The Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River, designated in 1984, includes 83 miles of the river on the western side of the Sierra Nevada in California. The National Park Service (NPS) manages 54 miles of the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River in Yosemite National Park beginning at its headwaters on the Dana and Lyell forks at the crest of the Sierra Nevada. The forks then converge and the river meanders lazily westward through Tuolumne Meadows before cascading down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and then entering the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (which is not part of the national wild and scenic rivers system). Below O'Shaughnessy Dam, the river continues through Poopenaut Valley to the park boundary. The U.S. Forest Service manages the 29 miles of the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River downstream of Yosemite National Park before it reaches Don Pedro Reservoir and flows through the Central Valley of California ultimately converging with the San Joaquin River.
The Wild and Scenic River Act (WSRA) requires comprehensive planning for a designated river to provide for the protection of free-flowing condition, water quality, and the outstandingly remarkable values that make the river eligible for inclusion. In addition, a comprehensive management plan (and its recommendations on land use and development) must fulfill the specific direction of the 1984 legislation designating the Tuolumne River as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (Final Tuolumne River Plan/EIS) is the National Park Service's response to these requirements.
The purpose of the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is to preserve the Tuolumne River within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park in free-flowing condition, and to protect the water quality and outstandingly remarkable values that make the river worthy of designation for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Final Tuolumne River Plan/EIS is now the guiding document for protecting and enhancing river values and managing use and user capacity with the Tuolumne River corridor. As such, it evaluated impacts and threats to river values and identified strategies for protecting and enhancing these values over the long-term. The plan follows and documents planning processes required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and other legal mandates governing National Park Service decision-making. In accordance with these statutes, it was developed in consultation with members of the public, traditionally-associated American Indian tribes and groups, and other key stakeholder groups. The Final Tuolumne River Plan/EIS reflects a number of changes—discussed in the document—that were made in response to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
In accordance with WSRA, NEPA, NHPA, and other applicable statutes, the plan:
Drafting a plan is an enormous undertaking. It takes a legion of people, including park staff, other land management agencies, tribes, community stakeholders, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the public, to get any planning effort to the finish line. Led by a project manager, it is the job of the core team to understand the issues and data while drawing from the depth and scope of ideas expressed by all interested entities.
The National Park Service core team for the Tuolumne River Plan included representatives from each park division: Interpretation and Education, Resources Management and Science, Visitor Protection (including Wilderness Management), Facilities Management, Business and Revenue Management, Planning, Project Management, and the Superintendent's Office. Team members represented the particular interests and knowledge base of their respective aspect of park operations. They were also chosen to be on the Tuolumne River Plan team based on their long association with and connection to the Tuolumne Meadows area.
Drafting a plan of this magnitude also takes time. This plan was initiated in 2006 through the public scoping process. After the scoping period closed in September 2006, the planning team analyzed and considered all comments. Public scoping was open again the following summer 2007 after a delay in the planning process. Over the course of the first two years of this planning effort, multiple public meetings, workshops, and site visits were held. In fall 2007, the NPS planning team considered over 300 public comments received during the summer's review of the Tuolumne Planning Workbook's preliminary concepts. What resulted was a range of alternatives for the draft Tuolumne River Plan.
In summer of 2008 a second planning workbook was released to further keep people involved in the planning effort; workshops were also held that summer and during the summer of 2009. During this time, work on developing alternatives was underway and those alternatives were being further analyzed and finalized with input from the public.
After seven years of study and stakeholder involvement, the Draft Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (Tuolumne River Plan/EIS) was released in early 2013. A Final Tuolumne River Plan and Record of Decision was finalized in spring and early summer 2014 respectively. The Final Tuolumne River Plan/EIS is the product of many years of scientific study, multi-agency and tribal collaboration, and the involvement of an enthusiastic public. The final plan has been deeply shaped by coordination and consultation with members of the public, traditionally-associated American Indian tribes and groups, historic preservation experts, and other stakeholders. Many of the changes between the draft and final plan were the direct result of concerns raised during public meetings or consultation efforts. These activities have given the NPS a stronger plan that will improve visitor experience and better protect the Tuolumne River's unique values for the next several decades.
In May 2019, a public meeting was held to discuss the Tuolumne Meadows Parking Relocation Project which tiered off of this plan.
Documents and Timeline
Record of Decision (June 2014)
Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (March 2014)
Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Draft Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (2013)
Public Meeting Presentations
During 2009 and 2010 when a lot of internal work took place shaping the draft alternatives for this plan public meetings, open houses, and workshops took place.
The 2007 and 2008 workbooks consolidated background information, planning tools, and preliminary alternatives for managing the Tuolumne River corridor. They represented thousands of hours spent since 2005 by the planning team, park staff, culturally associated Indian tribes, other agencies, gateway community representatives, and interested members of the public.
As part of the continuing commitment to make public involvement an integral part of every step of Tuolumne River planning, these workbooks included a worksheet and mail-back comment form to gather ideas and concerns about the current stages the plan was in.
Public Scoping (2006)
Yosemite National Park is one of the most studied units in the National Park System. Park planners and subject matter experts drew upon this body of research and knowledge throughout the development of the Tuolumne River Plan. In addition to previously conducted research, the park also initiated new studies to fill in gaps in the research. Below is a selection of the new research conducted for the Tuolumne River Plan. A full bibliography was included in the draft environmental impact statement.
Yosemite Nature Notes: Tuolumne River
Last updated: April 26, 2023