and vehicle separation will improve visitor safety. This project is funded through the Great American Outdoors Act and the Legacy Restoration Fund.
2. Old Faithful to West Thumb
Access: Beginning spring 2022 until fall 2023, expect up to 30-minute delays along this segment of road while roads are open to wheeled vehicles (May-Nov.1). Anticipate an overnight closure between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sept. 5 until roads close for the season.
Improvements: Approximately 22 miles of the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb will be repaved. The current pavement dates to 1987 and since then has deteriorated due to winter weather conditions and high usage. This road segment is one of the most heavily traveled in the park, connecting visitors to Old Faithful, one of the park’s most-visited destinations. Guardrails, culverts and other drainage structures will be replaced to enhance visitor safety. This project is funded through the Great American Outdoors Act and the Legacy Restoration Fund.
3. Yellowstone River Bridge
Location: Near Tower Junction along the Northeast Entrance Road
Access: Anticipated to begin fall 2022 until fall 2025, expect up to 30-minute delays in this area year-round. The Yellowstone Picnic Area, Wrecker Curve access road and parking area will be closed during construction. Hiking trails will remain open in the area.
Improvements: Built in the early 1960s, the deteriorating Yellowstone River Bridge will be replaced with a new bridge to preserve year-round safe visitor access to and from the Northeast Entrance and the communities of Silver Gate and Cooke City. The new bridge will be located 500 feet south of its existing location. Several new pullouts will increase viewing opportunities, trail and fishing access. Paved trailhead parking will be constructed for three local trails. The Yellowstone River Picnic Area will be reconstructed to accommodate increased visitor use. This project is funded through the Great American Outdoors Act and the Legacy Restoration Fund.
2021 Completed Projects
The park completed two major projects in 2021. After two years of construction and about $28 million invested, Tower-Roosevelt to Chittenden Road (near Dunraven Pass) will open May 27, weather dependent. Additionally, with an investment of about $12 million, the North Entrance is now equipped to meet the challenges of increasing visitation and traffic with an expanded visitor entrance capacity and modern facilities.
With winter weather conditions possible for half of the year, there is a small window from April through early November for repairing and maintaining park roads and bridges.
The park’s Road Improvement webpage will be updated as new or more detailed information is available.