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Y'stone, Grand Teton reopen briefly before winter

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MEAD GRUVER | October 18, 2013 09:35 AM EST | AP


CHEYENNE, Wyo. — CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Employees of Yellowstone and Grand Teton got to work Thursday reopening the national parks after the 16-day federal government shutdown — just in time to have to close them up again for winter season in a couple weeks.

Most lodges and many facilities in the parks already had closed for the year before the shutdown began. Others remain open through October for the relatively few visitors who braved the encroaching cold so they can enjoy park attractions without so many tourists elbowing in.

Closing Grand Teton for the shutdown took three days and reopening will take about that long. Park employees headed back to work are faced with tasks that include unlocking restrooms, clearing any branches that fell on roads and making sure pipes haven't frozen.

"It's not a sort-of turn-key operation," park spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said.

The annual elk hunt in Grand Teton scheduled to begin this coming Saturday will be postponed a few days. The shutdown hindered preparations for the hunt, Anzelmo-Sarles explained.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is offering refunds to hunters who bought tags for the hunt and whose plans over the hunt's first few days have been interrupted, she said.

The federal highways north of Jackson, through Moran Junction and over Togwotee Pass remain open year-round and remained open during the shutdown. Other Grand Teton roads except for a few areas already covered with snow or previously closed for the season reopened Thursday.

They will remain open until they close for the winter season Nov. 1. An exception after that is the Teton Park Road, which remains open to bicyclists and other non-motorized traffic until enough snow piles up that it, too, must be closed in preparation for the winter season.

Gates to Yellowstone — at least one of which was the scene of an anti-shutdown protest last weekend — lifted Thursday and all park roads reopened except the one over Dunraven Pass. The high-elevation route always is first to close for Yellowstone's winter season.

Shutdown or not, most facilities in Yellowstone close for the season by this time of year.

Exceptions include the Old Faithful Visitor Education center and the visitor center at Mammoth Hot Springs, which reopened Thursday. The Mammoth Hot Springs and Lewis Lake campgrounds, and the Yellowstone General Store at Mammoth Hot Springs also were open.

Pay-at-the-pump fuel was available at locations throughout Yellowstone.

Roads through the two parks will be groomed and reopened for snowmobile, snow coach, ski and snowshoe access in December.