Yosemite

As you wait for Tioga Road to reopen, these big changes are coming to Yosemite

Watch: They’re working hard blowing 8 feet of snow off Tioga Road near Yosemite

Road crews are working on Tioga Road about one mile west of White Wolf in about eight feet of snow, in this video shot May 3, 2019. Too deep for the rotary plows, a dozer goes out ahead to remove some snow so the rotary plows can get to work.
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Road crews are working on Tioga Road about one mile west of White Wolf in about eight feet of snow, in this video shot May 3, 2019. Too deep for the rotary plows, a dozer goes out ahead to remove some snow so the rotary plows can get to work.

Travelers awaiting the reopening of Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park will have to keep waiting as snowplows continue their journey across the remote road over the Sierra Nevada.

There’s no estimated date for Tioga Road’s reopening, but comparing this year to 2017 might provide a good guess. In 2017, snowpack was at 177% of average as of April 1 (this year it’s at 176% of average) and Tioga Road reopened June 29.

Last year, snowpack was much lower at that time (67% of average) and the road reopened May 21. The latest update as of May 1 puts snowpack in the Tuolumne River basin at 149% of average.

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As the wait continues, other big Tioga Road news was announced: Starting next year, no more roadside parking – and larger parking lots – along Tioga Road in Tuolumne Meadows, a wonderland of wilderness surrounded by white granite domes and peaks with names like Cathedral and Unicorn.

High Sierra parking changes, construction

Instead of parking along Tioga Road in Tuolumne Meadows, visitors will park in larger parking lots, “expanded parking areas within nearby upland areas” with no loss of parking spaces, Yosemite officials said.

These changes follow a 2014 final decision in the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

Roadside parking in Tuolumne Meadows has accommodated over 500 visitors in the past during peak visitation times, according to the Tuolumne River plan’s Alternative 4, which was chosen for the final record of decision.

A public meeting will be held about these projects and others from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Groveland Community Hall – 18720 Highway 120 in Groveland – announced on social media last week by Yosemite officials.

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Park ranger Salli Lundgren leads a junior ranger walk on top of Pothole Dome in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. CARMEN GEORGE cgeorge@fresnobee.com

“Roadside parking blocks views,” Yosemite officials said, “and negatively impacts critical meadow habitat as cars encroach into meadow and riparian areas.”

New visitor centers

The Tuolumne River plan also calls for the construction of a new visitor center in Tuolumne Meadows, adjacent to Tioga Road and across from the trailhead leading to Parsons Memorial Lodge.

Near the other end of Tioga Road, the Big Oak Flat Information Station will be replaced with a new welcome center and restrooms.

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The plan accommodates nearly 5,000 people at one time in the Tuolumne River corridor during peak visitation times, approximately the same numbers observed in recent years.

“Under the selected action, Tuolumne Meadows will retain its overall rustic character with limited facilities and services,” the plan states. “The peaceful setting will continue to serve as a destination for low-impact recreational activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, photography and wildlife viewing.”

Other proposed changes outlined in the plan can be found online at nps.gov/yose/getinvolved/trp_feis.htm.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.

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