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Tourists flood back into Yellowstone National Park

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. (KIFI) - Excitement bubbled over as people from all over made their way to line up at the West Yellowstone gate.

Though the gates didn't officially open until 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, due to the large amount of people who were wanting to get into the park, park officials started staging more vehicles on the other side of the gate in an effort to reduce traffic congestion in downtown West Yellowstone.

Cheryl and Robert Lak were waiting in line this morning. They say getting into the park makes their long drive worth it.

"We're from Massachusetts. So we've come a long way just to visit, so we're glad we can finally get in."

The Laks have been to the park before, and they say they are hoping to get to their favorite spots within the park.

"I like the waterfall, and the Canyon." But for them, the one thing that was the bigger draw to their visit into the park was, "Animals, wildlife."

For many others, the park reopening gave them a chance to visit the park for the first time.

"First time in Yellowstone. It's amazing. I mean, this is kind of the park of parks. It's the world's first national park. And I wanted to come this year for the 150th anniversary. And so been in the park for 2 hours and already really, you know, excited and it's amazing and got to see Old Faithful already. So it's been awesome," says Missy Fuller, who made the trek all the way from Atlanta.

She says that while traveling to the park with her family, she's already made fun memories with the hopes of making more.

"The Old Faithful is pretty great. This is this is pretty awesome. So I think it's top of the list so far."

Fuller says after they spend time in Yellowstone, they'll head to the Tetons and see some new sites.

Another family was spending time in the park, making their own family memories. After the park closed they spent the week in Jackson and Teton National Park.

"Well, we were supposed to be here Monday, the day it closed, so we've been bombing around the Tetons for a while," Phil Senz said. M

isty Senz says while they were in the Teton area, they were able to go for a lot of hiking including, "Hiking to Inspiration Point." Jake Senz says he was even able to see a moose going down Moose Wilson Road "going down Moose and seeing a moose."

While their trip had to be rerouted a bit, the Campbells were able to still enjoy the scenery in the areas around Yellowstone.

"At first it was very disappointing because we booked this trip so far in advance, as you have to about six months ago. So we had planned to spend a week in Mammoth Campground and we heard about the closure right before we were supposed to come. So it was very disappointing. But we rallied. We went to Jackson, spent about three days in the Jackson area," Tiffany Campbell said.

Duane Campbell says through the park closure they were able to discover many of the sites the gateway communities have to offer.

"There's a lot of things to do around here outside of Yellowstone. So Tuesday, for example, we went up to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, which was a really amazing museum, had a lot of dinosaur history exhibits. And then we went to the Lewis and Clark Caverns over closer to Butte Tuesday afternoon. So, yes, I mean, there's probably a ton more stuff like that around here, but those are the things that we did kind of in lieu of being at the park this week."

While in the park with their children, Tiffany Campbell says she hopes to see, "Old Faithful, of course, is one thing that we really want to see. And the Prismatic Springs is on our list just because it's so colorful. I've seen so many pictures of it before that I really would like to see that in person. But I think that just the entrance into the park driving in, seeing all the smoke plumes was already impressive."

The Campbells expressed some gratitude for the reopening of the park and what they hope will continue to be a part of their vacation.

"We have a continuation of our trip going farther north and west up to Portland and then Glacier. And the the world just worked out well that they're taking even plate numbers today because this is our last day of opportunity to be here. So I mean, we're just very grateful that."

A park Spokesperson Linda Veress says, "We're pretty excited to open the park so soon after such a devastating event as the flood. You know, June is one of our busiest months of the year. And I know people, you know, plan their vacations around coming to Yellowstone. And so we're just really happy, excited that we're able to offer offer this opportunity for people to come and visit."

Veress says while you can't predict when events like the park flooding will happen the park is "trying really hard, you know, to support the gateway communities. And opening the southern loop here will help some of them for gardener and and silver gate and Cook City. It's also good to remember that these are destination places in themselves. There's lots to do in these towns. Horsepower, riding, rafting, restaurants, shopping, hiking, camping, a lot of what the park has to offer."

She says that much of what people may hope to see is still open, "most of the geyser basins are open. So the old faithful is open, the north skies are basin is open west. There are so many places to go to see, you know, geothermal features as well as wildlife. Also, I always recommend, you know, getting out of the vehicles and walking. You know, I love that back loop at old Faithful."

During the park's closure Amy Dingler says her family spent some time visiting sites in Eastern Idaho visiting Bear World and Island Park. They also enjoyed, "Grand Teton and some other horseback riding" Dingler says. They also spent some time on ATVs. "We've definitely made some memories on the ATVs. The boys both flip them on the side, like, almost immediately. But the bison, we saw the bison on the ATVs, and they ran right out in the road, right in front of us, and we had to stop and actually back up and stay away from them. And it was a little scary."

She added they also went horseback riding in that area as well. She says while in the park besides old Faithful they too have a list of things they've been hoping to see for a while now.

"The Grand Prismatic Springs we definitely want to do. And the Avalanche Peak or Avalanche Creek Hike, something like that. It's a very steep hike or something, but it's this big, great view. So we're going to see what we can fit in today and we'll go from there."

On Wednesday, only those with an even number license plate was let into the park, and Thursday will bring the odd number of license plates into the park. All are excited to return to see Yellowstone as they celebrate 150 years as a national park.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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