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Shhh…Mother’s Day access to the Park from highway 212

Shhh…don’t tell anyone but the Northeast road to the Park is open.  This is the usual time, the 2nd week of May, when they plow the nine miles of highway 212 and access is open to Cooke City.  But because of the sequester, the opening date was moved to ‘no later than May 24’.  I like to go into the Park on mother’s day and see all the new mothers.  Those nine unplowed miles are easy access and many times melt off almost or completely on their own.  So I was counting on still going up there.

Calf and mom

Calf and mom

Meanwhile, in Cody, their opening date, which is usually the 1st of May, was moved up to around May 15th.  The East gate, an hour directly east of Cody, is the most difficult entrance to plow.  During the winter, access to the gate is plowed, but from there its groomed for snowmobiles and skiers only.  The treacherous Sylvan Pass is subject to avalanches, rock slides, and is incredibly steep.  In the winter, the Park blasts to create avalanches.  It costs the park a lot of money, yet few people actually use the entrance.  Once you reach the entrance (as I said, one hour from Cody), you have another hour or so before you arrive to Pelican Valley or Fishing Bridge where you can see more wildlife.  Spring storm brewing in Yellowstone, NE entrance

Cody and Park County decided that they would lose too much business if the entrance were closed for two weeks.  The Park was saving money imposed by the sequester by delayed plowings.  The east entrance alone  costs approximately $100,000 to plow. All the roads leading into the east entrance need to be plowed.  Yet Cooke City to the North entrance is plowed all year long.   So in a strange decision, Cody raised the money and the city donated some matching funds just to open that entrance on time.

Strange?  I call it that because in exactly the same amount of time it takes to get into the heart of the Park from the east entrance, Cody could have sent people to the Northeast entrance and the abundant wildlife area of the Lamar valley, and had to probably pay very little money for plowing those easy additional nine miles.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

I’ve written about that orphan road before.  My neighbor says that when they paved the road, the idea was that would be the all year round access. But snowmobilers just won’t go for that.  Even though the concept of ‘share the road’ would be simple–snowmobilers could have an access drive area along the side to their trails, or park further up–the snowmobile lobby is too organized and vocal.  So those few miles are not plowed.  But the warm weather, wide fairly flat road, makes for quick plowing in late April and although last week it was still impassable, today the road was dry and the plows had already done their work.  The Park was lovely.  Baby bisons are being born.  I watched an osprey building her nest and saw a coyote hunting and catching mice.  I’ll be going in for my traditional mother’s day celebration and hope to see some bears.

Coyote searching sagebrush for prey

Coyote searching sagebrush for mice

One Response

  1. Thanks for the heads-up on the NE entrance being open. We are getting home tomorrow (Friday) but both caught a bug at the “kids” so we’ll be hanging around the house for a time trying to get well. I do so love visiting the park in the early spring. Your posted photos are stunning. It is really frustrating to me that the snowmobile folks can prevent the road to the NE gate from being plowed. I would dearly love to be able to enter the park in the winter, and as you say it wouldn’t be all that difficult to please everyone. I would think Cody would get behind the idea more, as I really do think it could add more tourist dollars to Cody and the museum if they did.


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