Yosemite National Park, CA — High, cold and fast-moving waters, a road closure and crowds are a few of the cautions that park officials are giving to those planning to spend part or all of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend at Yosemite.
Ahead of what is expected to be a huge holiday for visitors, Yosemite National Park spokesperson Ranger Jamie Richards shares that the park’s annual swift water rescue training is currently being conducted in the park. It is typically scheduled as a safety-oriented kick off to the season. Due to this past winter’s incredible snowpack, she emphasizes that the water this season is flowing at levels not seen in years.
“Inside Yosemite the waterfalls are flowing fast and high, which is contributing to really swift moving currents and cold water in our lakes, rivers and streams. This means that we have potential hazards around all our waterways…we are advising people to be really cautious,” Richards warns. Currently, visitors are not being permitted to boat or recreate on the Merced River in the park and are being alerted to be very cautious anywhere near the waterways.
“We want people to be really aware that the river is beautiful and it looks really inviting,” Richards says with some appreciable concern in her voice. Continuing, she outlines what rangers see play out as an all-too-common scenario: “You see that pool of water and you want to stick your feet in, and what starts as – you have had a long hike, you have been out on the trail, you are hot and sweaty and just want to dip your feet in – can lead to a rescue very quickly.”
Tioga Road, the Highway 120 Pass Still Closed
Those who might be hoping to access the park via Tioga Road and the Highway 120 Tioga Pass will have to plan a workaround as it has not yet opened for the season and may not yet for awhile still, according to Richards. Used as an east-west access across Yosemite, Tioga Road connects Lee Vining to the main body of the park and Highway 120 towards San Francisco.
The good news is that it is the only Yosemite area roadway that is not accessible for travel — and snow plow crews continue to plug away on it daily, clearing, repairing and otherwise readying it, Richards says. “We are [still] seeing eight to ten feet of snow packed in areas that our crews are having to plow through. That is a lot of snow — more snow than we have seen in the high country in a very long time This is one of the biggest snowpack years on record for Yosemite National Park…so we do not have a timeline yet.” She suggests that travelers consider in advance which of the other available routes may be their most efficient alternative, noting that there are plenty of ways to get around the park.
Without a doubt, Richards says this will be a really busy weekend that people should prepare and plan for in advance. “We are implementing a very new Yosemite Village parking area…improved way-finding signs to direct visitors from parking to shuttles and the visitors center. Please come prepared for a long wait…one to two hours [to get into the park],” she recommends.
Once visitors park their vehicles they are encouraged to leave them for the duration and instead make good use of the Valley shuttle as well as the multiple walking and bike trails. While all of Yosemite will be bustling, Hetch Hetchy, Glacier Point and the Wawona area are likely to be somewhat less crowded than the Yosemite Valley floor, she maintains. Overall, she notes that the best parking conditions can generally be found by those who arrive before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Too, “The Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System, or YARTS, and using public transportation is a great way to come in and enjoy the park without the stress of parking. YARTs buses will transport you and bring you from Sonora and other places in Tuolumne County into Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park,” Richards points out, adding that numerous bus routes also run from the Fresno and Merced areas. Get more details here. To view a slideshow of photos click into the image box.