The mid-June flooding in south-central Montana not only destroyed homes, roads, bridges and businesses, it also heavily damaged portions of the Beartooth Ranger District. The district covers about 600,000 acres in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. About 65% of it is wilderness, yet it contains some of the most popular access points to the wildlands. Places like the Stillwater Trailhead, East Rosebud access to the Beaten Path Trail and popular hiking spots outside of Red Lodge are inaccessible. More than $22.5 million in damage is estimated to the infrastructure of the entire forest, which also includes the Yellowstone and Gardiner ranger districts. This could either push people away from the region, or crowd them into the fewer spots that remain open. Communities like Red Lodge, Cooke City, Silver Gate and Gardiner are all reliant on the tourists that come to the region. With the Beartooth Highway still closed on the Montana side and the North and Northeast entrances to Yellowstone closed to vehicles, those towns will have less business this summer but are pleading for travelers to come. For more on the issue, check out my story at https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/flood-damage-restricts-access-to-popular-forest-sites-redirecting-visitors/article_cd560140-fc9b-11ec-b824-879c8b1b26f5.html.
Brett French | Outdoors editor | Billings Gazette