Yosemite Valley, the heart of tourism at California’s most-visited national park, reopened to visitors Tuesday morning after firefighters made significant progress controlling the massive Ferguson fire nearby.
National Park Service officials warned, however, that air quality is still poor in parts of the park and that visitors should adjust their activities accordingly as they explore Yosemite Valley, the spot where most visitors flock to see the park’s impressive waterfalls and granite giants Half Dome and El Capitan.
When officials evacuated Yosemite Valley three weeks ago, low visibility from the Ferguson smoke made those famous sights nearly impossible to see. The evacuation marked the first closure of the valley due to a blaze since 1990, when the A-Rock fire ripped through the region and burned nearly 18,000 acres.
Officials estimate the nearly 97,000-acre blaze, now at 86 percent containment, will be fully contained by Wednesday, about a month after it first ignited. Some popular routes into the park are still closed off to the public, however.
The Ferguson fire is one of several massive blazes currently raging across California, where years of drought and high temperatures linked to climate change have left forests tinder-dry and primed for out-of-control wildfires. Last week, the Mendocino Complex fire became the largest in state history with over 300,000 acres scorched.
Those statistics are the motivation behind new wildfire legislation proposed by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D). In a bill that would open up more opportunities and funding for prescribed burns, Jackson hopes to change the state’s wildfire strategy from one that is largely reactive to one that is more preventive.
“Clearly we have to think differently, and we have to act differently,” she said in a call with reporters earlier this month.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Yosemite was the most visited national park. It is the most visited national park in California.