Significant Ecological Restoration Projects Completed and Ongoing in Yosemite Valley
Recent projects continue to decrease the overall human footprint in Yosemite Valley while providing for an improved visitor experience.
Many Yosemite Valley projects are improving visitor experience while restoring Valley areas for ecological benefits. These meadow and riverbank restoration projects include removal of dams, invasive plants, social trails, and outdate utilities from these sensitive habitats. Visitors can now experience restored wetlands and riparian habitat without impacting the resource. Interpretive signs have also been added to areas for visitor education and enjoyment.
Meadow restoration has taken place in numerous locations throughout Yosemite Valley. Since the early 1990s efforts have been made to remove multiple trails, replace asphalt trails with boardwalks in seasonally flooded areas, eliminate old drainage ditches, and remove old road beds. The actions improved the crucial hydrologic function of the wet meadows. Additionally, park resource managers and volunteers have removed numerous invasive plants, most notably Himalayan blackberry, allowing for resurgence of native plants. The Stoneman Meadow asphalt removal project and the Stoneman Meadow boardwalk building project encompass a total restoration area of 26 acres. The Cook's Meadow project restored 42 acres.
Riverbank restoration has occurred in numerous locations throughout Yosemite Valley. This process includes soil decompaction, mulching, seeding, and planting native vegetation to help stabilize the riverbanks. Invasive plants are removed and the restored area is protected with fencing. Restored areas include Housekeeping Camp, North Pines Group Camp, Swinging Bridge, Devil's Elbow, El Capitan Picnic Area, and several other areas in Yosemite Valley. Two stretches of the river terrace along the Merced River corridor below Stoneman Bridge, near Curry Village, and Clark's Bridge are being revegetated. These projects have restored about 19 acres of floodplain and riverbank in the Merced River corridor.
The dam near Happy Isles on the Merced River has been recently removed, thereby restoring the natural free flow of the river. The dam above Happy Isles and the dam near Cascade Creek (removed in 2004) were abandoned and outdated structures. There are now no longer any dams along the Merced River within Yosemite National Park.
Current utility projects are placing water, sewer, and electrical lines under roads, allowing for the removal of utility corridors from sensitive habitats such as meadows, floodplains, and other wetlands.
Other significant projects in Yosemite Valley have been completed at Fern Spring, Royal Arches Meadow, Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, and Sentinel Meadow. Future visitors to Yosemite Valley will continue to benefit from increased restoration of previously developed areas, contributing to a smaller development footprint and larger accessibility to natural areas.
Did You Know?
In Yosemite Valley, dropping over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, the Merced River creates what is known as the “Giant Staircase.” Such exemplary stair-step river morphology is characterized by a large variability in river movement and flow, from quiet pools to the dramatic drops of the waterfalls themselves.