After the ’97 Yosemite Flood – why no rebuilding?

The following letter from Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher was sent to an Oakhurst resident after he asked when the Congressionally approved funds will be used to restore 3,000 parking spaces and campgrounds lost during the 1997 flood in Yosemite Valley.

Dear Mr. —–,
This message is provided in reply to expressed concerns about campground and parking facility closures that occurred after the 1997 flood, and the fact that these facilities have not been reopened or replaced.
A portion of the Lower Pines Campground and all of Upper and Lower River Campgrounds sustained extensive damage and were closed immediately following the 1997 flood. As the river overtopped its banks and spread across the flood plain, some areas of Yosemite Valley were temporarily submerged to a depth of five to eight feet. A heavy layer of sand and silt was deposited as the slower-moving flood waters gradually receded.
Picnic tables, bear boxes, fire rings and other campground furniture washed down the river. Restrooms, water distribution, electrical and sewage systems were infiltrated by sand and silt. Pavement was pot-holed and undermined in many locations. The campgrounds that were affected by flooding were thus closed by the natural forces, not by an administrative action or a planning process.
These campgrounds were rendered unusable unless the NPS took subsequent action to reconstruct the campgrounds. Because of litigation explained below, we have not been able to restore the site or rebuild any campgrounds. The Merced River plan will decide whether to rebuild or restore these areas. According to a study that was commissioned to investigate what it would take to rebuild these campgrounds, completed in 2001 by the design firm EDAW, the replacement cost would exceed $5.5 million dollars.
With respect to parking, two parking areas were temporarily closed by the need to replace concessionaire employee housing that was also lost in the flood. Locations include the Lost Arrow parking facility in Yosemite Village, behind the post office, and the Highland Court area within the Yosemite Lodge complex.
The flood also claimed 80 concessioner employee cabin units in riverside cabins at Camp 6. This area was subsequently made available for day use parking. Under the supervision of traffic control employees, approximately 620 vehicles can be parked at Camp 6 on a daily basis. We anticipate that parking areas at Lost Arrow and Highland Court will revert to parking areas as soon as we can permanently replace employee housing in (an)other location(s).
The NPS attempted to address camping, parking and other improvements through the Merced River Plan and Yosemite Valley Plan in 2001. A legal challenge ensued. As the result of a 2006 injunction from the United States District Court, Eastern California District, the NPS is specifically prohibited from working in the Merced River corridor until such time as a Merced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan and legally valid Environmental Impact Statement are completed, and a Record of Decision is authorized by the NPS.
The Yosemite Valley Plan was rescinded in 2009 upon the execution of a settlement agreement, leaving the specifics regarding more solutions uncertain at this time. Under a timetable that was authorized by the court, the Merced River Plan (MRP) will be completed in July, 2013.
Last summer, the park hosted a series of public open houses to begin the MRP alternatives development process. Some of these meetings were held in the park, one was in the Bay Area and others were developed for participation through the internet.
I invite you to visit the park’s web site to learn more. A webpage for Merced River Plan is located at
We have received several letters urging us to rebuild the river campgrounds and address parking supply, and others urging us to restore the sites to natural conditions.
All reasonable options will be considered as project alternatives are developed. You are also welcome to be involved in the planning process over the next few months.
Again, I want to say thank you for sharing your comments with us. If you have any questions about the planning process, please contact Jim Donovan from the park’s Planning Division at (209) 379-1450, or
Don L. Neubacher, Superintendent


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Angel came down from heaven yesterday. She stayed with me just long enough to rescue me And she told me a story yesterday, about the sweet love between the moon and the deep blue sea and then she spread her wings high over me. She said she’s gonna come back tomorrow.” – Jimi Hendrix

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –
One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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