“Economic Tsunami” for Northeast Yellowstone Communities

Cooke City Economy
Cooke City Economy(Wendy Corr | Wendy Corr)
Published: Jul. 3, 2022 at 11:48 PM CDT
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CODY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The floods that took out roads and bridges in the northern part of Yellowstone have left a mark in Cooke City and Silver Gate, at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.

The biggest change is the silence, according to Vanessa Shaw, who owns the Cooke City Sinclair Station with her husband.

“Right now, Cooke City looks completely normal, just totally empty,” Shaw said. “It’s really weird, it’s eerie. A little sad.”

Cooke City and Silver Gate rely on the tourists passing through this remote region of northwest Wyoming and southern Montana on their way to Yellowstone National Park via the northeast gate. But because of the floods that destroyed portions of the highway in Yellowstone on June 13, that entrance is no longer accessible – which means that the tourists aren’t passing through.

“It’s a tsunami,” said Henry Finkbeiner, owner of the Silver Gate Lodging company. “It’s an economic and financial tsunami.”

Chris Conway, Silver Gate Lodging manager, said after the flood, their bookings dropped 95%.

“We’ve been booked up for six months in advance,” he said. “We would have probably, approximately, just in our cabins, not the whole community, about 100 people staying in Silver Gate tonight. Tonight we probably have five.”

So business owners in Silver Gate and in Cooke City are coming up with creative and unique ways to attract people to come to their communities.

“We’re offering our cabins for pay-what-you-can for the next, maybe the whole season?” said Finkbeiner. “We don’t know yet.”

“We’re working on getting maybe some music into town, some running races into town,” said Shaw. “Some creative ways to show people that we’re really a fun place to come visit.”

“People from Colorado, from Salt Lake, from Cheyenne come up to me, like, ‘We never knew this place existed,’” said Conway.” “‘Like, this is where we want to be.’ There’s no crowds, highs around 75 each day.”

This weekend, the Beartooth Highway is partially opening, and foot traffic will be allowed through the northeast gate. All the more reason, Range Rider Lodge manager Chris Warren said, to make the trip to this beautiful, remote destination.

“We’re open for business here and in Cooke City,” said Warren, “and we kind of need people to come see us.”

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