NE Yellowstone: Flooding Causes Financial Disaster as Tourists Avoid Area (Bookings Down by 95%)

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Money being washed down garbade disposal

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The floods that took out roads and bridges in the northern part of Yellowstone have left a mark on Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.

The biggest change is the silence, according to Vanessa Shaw, who owns the Cooke City Sinclair Station with her husband.

“We sell ice cream,” Shaw told Cowboy State Daily. “So (in a normal year) there’ll be a line around our stuff here with people coming in and out, and just, nonstop traffic out the doors. And right now, Cooke City looks completely normal, just totally empty. It’s really weird, it’s eerie. A little sad.”

Cooke City and Silver Gate rely on the tourists passing through this remote region of northwest Wyoming and southern Montana on their way to Yellowstone National Park via the northeast gate. But because of the floods that destroyed portions of the highway in Yellowstone on June 13, that entrance is no longer accessible – which means that the tourists aren’t passing through.

“It’s a tsunami,” said Henry Finkbeiner, owner of Silver Gate Lodging. “It’s an economic and financial tsunami that will crush the two towns here.” 

Finkbeiner has been coming to Cooke City and Silver Gate since 1971, he told Cowboy State Daily, when his grandfather first brought him to this part of Montana from his native Georgia. He started his business in 2000, he said, with a mission to connect people to nature. 

“We do that through having lodging in the Range Rider (Lodge), Silver Gate Cabins, Pine Edge cabins, Whispering Pines cabins, and then we have a guide service and a bar.”

But Chris Conway, Silver Gate Lodging manager, said after the flood, their bookings dropped 95%.

“We’ve been booked up for six months in advance,” he said. “We would have probably, approximately, just in our cabins, not the whole community, about 100 people staying in Silver Gate tonight. Tonight we probably have five, because of the closure of the roads into Yellowstone National Park.”

Businesses like Silver Gate Lodging rely on those tourists in the summer to pay the bills year-round. So when the flood occurred on June 13, the damage was done to more than just buildings and roads.

“Thankfully, only one of our cabins was damaged in any sort of way,” said Conway. “The rest of them are okay. But the flooding coming up to where we’re standing right now was pretty significant, and, you know, frightening, and a little stressful at the time.”

Conway came to Silver Gate five years ago, after discovering the area while working with at-risk youth, getting them into nature. He said he’s never experienced anything at all like the floods that threatened the town in mid-June – and neither has anyone else he’s talked to in Silver Gate.

“People I’ve talked to who have been up here, families that have been up here for generations are talking to their grandparents,” said Conway, “and their grandparents have never heard of anything like this happening before.”

So to mitigate the damage to the economy, business owners in Silver Gate and in Cooke City are coming up with creative and unique ways to attract people to come to their communities.

You can read the rest of the story here.




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