Yellowstone National Park is now a flood zone.
Bridges and houses were swept away, and whole stretches of highway simply disappeared.
“It was really quite a dire situation,” says Adam Rice of KAR Safaris. “It’s all been historic, all historic, just steps from the highest levels these rivers have ever seen.”
Rainy days and rapid snowmelt have swelled the Yellowstone River to record highs — nearly 14 feet, says Adam Rice.
“It’s pretty crazy. We’re used to seeing little rockslides, but nothing like that,” says Kate Rice, Adam’s wife. this road which has completely disappeared. It’s definitely not something we’ve ever experienced or something I feel like we would have in our lifetime.
RELATED: After Yellowstone, Floodwaters Threaten Montana’s Largest City
The Rices found themselves inside the park on Monday as floodwaters rose.
Adam Rice was taking clients through Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park, while Kate Rice was working remotely from a central area of Yellowstone.
The couple, originally from Duluth, have been tour guides at both parks for three years. They typically run tours for around 100 clients a year, all in small groups of five to six people.
Adam Rice says they’ve been doing photo work there for about a decade. It was different, however.
“You know, just these big meadows that were basically lakes and you look around like it’s getting even worse this morning,” he said. “I told my customers, I said, ‘This is the highest water level I’ve ever seen,’ and it was only a foot or two below the road.”
On Monday, the US Park Service ordered the evacuation of 10,000 people.
Adam Rice, meanwhile, says he was scrambling to get a group of customers to safety.
“It was crazy to ride against the tide. Everyone leaves and evacuates, and we go in the opposite direction, so it was very interesting,” he recalled. “When we took them back to their campsite, they were practically told to pack up and go out.”
RELATED: Yellowstone flooding prompts 10,000 people to flee national park
Adam says his clients – a mother, daughter and grandfather – were able to evacuate safely.
Meanwhile, some houses are still under water. But in riverside towns like Red Lodge, Montana, receding waters have left a sea of mud.
“A bridge came out and it started to divert a stream, and the water started rolling down the back,” resident Pat Ruzick said. “I broke a basement window and started filling my basement and quit.”
Authorities say Yellowstone National Park will remain closed for the rest of the week.
The northern half of the park, the most flooded, is expected to be closed for even longer.
“Think of Yellowstone as a figure eight,” Kate Rice said. “So this whole upper eight will remain closed indefinitely.”
These high waters not only destroyed roads and houses, but also impacted the region’s economy, just as the summer tourist season kicks off.
More rain is expected this weekend, and there is more snow at higher elevations that has not yet melted.
“With the shutdown that may be coming, it’s really impacting those communities right now,” Kate Rice said. “Especially tour operators, people like us, could potentially be out of work for a very long time.”