CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park likely won’t reopen until May or later, delaying the start of its traditional summer season for millions of tourists because of the coronavirus outbreak, a park official said.
“I don’t foresee us opening in the month of April,” park Superintendent Cam Sholly told Park County commissioners in a conference call Tuesday. “It’s going to be closer to May, and then we’ll see what the virus is doing in Montana and Wyoming and around the country for that matter.”
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park closed March 24 amid urging by health officials. The closures occurred while most areas of the parks were inaccessible because of lingering snow.
Most roads still needed to be plowed after use during the winter by skiers and people using snow machines ended as usual March 15.
Yellowstone’s west gate at West Yellowstone, Montana, was initially scheduled to open for the summer season April 17, followed by the east gate May 1 and the south gate May 8.
The coronavirus has complicated the usual pattern from late April to early June of plowing and then reopening gates, visitor centers, stores, restaurants and lodges for tourists who begin to converge on Yellowstone around Memorial Day weekend, the Cody Enterprise reported.
Sholly said he intends to listen to health officers and elected officials in deciding when to reopen Yellowstone.
“It’s probably easier to make a decision to close. There’s probably a lot more consensus on it than when we make the decision to open,” Sholly said.
Health officers who decide it’s OK to reopen restaurants and allow social gatherings will help inform his decision, Sholly said.
A road through northern Yellowstone from Gardiner, Montana, to Cooke City, Montana, has remained open during the shutdown. The route has been heavily monitored to ensure only people traveling for work use it during the shutdown.
Yellowstone had more than 4 million visitors in 2019, the fewest since 2014, according to the National Park Service.