I received an email from the National Park Service that stated, “Yellowstone is open.” Since our family tries to spend at least a week each July in Yellowstone National Park, this is the first in a several-part series about Yellowstone: the experience, the access, and most certainly, the fishing in 2020.

Due to a family funeral in mid-June, my wife, Jeri, and I were able to pass through Yellowstone National Park quite literally during the same week they opened “some” of the campgrounds and facilities in this wonderful park. Since we planned to be back in the park from July 4 through the 11, we thought it would be good to know how the park service and its major concessionaires handled the reopening after the COVID-19 craziness.

The first thing we noticed in June, and even this past week, was the lack of restrooms available parkwide. In June, very few of the restrooms (roadside pit toilets) were available. Eventually, more and more of them opened, but maintenance staffing has obviously been an issue. Before I forget, if you visit the park, WEAR YOUR MASKS in stores, offices and anywhere the public gathers: campground registration, boat rentals, guide trips, stores, gas stations, etc.

As many of you know, the park is separated into two distinct areas or “loops.” The first is known as the “lower loop” which covers West Thumb to Old Faithful and then to Norris, Canyon, Lake, and back to West Thumb. This “loop” is open for 2020. However, there are limited restrooms, shortened store hours and no shower facilities open for 2020.

Just as an example, in the Bridge Bay area, there is only ONE single-stall restroom open to the public in the entire area. There are no restrooms near the marina, the store or the ranger office. The campground restrooms ARE open, but only for guests. Laundry facilities are open at Canyon and Lake.

To me, it seemed when park officials decided NOT to open areas like cabins, hotels, and cafeterias, they forgot that public restrooms were located in and around those facilities and needed to be open to handle the tourists, regardless of whether or not they were staying in the park overnight.

The “upper loop” isn’t really open at all. Normally, this loop goes from Norris Geyser basin to Mammoth, and then to Roosevelt, Tower, and back to Canyon.

The road from Canyon to Roosevelt is still closed for construction, which means both Tower and Roosevelt are completely closed to the public. The great restroom facilities at Tower and Roosevelt are not available. The only “public” restrooms at Roosevelt are a single-stall pit toilet (men and women) at the junction heading towards Lamar Valley, and the service station restrooms a few hundred yards to the west.

Much of Mammoth is open but the Norris Campground is not available, including its restroom facilities.

I was disappointed with the limited store hours, access to food, the lack of restrooms, and weird road and venue closures that popped up.

However, the fishing was great!

We fished the Gibbon River, several small lakes including but not limited to Cascade and Sylvan, and found a fly-and-bubble combination, along with small Jake’s Spin-A-Lures were very effective on cutthroats, grayling and limited rainbows. Our children and grandchildren caught a lot of fish almost every day of our visit.

One thing we found was that, on the smaller lakes and streams, the fish wanted our flies to be “absolutely dry” on top of the water. When the flies would become waterlogged (after catching a few fish) the bite would stop. We then either changed flies to present a perfect floating presentation or reapplied “Gink” to get the flies back up on top of the surface.

Yes, Yellowstone National Park is open for business. However, you must plan to use a restroom when you find one, and be prepared for longer-than-average waits for many of the most popular venues.

In Part II next week, I’ll take a closer look at the fishing in Yellowstone Lake.

Don Allphin can be reached at don@donallphin.com.