Flooding Prompts Partial Closure of Yosemite Valley

A lot of snow melted from last week's heat

Merced River
The Merced River surges downstream as warm temperatures have increased snowpack runoff on April 29, 2023 near Yosemite National Park, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Earlier this year, you may recall that Yosemite National Park was experiencing substantial amounts of snowfall. For enthusiasts of winter sports in the region, this was good news indeed. But there’s also a potential downside to more snow than expected — namely, that there’s a danger of heat or rain melting that snow and that, in turn, leading to flooding.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, a recent heat wave has caused the Merced River to overflow, causing flood conditions in the Yosemite Valley. What had previously been masses of snow on the Sierra Nevada range shifted from solid to liquid, resulting in local authorities closing off significant amounts of the valley. Yosemite National Park officials plan to issue refunds to anyone whose plans were affected by the closures.

According to a recent post on Instagram, the valley will re-open as normal on Monday following “very limited services” on Sunday.

To give a sense of how dramatically the Merced has risen, the Times spoke with rock climber Amy Holt, who compared its height to what she had seen on a visit two weeks ago. “[I]t was snowing when we arrived in the valley two weeks ago and the Merced River was at least 20 feet narrower and calm,” she told the Times.

California Hikers Are Taking Risks on Trails After Flooding
Maybe just wait until you know it’s safe?

This isn’t the worst flooding in Yosemite in recent memory; the Times cites a 1997 flood in which the river rose even higher. But the effects on both the local economy and the landscape itself can be dizzying to ponder — and will be felt long after conditions return to something approximating “normal.”


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