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Yellowstone's historic canyon road may never open again after flooding

Exclusive look at Yellowstone damage after floods
Exclusive look at Yellowstone damage after historic floods 02:31

Yellowstone National Park — Inside America's oldest national park, there's an urgent push to repair catastrophic damage caused by last month's historic flooding, which scientists say was fueled by rising temperatures. 

CBS News was given exclusive access to Yellowstone National Park's northern entrance, where the nearly 150-year-old Highway 89 is in shambles. 

"This is one of four sections that was severely damaged by the flood event," park superintendent Cam Sholly told CBS News. 

Sholly says repairing two miles of highway could take five years and, by some estimates, cost as much as $1 billion with help from the Army Corps of Engineers. 

"I'd like to see this canyon restored. Ultimately, you've got to be cognizant of what the future threats could be," Sholly said. 

But rebuilding the road may not make sense. There's concern the erosion is so severe that parts of the canyon could collapse. 

The National Park Service said most of its properties and surrounding towns have been impacted by climate change — from rising sea levels in Florida's Everglades to drought-fueled fires in California's Yosemite. 

Business in Yellowstone's northern gateway communities has plummeted since the flooding. 

"Everybody has been incredibly resilient in pushing through and trying to figure out, you know, how do we keep going?" Patrick Sipp, co-owner of Flying Pig Adventures, told CBS News. 

The park is adapting to the loss of a major access road, converting about five miles of a narrow bicycle trail into a temporary two-lane road. The park's temporary mountain top road will open to tourists by November. Rangers say it may even replace the historic canyon highway. 

"Look, there's no question climate change is occurring," Sholly said. "We've got a long way to go to figure out what steps are necessary to ensure that we're adapting properly."

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