The annual visitation to Yellowstone National Park has hovered around 3 million. The facilities and infrastructure it takes to welcome that many visitors is enormous. Hotels, visitor centers, campgrounds, restaurants, and medical services are all designed to greet the summer masses.
That’s where maintenance in Yellowstone gets interesting. The park has over 1,500 buildings maintained by either the National Park Service or the concessions company using the facility. Preparing the park’s buildings for winter is a huge job.
In winter, there are about 50 employees working for the maintenance division of the National Park Service. Small crews live at the locations in the park’s interior and maintain the facilities that are mostly closed for the season.
Those same crews keep a close watch on the depth of snow on the roofs of buildings, removing snow when needed. Crews shovel and plow miles of walkways and boardwalks daily.
Plows keep the roads from the North Entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana clear for private vehicles. In Mammoth, the maintenance division operates a garage that keeps Yellowstone’s winter and summer fleet of vehicles in good working order.
On an average winter night in Yellowstone, 4 or 5 groomers work through the dark as they prepare the roads for winter visitors. Groomers smooth out and pack the snow that covers Yellowstone’s road system. They are a lot like the groomers used at downhill ski resorts.
In mid-March, the interior roads in Yellowstone close and maintenance pulls out the big equipment. Two different crews made-up of plows, bull-dozers and fuel trucks work their way around the park clearing the roads of ice and snow that has been packed down all winter.
A massive amount of work goes into operating a park like Yellowstone; much of that work is done behind the scenes or in the cover of dark. The Maintenance Division of the National Park Service and all the dedicated people that work there make it possible for all of us to visit and enjoy this special place.