Park to employ new interim visitor entry system
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Following heavy rains and rapidly melting snowpack that closed Yellowstone National Park to the public last week, visitors will be able to access the south loop of the park at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22. The south loop is accessed from the East (Cody), West (West Yellowstone), and South (Grand Teton/Jackson). Areas accessible include Madison, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village, Canyon Village and Norris.
As part of reopening planning, park staff have engaged over 1,000 business owners, park partners, commercial operators and residents in surrounding gateway communities to determine how to manage summer visitation while the north loop remains closed due to flood damage.
To balance the demand for visitor access, park resource protection and economic interests of the communities, the park will institute an interim visitor access plan. The interim plan, referred to as the Alternating License Plate System, was suggested as a solution by gateway communities during major public engagement with the park this past week. Park managers and partners have agreed this system is the best interim solution to ensuring the south loop does not become overwhelmed by visitors. The National Park Service will actively monitor the license plate system and is concurrently building a new reservation system that will be ready for implementation if needed.
Alternating License Plate System
- Public vehicle entry will be allowed based on whether the last numerical digit on a license plate is odd or even.
- Entrance will be granted based on odd/even days on the calendar.
- Odd-numbered last digits on license plates can enter on odd days of the month.
- Even-numbered last digits (including zero) on license plates can enter on even days of the month.
- Personalized plates (all letters, for example YLWSTNE) will fall into the “odd” category for entrance purposes.
- Plates with a mix of letters and numbers but that end with a letter (for example YELL4EVR) will still use the last numerical digit on the plate to determine entrance days.
- Entrance station staff will turn away vehicles attempting to enter the park when the odd/even numerical digits do not correspond to the odd/even calendar date for entrance.
- Current commercial use operators with active commercial use permits will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number. This includes commercial tours and stock groups.
- Visitors with proof of overnight reservations in the park will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number. This includes hotels, campgrounds, and backcountry reservations.
- Commercial motorcoaches will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number.
- Motorcycle groups may enter on even dates only.
- Essential services like mail and deliver, employees and contractors may enter regardless of license plate number.
The interim license plate system will ensure that visitors have access to the park during this period of high demand. Park managers and staff will monitor the license plate system and impacts on resources, infrastructure, operations, and staffing, and may adjust or implement a reservation or timed entry system, if necessary, after three to four weeks.
“Less than six days ago, Yellowstone National Park was hit with devastating floods,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teams and partners, we are prepared to reopen the south loop of Yellowstone. It is impossible to reopen only one loop in the summer without implementing some type of system to manage visitation. My thanks to our gateway partners and others for helping us work out an acceptable temporary solution for the south loop while we continue our efforts to reopen the north loop. As we go through the reopening process, we will monitor the system’s effectiveness and work together to make adjustments that may be necessary. We will also reopen new sections of the park as repairs continue to be made. It is critical for visitors to stay informed about this interim system as we evaluate its effectiveness. They should plan ahead and be patient with us as we are still managing significant recovery while moving into this operational phase.”
OPEN in the south loop as of June 22
- Backcountry areas accessible from roads open to the public will be available/restricted for day use only.
- Overnight use from trailheads in the south will open July 1.
- Visit Camp in Backcountry for details.
- Old Faithful, West Thumb, Grant Village, Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Norris visitor services
- West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center
- Canyon Village Visitor Education Center
CLOSED until further notice in the south loop
- Canyon Village Lodges & Cabins
- Canyon, Madison, Norris and Lewis Lake campgrounds
- Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and Trailside Museum
Visit Operating Hours and Seasons for details about what is open and closed throughout the park.
Yellowstone staff are working to determine what other potential sections of the park may be reopened prior to roads closing Nov. 1. Decisions will depend on extent of damage and the ability of park managers to safely open additional sections as the year progresses. Park managers are evaluating plans to reopen roads connecting Canyon Village, Tower Junction, Mammoth Hot Spring and Norris however this will not happen initially. The park is also working to reconnect Mammoth Hot Springs to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate as soon as possible with temporary solutions, while long-term reconstruction is planned.