1988 was an interesting year and was also the last time that all 5 Yellowstone gates had to close during the summer. Ironically, a natural disaster was the cause for the park to be closed each time and the both times it was the 2nd week of June.

The 1988 Yellowstone fire began June 14th with the Storm Creek Fire and for the next couple of months, Yellowstone burned. Fire is important to the ecosystems and these fires were important to educate the public.

Yellowstone Fire 2


Park officials allowed all naturally started fires to continue until they began suppressing all the fires on July 21 and continued until they stopped burning in September 1988.

Yellowstone Fire 1
NPS/Jeff Henry

During that summer, 51 fires were started in Yellowstone.

  • 9 human caused
  • 42 were naturally caused by lightning
  • Nearly 800,000 acres affected
  • 300 animals died (elk, bison, moose, mule deer)
  • about 10,000 people were involved
  • $120 Million spent fighting the fires
Yellowstone Fire 3
NPS/Jeff Henry

When Yellowstone closed in the summer of 1988

  • Ronald Reagan was in the final year of his second term as President of the United States.
  • The Afghan War was raging, but it was Russia vs. Afghanistan
  • The Tom Hanks movie "Big" was in theaters
  • Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in just 91 seconds to hold onto his title
  • Stevie Wonder announced he was running for Mayor of Detroit in 4 years (he didn't do it)
  • One of the future controversial (Christmas movie or NOT Christmas Movie) Die Hard was released in theaters.
  • The Iraq/ Iran war ended
  • For the first time since the 1986 Challenger disaster, the U.S. returned  to space as the shuttle Discovery took off from Florida.

Reports say that it may be weeks before any of the gates to Yellowstone re-open and some may not for the remainder of the year. Our hope is that the park will not have to close all the gates again for another 34 years or longer, but nature is a beast and does what it wants.

LOOK: Crater Ridge Fire Burning In Wyoming

The Crater Ridge fire ignited in the Bighorn National Forest in mid-July. Since then, it has grown to more than 6,000 acres in size. As of August 30, the fire is 52% contained.

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