WEST YELLOWSTONE - Vehicles were backed up all the way into West Yellowstone as Yellowstone National Park opened its gates for the first time in 10 days on Wednesday.
It was shades of last summer as the line at the West entrance snaked back as far as could be seen. Park staff say it was expected.
“I think we did, I think we did,” said Yellowstone National Park spokesperson Linda Veress. “You know June’s one of our busiest months of the year and I know people are so excited to be able to come back to Yellowstone.”
Once those people waiting in line at the gate got into the park, they may have been pleasantly surprised.
“We came into town on Monday,” said Brennan and Rudy Sias from Washington state. “We were going to do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday here and just had to extend our time a little.”
When asked what they did in the interim, while the park was closed, they had a quick answer, "oh, we just saw some things around here, Earthquake Lake and the Grizzly-Wolf Center.”
Several of the visitors to the park also found plenty to do in the gateway community while waiting for the park to reopen.
“We went out off-roading,” said Deepak Reddy Mogul of Carrollton Texas. “And having some fun times.”
That’s just what businesses in the gateway communities were hoping would happen with the majority of visitors who were shut out of the park.
Most people seemed calm but excited to be heading into Yellowstone.
It was also crowded at the south entrance near Grand Teton.
“It was a three-mile wait when we arrived,” said Mogul. “I think we arrived there at 7:30 and it was a three-mile line.”
Once inside the park, the traffic spread out and the crowding at the gates eased. That meant a lot of people headed straight to Old Faithful.
“It’s a little uncertain right now with the roads and the conditions, so we just want to make sure that we hit the main attraction first and look around for the other ones,” explained Mogul.
Those we spoke with didn’t mind missing a visit to the northern part of the park. They already had a lot to do in the south.
“Canyon, Lake, the Artists Point, Norris, umm, what else, Grant, Yellowstone Lake, maybe a couple of hikes,” said Mogul.
At Old Faithful, there are pretty typical summertime crowds around the time when the famous geyser goes off.
People seemed to be enjoying the blue sky day and the act that all services seem to be running as normal here.
That was in fact the feeling that could be had throughout the busy Madison to Old Faithful corridor.
It felt about normal with just a hint of anticipation because of the flood damage not far away.
Park officials say there is still no timeline for opening a temporary route for park visitors to use from Gardiner to Mammoth or west of Cooke City and Silver Gate.
In fact, they say the route for that access is yet to be determined.