Yellowstone East Gate opens Friday despite budget cuts, late snow

Dennis Lenzendorf opens the Yellowstone East Gate on Friday for the first day of the 2012 summer season. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate - click to enlarge)

Dennis Lenzendorf opens the Yellowstone East Gate on Friday for the first day of the 2012 summer season. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate – click to enlarge)

From Staff Reports

CODY, WYO. — Despite a series of budget cuts that delayed National Park Service snowplows and a round of spring snow that moved through the region early this week, the East Gate to Yellowstone National Park is set to open Friday.

Wyoming communities in Cody and Jackson chipped in to cover the cost of snow removal along much of the park’s south and east entrance roads, ensuring on-time openings for those gates. Budget cuts mandated by the Congressional sequestration would have meant delayed openings, but crews from the Wyoming Department of Transportation helped clear the roads in cooperation with Park Service workers.

As part of the cooperative agreement, park crews have plowed new snow as it has fallen, including a round of spring snow this week. That means that visitors will be able to enter Yellowstone’s East Gate at 8 a.m. Friday, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Yellowstone public affairs office.

Visitors can now travel through the park’s East, West, and North Entrances to many popular park destinations including Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin, and Fishing Bridge.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through Mammoth Hot Springs, and on to the Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, is open all year. The road from Cooke City to the Chief Joseph Highway is expected to be plowed no later than May 24, but could be cleared sooner if conditions allow.

Travel through the South Entrance to Grant Village, West Thumb Junction and on to Fishing Bridge and across Craig Pass to Old Faithful is set to open as originally scheduled on Friday, May 10, given favorable weather conditions.

Visitor services throughout the park are opening for the season.  Operating dates and hours are available online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/ocd_locale.htm or by consulting the free park newspaper, provided to visitors at each entrance station.

Park officials advise that spring in Yellowstone is unpredictable and often brings cold temperatures, high winds and snow. Even cleared sections of roads can be narrow and covered with a layer of snow, ice and debris.  Visitors should use caution when driving as road clearing operations can be ongoing at any time throughout the park.  In the case of extreme weather conditions, temporary road closures are also possible with little or no advance warning.

Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117. Information on current conditions in the park is also available online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/conditions.htm.

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