Tioga Pass opened today, earliest in 26 years

LA Observed file photo of deer beside Tioga Road in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park.

Here's as sure a sign as any about the extent of the California snowfall drought. The Tioga Road across the top of Yosemite National Park opened at noon, linking the Eastern Sierra with the park and the western Sierra communities. The last time the seasonal road opened this early was in 1987. Yosemite advises that there are no services available along the road as yet, except for vault toilets.

Due to a light snowpack this past winter (approximately 30% of normal), the Tioga Road was cleared of snow early into the season. Snow and icy conditions may still exist on hiking trails at the higher elevations. Visitors are urged to be prepared for snowy conditions and possible treacherous stream crossings while hiking the backcountry in the early season.

All campgrounds along the Tioga Road are closed. All commercial services, including the gas station, store, and village grill, are also closed. There are no anticipated opening dates for any of these facilities.

Elsewhere in the park, there was enough snow last week for observers to watch an avalanche in Tenaya Canyon. Spring is coming early, however. From Yosemite Nature Notes, posted to the blog yesterday:

While Yosemite Falls looks might hearty at the moment, the river is running below average again, and some observers believe that we've already passed peak runoff, several weeks early. Sentinel Creek is just now trickling as far as Southside Drive, and Ribbon Creek flows nicely to the river. Wosky Pond has a tiny bit of water in it. Eagle Creek and all channels of Indian Creek are dry at Valley level.

In the Valley, dogwoods are glorious right now, Senecio is in bloom already. Mule deer bucks have new antlers starting to grow. Snowplants have been up for weeks and are abundant in Mariposa Grove now.

Western Tanagers arrived in the Valley last week and are adding to the incessant soundtrack of spring.

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