Extreme heat from surrounding thermal areas has created a hot spot in Yellowstone National Park, melting a portion of a road and causing temporary closures in the park during the peak summer tourist season.
The more than 3-mile-long Firehole Lake Drive, an offshoot of the park’s Grand Loop Road located between the Old Faithful geyser and Madison Junction, is closed because melting asphalt has turned it into a “soupy mess,” said park spokesman Dan Hottle.
Firehole Lake Drive provides access to two of the park’s many geysers and a spring--the Great Fountain Geyser, White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake.
Yellowstone sits on top of the caldera of a super volcano, so temperature fluctuations like this are normal for the park, Hottle said. It is not uncommon for asphalt to become soft and sticky with oil that tires can get stuck in.
But, he added, the liquefying of pavement that is now occurring is extreme and unusual.
“But it’s hard to tell if a thermal area is hotter than normal, because it’s always fluctuating here,” Hottle said. “Road closures are business as usual for us.”
Hottle said he hoped the road would be reopened next week. Maintenance workers have to scrape up the melted goop and put down sand and lime to soak up whatever remains, he said.
Yellowstone has already had more than 415,000 visitors this year, according to park statistics from May. Hottle said he doubted the closure would cause a significant drop in visits.
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