Notes from the Road: Yellowstone National Park’s Rivers May Re-Open

While we try to stay out of politics here at Notes from the Road, we also understand that Yellowstone National Park is a big, huge place and people come from all over the world to see it, drive through it, play in it and generally plan an often once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the park.

That said, there might be some changes for paddlers coming to Yellowstone National Park.

In late January, the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Natural Resources (so, just a small group of House representatives), passed a bill proposed by Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis, allowing hand-propelled boating (read: kayaks, canoes, rafts, tubes, etc.) on all Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park waterways (lakes and rivers) within three years from the bill’s passing into law. The bill still needs to be voted on in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


What’s the current regulation?


Currently, boating is allowed on all lakes in Yellowstone National Park except for five, with only three lakes (Lewis Lake, Yellowstone Lake and Shoshone Lake) having direct road access. Non-motorized boating is also allowed on the stretch of the Lewis River between Lewis Lake and Shoshone Lake. All other rivers in the park are closed to boating.

Motorized boating is allowed on Lewis Lake and Yellowstone Lake. Need more information to plan your trip? Check out the National Park Service’s boating regulations in Yellowstone.

Also, those who want to boat in Yellowstone National Park must secure a permit before doing so.


What would this mean for visitors?


The bill, if passed into law, would mean that paddling could happen on all of the lakes in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors could plan river trips inside the park and have virtually unlimited access to waterways inside the park (with non-motorized boats of course).


Why would this legislation be good?


It would open up the park to exploration beyond what people currently see. Large stretches of the rivers could be covered in a day and avid recreationalists would have the opportunity to go where many haven’t since 1971, when all the rivers in Yellowstone were closed to boating. Additionally, as more people buy boating permits, revenue for the park will increase, though the policing effort that would need to happen, due to more use in the park, would increase as well.


Why would it be bad?


Most conservationists agree that more use equals more destruction of natural resources. Invasive species could potentially be introduced, the rivers in the park would no longer be quiet, untouched resources and erosion at put-in sites would most likely happen due to more people being allowed in those areas. The National Park Service would also have to extend resources to designate allowable boat put-in areas and they might even have to build fencing in the park to mark where boats aren’t allowed to go.


Issues like this are pretty touchy here in Montana’s Yellowstone Country. What is your (respectful) opinion on allowing more access to waterways in the park?