While the north loop of Yellowstone National Park will likely remain closed for the duration of summer, the park's south loop will reopen on Wednesday, June 22 with a new access system in place for visitors.

Recovery operations are continuing in Yellowstone after unprecedented flooding and melting snow destroyed roads and buildings in the popular UNESCO World Heritage site last week. 

Footage from the park showed cracked roads, bridges underwater, gushing mudslides, and one waterfront building being swept away on Tuesday. As officials continue to assess damage across the 2.2 million acre site, with the National Park Service warning of dangerous conditions, people are urged to check the latest updates before visiting.

When will Yellowstone reopen after flooding?

Many sections of road between the North Entrance (Gardiner, Montana), Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley and Cooke City, Montana, near the northeast entrance, are completely gone and will require time to rebuild after the flood waters have receded. It's likely the north loop entrance will remain closed "for a substantial length of time" - quite possibly the entire summer season.

"We have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time but have a long way to go. We have an aggressive plan for recovery in the north and resumption of operations in the south," said Cam Sholly, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent

The south loop will open on June 22 with a new access system in place, called the alternating license plate system (ALPS).

How visitors can access Yellowstone National Park 

"Public vehicle entry will be allowed based on whether the last numerical digit on a license plate is odd or even and entrance will be granted based on odd/even days of the calendar," Yellowstone officials explained.

That means odd-numbered last digits on license plates can enter on odd days of the month, while even-numbered last digits, including zero, on license plates can enter on even days of the month. 

For those with personalized license plates, a mix of letters and numbers will be categorized as "odd" for entry purposes, while those with all letters on the license plate will be considered "even".

Visitors with proof of overnight reservations in the park will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number. This includes hotels, campgrounds, and backcountry reservations, but motorcycle groups may enter on even dates only.

Commercial and essential services vehicles are exempt from the new rules. 

"This interim license plate system will ensure visitors have access to the park during this period of high demand. Park managers and staff will monitor this system and its impacts on resources, infrastructure, operations, and staffing, and may adjust or implement a reservation or timed entry system, if necessary, after three to four weeks," park officials said.

I'm a Yellowstone guide — here's what you need to know if you plan on visiting in 2022

Advice for potential visitors

Yellowstone, which receives more than four million visitors annually, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with events scheduled throughout the year to mark the occasion. 

Park officials say that visitors planning on coming to Yellowstone should pay attention to the status of road conditions. Many park roads will remain closed for an extended period of time even after the park reopens. 

This article was first published June 2022 and updated June 2022

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