Tourists have long struggled with the crowded roads in Yellowstone National Park.

But for the residents of Cooke City, and the businesses in Gardiner that depend on that tourist traffic, the road along Yellowstone's northern edge has long been a source of complaints and concern.

Now, it looks like the "Montana side" of Yellowstone will get some attention, thanks in large part to the massive storms that altered the landscape in 2022.

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A year 'round lifeline

Wyoming Highway 212, and the stretch of U.S. 89 that climbs from Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs have been due for upgrades for decades. While there have been some bridge replacements over the years and regular maintenance projects, the actual design of the road hasn't changed in decades. That meant narrow shoulders, dangerous curves, and a road that gets even more hazardous in the winter.

For residents of Cooke City, and the businesses that depend on winter sports, that's been a critical issue. But most of the main road improvements in Yellowstone have been made elsewhere.

The floods changed that

However, Mother Nature forced the issue in June 2022, when record rains hit the north side of the park, causing millions in damage and obliterating sections of the road.

The National Park Service was able to do the unthinkable, getting traffic flowing again within a matter of months, and restoring the critical connection.

But other issues remain unresolved, including the lack of shoulders and parking for visitors in popular wildlife viewing spots like the Lamar Valley.

YNP Northside Road Summer
Summer crowds scramble for space in the Lamar Valley; Dennis Bragg photo

Now the real help is coming

This week, Yellowstone administrators announced they're ready to proceed with the complete rebuild of 212, and coming up with a better solution than the temporary road which presents a steep and twisted route above Gardiner.

Next week, NPS is inviting people to attend two virtual meetings, February 12th and 14th, where the park will recap the storm damage, and explain some of the environmental restraints to changing the road inside the park, but also opportunities to improve the road through 3 re-alignments. Written comments are also welcome for 30 days.

The park will use the comments as part of an environmental impact statement by this fall, with some final decisions in early '25.

RELATED: New Help For Housing Crunch Outside Yellowstone and Glacier

LOOK: Historic 2022 Flooding in Southern Montana Not Soon to Be Forgotten

Widespread flooding wiped out roads, bridges, buildings, and powerlines throughout riverside communities from Yellowstone National Park and Paradise Valley to Red Lodge. The Yellowstone River winding through Billings crested Tuesday, June 14, 2022. At 11:30 a.m. the National Weather Service in Billings reported the river rose above flood stage and was forecasted to hit 14.7 feet, nearly hitting the 15-foot record set in 1997.

Gallery Credit: Rachel Helgeson

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