Wildfire smoke isn’t keeping tourists away from Yosemite
The smoky haze didn’t faze proud El Capitan or majestic Yosemite Falls on Thursday, and tourists could still see Half Dome rising up like a crescent moon as the tourist mecca went about its business seemingly oblivious to the havoc being wrought 30 miles west of the park entrance.
Yosemite National Park was unmoved by the Detwiler Fire, which continued its path of destruction through California’s Gold Country, billowing smoke across the mountainous landscape.
Park rangers, hotel workers, rock climbers, museum curators and sightseers carried on as if the 70,000-acre fire was a mere gnat on the windshield of a tour bus.
“We do have smoke blowing into the valley, but it’s pretty minimal at this time,” said Jamie Richards, a Yosemite park ranger, describing how the “light haze” has served only to highlight the grand waterfalls and cliffs. “We still have water cascading over the waterfalls. It’s still really nice.”
The hotels, campgrounds, restaurants and other visitor services in Yosemite Valley were all open. Full power had been restored after park officials were forced to use generators a day before when the fire approached the electrical grid along Highway 140.
Skies remained hazy throughout the region, but the smoke was not nearly as bad as it was Wednesday, according to park officials.
The biggest inconvenience was the closure of a portion of Highway 140, one of the three main routes used to approach from the west, because of the flames threatening Mariposa. Visitors traveling to Yosemite from the Merced area were being diverted to Triangle Road toward Highway 49, which leads into Oakhurst before reconnecting with Highway140.
More on Detwiler Fire
- Fire officials optimistic in battle against blaze near Yosemite
- Wildfire near Yosemite grows to more than 70,000 acres
- Photos: Within feet of the Detwiler Fire near Yosemite
The park remained crowded despite the smoke.
“We have had visitors asking questions, but all the major roads in and out of Yosemite are open,” Richards said. “If you are planning a trip to Yosemite, it’s still a great time to come.”
Lisa Mayo, executive director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau in Sonora, about 20 miles northwest of the fire, said a lot of people have been calling her to find out about the air quality before heading up to the mountains.
“There is smoke in the air and it can shift depending on the wind,” Mayo said. “The area is also getting busier with emergency personnel, but I don’t think people are necessarily canceling trips at this point. As long as they don’t have respiratory issues, they are being told it is OK to come up.”
The Yosemite Westgate Lodge, on Highway 120 in Buck Meadows, remained open for business.
“The smoke is here, and people have canceled reservations because of it,” said a manager at the lodge who identified herself as Lucy. “We do whatever we can to prioritize our customers first and give them updates about what is going on. It does affect business a little because people are worried.”
Mayo, who has offered to arrange lodging for firefighters, said most people in the communities around Yosemite are used to fires in the summer and early fall.
“We’ve been through this before and we’ll get through it again,” she said. “Our thoughts are with all the firefighters and the other personnel helping to stop the fire and those who’ve lost their homes.”
Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pfimrite