Historic Yellowstone Lodges gear up for summer season after facing challenges last year

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Posted at 7:01 PM, Jun 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 14:23:28-04

CODY — Historic guest lodges in Wyoming near Yellowstone faced tremendous challenges last year. They had mass cancellations after floods closed the entire park for nine days last June. They also had mass employee exits. The lodges that have survived wildfires, mudslides, and several park closures for more than a hundred years are looking for more stability this summer.

People who head into Yellowstone’s East Entrance each summer, must past through the Shoshone National Forest for 30 miles first. Some choose to stay at one of the nine historic lodges there.

Absaroka Lodge owner Craig Kenyon is also the head wrangler on a recent trail ride. He said this group saw mule deer, elk, and big horn sheep. It is one of the unique experiences his guests enjoy.

But, in late June, 2022, Kenyon lost guests, because floods in the northern part of Yellowstone miles away closed access to the entire Park for nine days.

Kenyon remembered, “Well into September, we were still getting cancellations because of the misconception that the park was closed.”

But, his lodge, and several others nearby also had trouble keeping employees who not only work at the guest ranches, but live on them in the season.

Kenyon said, “…by the end of July we were down to three people, where we ususally run a total of eight to ten we were down to three.”

The Bill Cody Lodge owner John Jelks said he lost seven employees last summer..four leaving in the middle of the night after payday. He said most years, they lose only one or two employees who may be uncomfortable in this wild place.

The nearest town, Cody, is 50 miles away, and the nearest city, Billings, is 150 miles away. And, there is no cell phone service in the Shoshone Forest.

Rob Coe owns the oldest guest lodge on the North Fork: Buffalo Bill’s Pahaska Lodge, which opened in 1904, the same year the East Entrance opened to horses and buggies only.

The old lodge is closed to guests now, but Pahaska’s nearby cabins and restaurant hosts Yellowstone visitors May to October. 2022 was a challenge.

Coe said, “Last year we were hiring way into August.”

Coe said he understood why some left, “Sometimes it’s the general isolation people can’t take.”

All three lodge owners are encouraged by the employees they have this year. Pahaska is offering a bonus to people who stay all summer, and Absaroka upgraded its bunkhouse.

Kenyon said of his current employees, “A good group of kids, I should say young adults, this year. And, I hope they hang around.