Yellowstone visitor says her tour group was locked inside park hotel during slimdown

FILE: UNDATED: The Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park.

FILE: UNDATED: The Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park.  (

A Massachusetts woman says she and fellow tour-group members were locked under armed guard inside a Yellowstone National Park hotel during a visit to the park at the start of the government slimdown.

Pat Vaillancourt told the Newburyport News newspaper the incident unfolded Oct. 1 when they were already inside the park and a ranger would not let them off the tour bus to photograph roaming bison.

The group -- roughly 40 senior citizens from around the world -- was allowed to return to the Old Faithful Inn to spend a second night at the hotel, but some with limited English skills thought they were under arrest, she said.

Vaillancourt said the guards looked like armed "Hulk Hogans" who told group members they couldn’t leave the hotel and that some of the Asians guests said, “Oh my God, are we under arrest?”

The federal government owns the inn but it is run by private contractor Xanterra Parks & Resorts, said Tom Mesereau, who handles public relations for the company.

He also said inn staff was not aware of anyone being held inside under armed guard.

A recorded message on the Yellowstone National Park phone line said officials could not be reached because they had been furloughed in the slimdown.

Vaillancourt told the newspaper the two-and-a-half hour ride leaving Yellowstone wasn’t much better because tour members couldn’t make a scheduled comfort stop at a dude ranch because the owner was told he would have his license revoked for accommodating the group.

Tour guide Gordon Hodgson gave a similar account to the Livingston Enterprise, which first reported the story. In the article, Hodgson accused the park service of “Gestapo tactics.”