GARDINER - Residents of Gardiner are starting to look ahead to the future as water from the Yellowstone River starts to recede with one thing in mind — resiliency.
“We really are clenching our teeth and holding our breath thinking how we are going to adapt and move through this,” said Yellowstone Wolf Tracker co-owner Nathan Varley.
In 2020, a massive fire took out several businesses, two years ago a COVID-19 shutdown, last year a nearby wildfire, and this year a flood. All have had an effect on Gardiner.
“Gardiner seems to be pretty hard hit these days, we are definitely reeling from all the things that have happened,” said Varley.
As the Yellowstone River rose and the highway was open, all the tourists made their way out of town.
“The tourists are like the tide that comes in high (in the summer) and low in the winter and you get used to that,” said Gardiner resident Michelle Holihan.
But right now it is an unusual time for Gardiner.
“Usually right now there are hundreds of people walking the street and lots of people coming out of the park from an early morning drive,” said Mountain Tacos manager Justin Apostolo.
Now, the town is quiet, as the occasional car drives by on the road leading into the park. Rather than listening to cars drive by you hear the roar of the river and flags waving in the wind.
“It's pretty quiet, on such a sunny day in the middle of June,” observed Apostolo.
At Mountain Tacos, Apostolo cleans the empty restaurant, during what should be the busy lunch rush.
“Right around this time we’d be almost opening lunch. We’ll have a line of people before they go into the park,” said Apostolo.
The uncertainty remains high in Gardiner, which relies on tourism from the north end of Yellowstone National Park.
“With that being closed our season is probably over for this year. And our future is a little unknown,” said Apostolo.
As the gates of Yellowstone sit empty during what was set to be a historic 150th year, nature finds its way around, but the locals continue to wonder what is next.
“Without it, like, what are we going to do,” noted Varley.
They look to adapt, no matter what is thrown their way.
Over at Flying Pig Raft Company, it's all hands on deck answering the phone calls to assist those customers with refunds, but they look to bring people back
“We want to be here and be ready to give people the opportunity to come rafting,” said Flying Pig Raft Company co-owner Patrick Sipp.
Even if it's different, they hope to save a bit of their summer.
“If we can provide a service that is able to bring in business throughout the rest of the summer — whatever that looks like in any capacity, we want to be here to be able to do that,” said Sipp.
As for the future of Gardiner, they say they will wait and see but one thing remains true — they are Gardiner Strong.
“Montana’s got some pretty resilient folks, you know there are some can-do people here. And I'm just hopeful that we can keep our chins up and keep going,” said Sipp.