June 29, 2022
By Paul Weamer
On June 13, 2022, heavy rain combined with melting snow produced historic floods which ravaged Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. The flooding, which is being called a 500-year event, was particularly devastating to Yellowstone’s northern region, the stronghold of the park’s iconic and imperiled Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The Yellowstone, Lamar, and Gardner rivers as well as Pebble and Soda Butte creeks swelled to levels unprecedented in modern history. Not only will these fisheries be changed forever, but much of the infrastructure that links anglers to them—bridges and roads—has been severely damaged or destroyed.
The park’s North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana and the famous trout waters to which it leads are now closed indefinitely. But as the long-awaited summer season finally arrives, park fisheries biologists have a tremendous amount of work ahead of them, even as they see the revenues which fund their vital efforts dwindle. Many anglers wonder how they can help.
A significant portion of the park’s fisheries budget comes from angler fishing permit sales and visitor’s entrance fees. Both of these revenue streams will be heavily impacted by the flood and closure. National parks are not allowed to solicit funds, but they can partner with a non-profit organization which may do so on their behalf. For Yellowstone National Park, that organization is Yellowstone Forever.
With the recent discovery of smallmouth bass at the mouth of the Gardner River, a warming climate that’s leading to warmer waters, and lake trout decimating Yellowstone Lake’s cutthroat population, it’s a crucial time for the protection of Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which are only found in the Yellowstone River drainage. Critical research that was planned for this summer might now be impossible with the damaged infrastructure.
If you’ve ever fished the park’s amazing trout water, would like to do so someday, or if you simply want to support Yellowstone’s native fisheries, please go to Yellowstone Forever’s website and donate to their Native Fish Conservation Program. Your tax-deductible donation will be earmarked only for the purposes of protecting and enhancing Yellowstone’s unique, world-famous native fish. These fish belong to all of us, and they deserve whatever we can do to help. Click here to donate: Native Fish Conservation Program in Yellowstone: Yellowstone Forever. Alternatively, anglers can purchase a Yellowstone fishing license, whether or not they have intent to use it, to support Yellowstone fisheries.
Paul Weamer is the author of several fly-fishing books and is the Yellowstone Volunteer Fly Fishing Program Coordinator.