Yosemite Valley and other swatches of Yosemite Park have closed to visitors through at least Wednesday due to flooding, as an historic snowpack in the Sierras begins to melt.
“An extended period of very warm temperatures will cause rapid snow melt which is expected to cause flooding along waterways in Yosemite National Park,” the National Weather Service said. “This also includes locations in Yosemite Valley, such as the Merced River at Pohono Bridge.”
The closure begins at El Capitan Crossover. Reservations for lodging and campgrounds in eastern Yosemite Valley will be canceled and refunded automatically, the park said on Friday.
Western Yosemite Valley remains open for now, “but could close if traffic congestion or parking issues become unmanageable,” and no food, water or restrooms, other than a limited number of portable toilets, will be available in western Yosemite during the closure.
Hetch Hetchy, Wawona and Crane Flat also remain open, but visitors should expect congestion, strict parking enforcements, and potential closures.
Meanwhile, The National Weather Service is predicting above-average temperatures throughout the weekend, which will cause the snows to melt quickly into the Merced River. By Sunday afternoon, the river is forecast to rise more than a foot above its 10-foot flood stage.
An unusually cold February caused precipitation in the area to fall as snow, rather than rain, burying the park under 40 inches of snow and black ice and causing closures in February and March.
The current closure could be extended beyond May 3, depending on the severity of the floods, the park said.
The record amount of snow in Yosemite was just one component in the extreme precipitation that battered large swaths of California over the winter, causing floods, power outages, and evacuations.
Yosemite Valley closes whenever the Merced River at Pohono Bridge is expected to exceed 10 feet, according to the park’s website. Floods are expected on and off through the summer, which could cause the park to close again.
The coming closure could be extended beyond May 3, depending on the severity of the floods, the park said.