As firefighters seem to gain the upper hand on the Washburn blaze in Yosemite National Park’s Wawona area, another, smaller fire is burning west of the park near the town of Mariposa.
Yet most of the park remains open and busy, including its iconic valley, and many travelers are completing their visits largely as planned.
“We’re noticing a little bit lower visitation,” park spokesperson Scott Gediman said Tuesday afternoon, but “there are definitely a lot of people enjoying the park.”
There’s no way to be sure of conditions in coming days or weeks, but here are factors for potential Yosemite travelers to consider:
Reservations are still required, without postponements. The park’s summertime reservation requirement, which covers day-trip visitors who arrive between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., remains in place through Sept. 30. The NPS is not allowing travelers to postpone those reservations, Gediman said, because “the park is open. So people can come in via Highway 140 or 120, either way, west or east.”
At Yosemite’s lodgings, operated by park concessionaire Aramark, operators were telling callers on Tuesday afternoon that in most cases the company is sticking with its usual cancellation policy: Guests must cancel seven days ahead in order to avoid losing their deposits.
However, Aramark spokeswoman Chelsie Layman, said that “when guests reached out with health concerns for the air quality, we allowed for flexibility in our cancellation policy and allowed guests to move their reservations to alternative dates if available.”
Layman acknowledged a rise in cancellations in Yosemite Valley. Meanwhile, at the company’s closed Wawona Hotel, guests for this time period were refunded their deposits, Layman said, and will be alerted “as soon as we know an official reopening date to hopefully reschedule their visits.”
Nearly 5,000 park acres have burned, but not in the valley. The Washburn fire had burned 4,863 acres in the park’s southern Wawona area as of 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. The southern entrance to park via Wawona Road (Highway 41) remained closed and the Wawona Hotel and Wawona Campground were shut down. Authorities reported the fire was 58% contained.
The threat to the Mariposa Grove‘s sequoias (some thought to be more than 2,000 years old) has diminished in recent days, authorities said, and air quality has been moderate to good in Yosemite Valley and most of the park. Other park lodgings remain open.
But since the Washburn fire broke out on July 7 (cause unknown) the blaze has closed roads and fouled air in Mariposa Grove, the park’s Wawona area (now open only to residents, property owners and employees) and parts of the neighboring Sierra National Forest.
Authorities said the Washburn fire has been fed in part by many trees that have been weakened or killed since 2016 by drought conditions, a related bark-beetle infestation and a January 2021 wind event that felled 15 giant sequoias and scores of other trees.
The second fire is 30 miles west of the park. That second blaze — the smaller Agua fire — started Monday, three miles west of the town of Mariposa, which is about 27 miles west of the park boundary. The fire’s location — Highway 140 near Agua Fria Road — had not blocked traffic from Oakhurst into the park as of Tuesday. However, Gediman said waits at the El Portal/Highway 140 entrance have been slightly longer than usual.
The Agua blaze, estimated at 421 acres, was 30% contained as of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, Cal Fire officials estimated. Mariposa County officials at first issued evacuation orders to households in the immediate area, but at 3 p.m. Tuesday reduced those orders to “fire advisements.” At about the same time, Caltrans tweeted that Highway 140 was again open in Mariposa County.
The Wawona detour adds 45 to 60 minutes. For now, the closure of Wawona Road between the park entrance and Henness Ridge Road means many travelers from the south are reaching Yosemite Valley by taking Highway 49 north from Oakhurst, then entering the park via El Portal Road (Highway 140). The detour adds roughly 45 to 60 minutes of driving time to the trip from Oakhurst to Yosemite Valley.
Park entrances remain open from the west on Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) and from the east via Tioga Road (also Highway 120). The park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance, which does not lead to Yosemite Valley, is open as well.
Conditions are changing. As the firefighting efforts in Wawona advanced, the park’s Twitter feed said Tuesday that Wawona Road would remain closed at least through Friday. Gediman said park officials are “in discussions” about the prospect of reopening the Wawona entrance and “hoping we can make an announcement in coming days.”
Source by www.latimes.com