Arnica Fire Update. Oct. 1, 2009

Post Labor Day Yellowstone construction and fire have made an unnecessary hardship-
Now this in combination with snow has all but closed the Park early-

Yesterday you enjoyed Dusty Road’s photos of the Arnica Fire taken from Yellowstone Lake (on a boat), but Dusty, a local resident, has more to say. Ralph Maughan

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Road Closure Intermittent Due to Arnica Fire
Incident: Arnica Fire WildfireReleased: 9 hrs. ago

On Thursday, October 1st, the road from Bridge Bay to West Thumb will be open for visitor travel with a pilot car between 6-8 a.m., 1200-1 p.m., and 6-8 p.m., delays may be expected. Other area roads are impacted by weather. Dunraven Pass is closed due to snow. Madison to Norris is closed due to construction. Snow tires are required from East Entrance to Lake.


Arnica Fire Update  October 1, 2009.

10,700 acres.
By Dusty Roads. copyrighted.

The major problem with this whole situation is a display of questionable management decisions on the part of the park administration.  Since August 17th of this year the eastern portion of the north loop in the park has been closed for the construction of the new bridge at Gibbon Falls which means that ALL traffic through the park must travel around the Grand Loop via the eastern side to the southern segment from the northern portion to get to Old Faithful  or the west and south.  The eastern and southernmost portions of the route had become the only way  to access any of the northern part of the park from the west gate.  For those who visualize by landmarks: to get to the west entrance from Gardiner, instead of going from Mammoth to Norris to Madison Jct. you have to go over Dunraven Pass and then on over Craig Pass via West Thumb and past Old Faithful to get to Madison Jct. or south to Grand Teton NP.  It’s 49 miles from Gardiner to West Yellowstone otherwise.  At this point travel from the West and South Entrances ore cut off from the rest of the park except when the pilot action is taking place.  With Dunraven closed, well, I think most can figure that out.

This presents something of a deterrent for tourist pinching vacation dollars given the current economic climate creating an early and weak end to the tourist season for the gate communities that depend on park tourism.

With the park essentially closed for the season at this point, given the long tasks ahead for park maintenance, the season has ended abruptly three weeks early.  It means some serious economic losses for these communities and the people who work for the businesses who accommodate the tourists with their needs while visiting Yellowstone NP.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps it would have made sense for the park administration to reopen Gibbon Falls passage for the remaining three weeks or less rather than to just close the only park thoroughfare.  The construction companies working that job could surely have made it passable within a day.  It seems to take the park administration far too long to make crucial decisions that impact the traffic flow and the safety of the public.  By being unable to make sound decisions concerning population management~from traffic control in traffic jam prone areas to handling travelers’ safety in  fire areas~shows a severe lack of concern for public safety in a national park that endures millions of visitors.

As for the gate communities, the world has fallen silent from loss of tourists.  The residents are suddenly preparing for a longer than expected in-between season with uncertainty over what the winter tourism will be given the shrinking winter visitors for snowmobiling in and outside the park.  Expensive park trips that even the residents of the gate communities can not afford are not attracting many tourists for sled or coach trips.

The park needs better management, the visitors deserve better.  The businesses and residents of gate communities thrive or wither by way of park policy, most have nothing but tourism for income.







  1. Cliff Avatar

    I don’t agree with any of this. Dusty Roads claims that the Park is doing a poor job managing for public safety. The reason these roads were closed is for public safety. The road between Lake Village and West Thumb was closed because the fire was alongside the road and burned snags were falling in the roadway. The road was only closed temporarily, and mostly only intermittently, as dictated by concerns for public safety, so the Park is not effectively closed for the season as Roads claimed. The reason the Gibbons Canyon road is closed is to replace a bridge. It is doubtful that the construction company could open that road back up in a day in a manner that would allow safe travel to through traffic. Roads should not make such a reckless claim unless he has seen the actual construction site or spoken to someone who knows. It sounds like Roads is more concerned about the local economies than the Park. I hope we are past the days when major decisions affecting the Yellowstone ecosystem are dictated by what is best for the local economies. One final point: you don’t have to go over Dunraven Pass to get from Gardiner to the west entrance. You can go through Norris to get to Canyon.

    I am not in any way affiliated with park management, and I criticize them when I think they deserve it.

  2. John M Garberson Avatar
    John M Garberson

    I disagree. 🙂

    The construction closure detour added about 40 miles/one hour to the drive from West Yellowstone to Lamar Valley which would be the most lengthy inconvenience of the closure, I think. IMO, that’s not a whole lot and not enough to deter Park visitation. And certainly not enough to warrant the level of criticism above. It did, however, motivate me to visit other parts of the Park last week and not do our typical daily drive to Lamar and back for the time we stayed at W. Yellowstone.

    During that week I spent the first night in Cooke City. I made my reservations about 60 days in advance and got the last room. In W. Yellowstone, the desk clerk told me summer ended but the summer rush never did. They had let their summer help go but nothing slowed down and the motel was now short-handed. From my own observation, the week of 21-25 Sep, the same September week I visit every year, was the busiest I’ve ever seen at that time. There may be a slow down now but it’s because of recent weather, not a management/road closure decision made months ago. Bottom line: the gate communities should have done just fine this year, Park management not withstanding. All five experienced a growth year.

    This from the Park’s chief of public affairs which, admittedly, may have a different perspective than Dusty’s 😉 : QUOTE:Although road work has been ongoing and will close the park’s route between Madison Junction and Norris beginning Aug. 17 and extending through December, Nash didn’t think that has or will hurt tourism.
    Lack of snow and lawsuits led to confusion about the winter season last year, which could have hurt winter tourism in the park. Visitation for the first three months of this year was down from 2008, especially in February which saw a drop of more than 15 percent.
    “Winter’s important, but it is a small component when compared to the summer’s impact,” Nash said. “But I don’t want to downplay winter.”ENDQUOTE

    It’s my understanding that the road along side the fire was closed for four or five days. I say, “Well played” from the viewpoint of both fire and construction/road management.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan