One week ago, a perfect storm hit Yellowstone National Park resulting in one of the worst flooding events inside the park as well as in southern Montana not seen in recent recorded history.
River and streams flows were of epic proportion with some sources saying the Yellowstone River last Monday was flowing at 51,000 cubic feet per second. Other rivers like the Stillwater, Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Boulder and Snake also flowed over their banks to increase the damage and loss to property and livelihood. Unbelievably, nobody lost their lives throughout the flooding.
One week later, we now know the extent of the damage done by the flooding. We also know we can see light at the end of the tunnel as people dig out from the flood waters and begin to re-build or restore homes, businesses, roads and bridges that connect the communities of northwest Wyoming, southern Montana and Yellowstone. The restoration will not happen overnight nor will it be finished by the end of this year. However, hope springs eternal and the true grit of Western communities is very apparent as we witness optimism and hope shining their light in the towns of Red Lodge, Gardiner, Emigrant, Fromberg, Livingston, Columbus, Laurel and Billings.
We in Cody are doing our best to provide goods and whatever monies can be raised to speed the re-building and to lift the spirits of those impacted by last week’s storm.
Local rivers and streams on the east side of Yellowstone also had high flows during last week’s major storm. But, we were very fortunate that damages were slight and flows did not reach new historic highs, except on the lower Clarks Fork as it spread out near the Wyoming and Montana state line. The North and South forks of the Shoshone are still running at a good volume as are the Greybull, Wood and Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. By God’s grace, our waters escaped the high flows that could damage roads and especially our wild trout fisheries for the long term.
The North Fork has peaked and is now going down. While there is some vacillation in the flows, it appears we have seen the highest flows of the season. The snowpack is about gone, too, after the rains and a week of temperatures in the 80s and low 90s. It won’t be much longer before rivers on our side of Yellowstone are clear and fishable by the first week in July, if not before.
The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone is still sloughing off some hillsides inside the Wild and Scenic canyon area and washing into the river. Super saturated soils have a tendency to do this, especially when those soils are on steep slopes or inclines comprised of glacial materials with no vegetation to hold the soils in place. Again, the fishery should bounce back once flows return to seasonal norms.
Buffalo Bill Reservoir also benefitted from the rain. Lots of people were concerned that the reservoir would not fill this year. Those worries can be put to bed now. Given the flows coming into the reservoir from the North and South forks of the Shoshone, Buffalo Bill will be in good shape. All that is needed now is some retention time to drop the sediment out so the lake can clear once runoff is completely over.
I can say for a fact that a lot of boaters are chomping at the bit to get out on the lake and drop lines overboard to catch the walleye and trout swimming there. This paragraph is a good time to remind everyone that the west end of Buffalo Bill will remain closed to fishing until July 15, while the North Fork’s annual closure will end June 30 and the river itself will be open to fishing through the rest of the summer and fall.
Anglers who would rather fish now can go to the smaller lakes like Newton Lakes, Luce, Hogan, Beck and New Cody Reservoir to have fun. The Beartooth lakes will not accessible for a while because there is still a lot of snow on the ground above 8,500 feet.
If lakes are not your thing, one can always head down to Thermopolis to fish the Big Horn or Wind rivers where the trout are big and the cicadas are active in the Wind River Canyon.
Also, the Bighorn Mountain creeks are coming into shape and the fishing action keeps getting better on the other side of the Big Horn Basin.