Radio & Telecommunications
Landline Telephone Service
The Park ran its own landline telephone system until 1958, when the system was purchased by Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company (MST&T). At that time, MST&T installed PBX systems at three locations in the park, Mammoth, Lake, and Old Faithful. As service needs grew and technology changed, the original PBX systems were replaced with new and updated technology until, today, there are digital PBX systems housed at Mammoth (Administration Building), Canyon (Canyon Lodge), Lake (Lake Hotel), Grant Village (Lodging Registration Center), and Old Faithful (Old Faithful Inn). These systems provide all telephone service for the park, concessionaires, and visitors who use pay phones and/or phones located in lodging units. MST&T began operating as Mountain Bell in 1969 (retaining its legal name), and was merged with other regional telephone companies to form U. S. West in 1991. In 2000, U.S. West was taken over by Qwest Communications, and it remains the primary provider of telecommunications service to Yellowstone to this day.
Though there are some underground wires that provide connectivity between various components (such as between the YACC Camp and Mammoth, and within developed areas), much of the interconnectivity between geographically-isolated sections of the park is provided through microwave relays. You can easily see the large microwave dishes at the Qwest switching stations in Old Faithful (next to the Post Office)1 and Mammoth (Elk Plaza, behind the dorms), while the ones in Tower (behind the Government area), Canyon (in the maintenance area), Lake (northwest of Fishing Bridge), and Grant Village (two, located south of the developed area near the water tanks) are not overtly visible to the public. Mt. Washburn (pictured above) provides the central relay point for the vast majority of communications from the south, east, and northeast portions of the park, while the reflector sites on Bunsen Peak, northwest of Old Faithful, and west of Madison Junction provide connectivity from the western portions of the park, all funneling signals back to Mt. Washburn where most connectivity to the external world is achieved.
Currently there are five cellular antenna sites within the park. At Old Faithful, the monopole cell tower is located on a ridge at the south end of the Government Complex across the main highway from the Old Faithful Inn and Visitor Complex. The Grant Village area has a monopole tower located approximately one mile south of the service area (next to the water tank). There is cellular equipment on Mt. Washburn that covers much of the Canyon to Tower and Northeastern areas of the park, and towers at Elk Plaza in Mammoth and on Bunsen Peak approximately three miles south of Mammoth. The western portions of the park are covered by cellular service emanating from West Yellowstone. The North Entrance and areas in the northwestern portion of the park are covered by towers located in Gardiner. Much of the backcountry does not have access to cell signals.
The Park has several sat phones for use by rangers, fire management personnel, and researchers working in backcountry areas where there is limited radio and/or cellular connectivity.
NOAA Weather Radio
The National Weather Service has two NOAA Weather Radio transmitters located within the Park – one at Elk Plaza in Mammoth (162.425) and one at Grant Village (162.450).
There is no amateur radio infrastructure within the park. The nearest repeaters are located in Cody, WY, and Big Sky, MT. The Sawtelle Repeater located on Sawtelle Peak just southwest of West Yellowstone (near Island Park) provides coverage to a good deal of the park, especially on the western side. The frequency is 145.23, with a PL of 100 to connect to the Snowbird (Intermountain Inertie) System. Use a PL of 123 to make the repeater act only as a local repeater and not connect to Snowbird.
YNP Radio System
YNP’s radio system consists of several base stations, repeater sites, handheld radios and associated control infrastructure. All Ranger Stations and Visitor Centers are equipped with base stations, and the primary communications center is located at Park Headquarters in Mammoth. The Park is in the process of transitioning to a digital system to comply with new FCC imposed guidelines. Budget limitations have prevented them from going fully digital at this point (conversion will require replacement of all radios and the addition of repeater sites). Some digital radio capability exists today, used primarily by law enforcement rangers.
The current radio signal coverage is about 93% of the backcountry and virtually all of the developed areas.
There are seven primary repeater sites that provide two-way radio coverage for park operations:
- Mt. Washburn: Used as the primary “North” repeater, and provides signal coverage for the northern range to Mammoth, Tower, Canyon and much of the remainder of the northern and northeastern portions of the park.
- Henderson Mountain, three miles northeast of the Northeast Entrance of the park (in Gallatin National Forest), which provides service to the Lamar and Northeast areas.
- Mt. Holmes, providing service to Mammoth and northwest portions of the park.
- Purple Mountain, the primary “west” repeater, provides coverage for Norris, Madison, West, and Old Faithful areas.
- Mt. Sheridan, the primary “south” repeater, provides coverage for most of the southern portions of the park, including the Grant Village, West Thumb, Lake, Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge and Thorofare areas.
- Top Notch, which provides coverage for the eastern portions of the park from the East Entrance through Sylvan Pass.
- Survey Peak, located south of the southern boundary of YNP (at the very northern end of Grand Teton National Park), provides coverage for the Bechler and very southeastern and southern portions of the park.
YELLOWSTONE/GRAND TETON RADIO FREQUENCIES
Detailed information about radio frequencies and radio numbering systems for Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks have been moved to the Yellowstone Wiki site.
- Note the dish’s orientation toward the passive repeater located on the hillside northwest of the complex [↩]