Originally published on July 25, this story was updated on Monday, July 30, and again on Thursday, August 9, to include new details about the ongoing wildfire.
After heavy smoke from California’s Ferguson Fire forced Yosemite National Park to evacuate visitors from some of its most popular areas on Wednesday, July 25, park officials and fire managers originally thought they would be able to reopen Yosemite Valley to the public on Friday, August 3 with limited services. However, after the fire spread into the park, the National Park Service decided to extend the current closures indefinitely this week.
Due to ongoing efforts to fight the fire, the Yosemite Valley and several other parts of the national park will remain closed until further notice as a team of 1,889 firefighters battle to keep the blaze from entering the park. The last time the national park had to close due to a major fire was nearly 30 years ago when the A-rock Fire swept through the area in 1990, the New York Times reports.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Yosemite closure and the ongoing wildfire.
How did the Ferguson Fire start?
While the cause of the fire that broke out on July 13 just a few miles west of Yosemite National Park’s Arch Rock Entrance is still unknown, it has already burned through 94,992 acres and is only 68 percent contained, according to Inciweb. So far, the fire has killed two firefighters and injured 14 others. Currently, there are 18 wildfires burning in the state in addition to the Ferguson Fire, including the Mendocino Complex near Clear Lake, which was declared the largest state fire in California history on August 8.
What parts of Yosemite are affected by the closures?
Ever since the fire started, the air quality and visibility in the park have become so bad that officials closed parts of the park in late July, including Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which recently reopened after nearly three years of renovations. Even though park officials thought they would be able to reopen Yosemite Valley to visitors on August 3, that area, plus El Portal Road, Wawona Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona Campground, Crane Flat Campground, and Tamarack Campground will all remain closed indefinitely. Officials are warning visitors in the area to limit their activity during periods of poor air quality since there is so much smoke in the region.
In addition to Highway 140 and the western Arch Rock Entrance, the South Entrance and Glacier Point Road remain closed as well.
Firefighters are working hard to suppress the Ferguson Fire burning near, and now inside, Yosemite National Park. The fire is burning alongside Wawona Road (Hwy 41), El Portal Road (Hwy 140), and Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120), and has crossed two of these roads. These roads are closed due to fire alongside them and to facilitate firefighters working along the roads. Additionally, as trees along the roads burn, trees are falling onto roads, and debris once held in place by these trees is rolling onto roads. These roads will remain closed until these hazards can be mitigated. We will open the roads, and the areas they serve, as quickly as possible. We really look forward to all of you being able to enjoy all of Yosemite really soon, and don’t forget that Tuolumne Meadows is still open and accessible from the east (via US 395). Thank you for your continued patience. We understand the disappointment this has caused many of you that had vacation plans in the park. Yosemite National Park continues to work closely with the incident management team to assess park conditions daily. For current fire information, visithttps://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5927/. #Yosemite #FergusonFire A post shared by Yosemite National Park (@yosemitenps) on Aug 6, 2018 at 6:00pm PDT
How can I get a refund if I booked a trip there?
Travelers with reservations for Yosemite Valley lodging, including the Yosemite Valley Lodge and Majestic Yosemite Hotel, will have their reservations canceled and deposit refunded, according to travelyosemite.com. Refunds will also be issued for any activities that were booked for those dates, including horseback riding and rafting. To speak with a park employee about your reservation, please call 888-413-8869.
Air quality has improved in the Tuolumne Meadows area!, with the best air quality typically in the mornings. Conditions can change day by day. Tioga Rd is open from both the west and east sides of the park. Please park in designated parking spaces and stay on trails. pic.twitter.com/EQiViByiqq — Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) August 9, 2018
Are any parts of Yosemite open to visitors?
As of Thursday, August 9, Tioga Road from Tioga Pass to White Wolf is open to visitors, including the Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Cancellation policies remain in effect for lodging in those areas of the park.
For road updates and ongoing weather conditions, call 209-372-0200 and press 1 twice, or visit nps.gov/yose.