Last month, Yellowstone National Park experienced a massive 1,000 year-flood event. Around 10,000 people were evacuated as homes crumbled, roads flooded, and bridges were swept away. The destruction left entire communities isolated. EcoFlight was on-site days later. Working with Park County Environmental Council, we convened around thirty individuals to meet and fly the inundated river. With members of the local community, many whose livelihoods depend on Yellowstone NP tourism, geomorphologists, conservationists, and the media, we captured aerial photography and video, and provided a platform for the community to voice their concerns to the press and town leaders. Last month, extreme rains fell on unstable, melting snowpack in and around Yellowstone National Park. The inundation of rain coincided with a warm spell that caused a rapid increase in snowmelt that led to massive flooding and mudslides.
This 1,000 year-flood event caused evacuations of around 10,000 Yellowstone National Park visitors, workers, and those in gateway communities. Rain deluged the Yellowstone, Stillwater, and Clarks Fork Rivers. The region experienced massive flooding of campsites and roads, sweeping away multiple homes and flooding hundreds more, destroying sewage infrastructure, compromising drinking water, taking out bridges and roads, and isolating individuals and communities. The Gardiner to Mammoth road, where the park headquarters are located, was swept into the charging river, destroying one of the park's main entrances.The park was closed on June 13th. Many people and businesses in Gardiner, Red Lodge, and other communities are undergoing the weight of these changes to their tourist-based livelihoods and economies.
The resilient communities, leaders, and park employees are recovering and rebuilding, having already re-opened the south, west, and east entrances, along with the south and north loops that give access to many beloved attractions like Old Faithful. Flood recovery efforts continue to be underway.
Yellowstone is the world's first national park, and is incredibly beloved by Americans and visitors from around the globe. The Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. This historic year for Yellowstone is met with the worrying effects of a warming climate - strong weather events are projected to increase, threatening the landscapes we love, livelihoods, and people.