Tourists trapped as government shutdown cuts off all roads to small town

Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana is a very small town. In the 2000 census it reported having 140 residents living in a grand total of 79 households. There are a few regular tourists who come out each year—one assumes for some peace and quiet—and there are about a dozen of them in town right now. But their 2013 vacation might extend a bit longer than previous years’ trips: Thanks to the government shutdown, they’re trapped in Cooke City.

The main roads into and out of Cooke City cross through Yellowstone Park, which is now closed due to the shutdown. The one road that remains open is accessible to residents only—not tourists—with a special permit they buy from the city. From Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Snowstorms have caused the National Park Service to keep the Beartooth Pass closed since Sept. 24, said Al Nash, Yellowstone National Park spokesman. The most recent storm dropped between 10 and 14 inches of snow, preventing road travel to the Chief Joseph Highway, which can be used as an alternate route out of Cooke City. And Yellowstone closed Tuesday because of a congressional budget impasse that caused the federal government to shut down. Locals can travel through along the still-plowed roads of the park to Gardiner with special stickers they apply for from the park. Tourists, however, are unable to traverse the stretch, barring a medical emergency.

It’s not the first case of the shutdown stranding people. Last week during the first days of the shutdown a search for a missing woman in Craters of The Moon National Park and Monument was called off thanks to park rangers being furloughed in the shutdown.

And Michelle Langbehn’s cancer treatment may get paused, which could become life-threatening.

By comparison the tourists of Cooke City, MT are faring ok. They’re all staying at Buns N’ Beds, the only establishment open besides the gas station, which is staying open just to house them. But they’re not happy about being stranded there.

“We’re trapped. It’s nuts,” says Bill Anderson of Kansas. “We’re screwed. But I’m not willing to be screwed silently. You got to open your mouth.”

Anderson, 70, is scheduled to end his vacation October 18, the day after the shutdown. But if the impasse between Obama and Boehner stays as stubborn as it seems to be in today’s news cycle, he could be in Cooke City indefinitely.