The new old road

You will have read about the flooding in Yellowstone, an almost logical capstone to an odd spring in Montana.  An average snowpack, which lingered anywhere high after a cool and wet April and May, slowly saturated that ground and allowed for rains in both the greater Yellowstone and Crown of the Continent areas last week to come close to, or exceed, historical records.  Most demonstrative was the road through Gardner Canyon, north of Mammoth, which was obliterated by a massive spike.  Equally, if not more, historically aberrant floods happened elsewhere in the northern part of the GYE.  Historically being the operative word, either here or in reference to the 1964 flood on the Flathead River; such things are only exceptional when humans are around to marvel.

The devastation in Gardner Canyon is noteworthy because it happened from such a small drainage, and exceptional because the wrong road just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  The Lamar spike was largely, proportionally, but the placement of that road led to far less significant damage.

As shown on the map, above, there is another, older road right next to the Gardner Canyon road.  The old Gardiner road is still there, and makes for a nice walk with open views.  It is as good a route for modern walkers or cyclists as it was a practical one for stagecoaches 150 years ago.  The canyon road is an artifact of the 20th century park service, with easy, in your face views to suit cars.   The new entrance road in Arches being another, easy, example.

Long term, cars have at best a truncated future in American National Parks.  With them, and all the people who want to visit, even Yellowstone is too small.  Today, the park service has a chance to put the old Gardiner road back into permanent use, and take an enduring step away from showpiece roads, and towards a more sustainable model of visitation.

One response to “The new old road”

  1. “In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll begin to see something, maybe. Probably not.”

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