Illegal Trail Leads Yellowstone Officials to Close Section of Park

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Mallard Lake Trail. Photo by C. Sagan

Preserving the national parks is every visitor’s responsibility. That’s the message Yellowstone National Park is sending as it cracks down on the use of an illegal trail.

Park officials will close off a section of the Bechler area along Yellowstone’s southwest boundary in order to restore an area trampled by visitors taking an illegal route. The unsanctioned pathway cropped up after people, primarily livestock users, began to take the 5-mile trail to access a collection of thermal features along Boundary Creek. The trail has been established over the past few summer seasons.

“Social trails will develop when people walk to areas that make good observation spots. But we can't allow that to go on because it degrades the park,” Chief Ranger Tim Reid told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Officials believe it likely that visitors were using the trail as a shortcut.

“There's a water attraction there that can be accessed by a legal trail, although it's longer,” Reid said.

This “remote” section of the park in the Bechler area will be closed for a year in order to allow crews to “repair, restore and recover (this) section of previously pristine backcountry,” said a park press release. The work will include loosening the packed-down dirt, reseeding the area and putting in obstacles like logs and rocks to clearly denote the route is not to be used. The closure will not affect any visitors using authorized trails.

Yellowstone park officials are highly sensitive to visitors going off-trail, thereby destroying the land intended to be preserved. Other common types of illegal trails include shortcuts between switchbacks and trampled down areas near wildlife dens.

For more information about the closure visitors can call 307-344-2101 or the Bechler Ranger Station at 406-581-7071.


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