Get Out There

Yellowstone’s Flood, Yosemite’s Fire Highlight Threats to Parks

Getting out into the national parks is worth it. They have beautiful sights. They offer a chance to truly get away and breathe out. However, some of the more popular parks have been requiring reservations because of massive crowds. And with unpredictable weather and fires becoming more regular, parks have sometimes been closing to visitors.

The parks are trying to plan for the future. Marcy Rockman was a climate change adaptation coordinator for the Park Service. “When I heard they were evacuating every visitor from Yellowstone, I was like, ‘Oh … evacuating every visitor was not a part of our climate change scenarios,’” Rockman told CNN. “Seeing what my former colleagues at Yellowstone are having to deal with now, it’s like ... I’m worried for them.”

Mere weeks after the closing at Yellowstone, Yosemite has had to block some parts off because of a massive fire. The park’s south entrance is closed. The small community of Wawona inside the park has been evacuated. More than 2,000 acres are on fire. After prioritizing getting people out and protecting homes, the firefighters turned to preserving the trees that are thousands of years old.

The Mariposa Grove was impacted by the fire. It’s more to some of the tallest, oldest trees on Earth. One tree, named the Grizzly Giant, is over 200 feet tall. The trees are of immense natural history importance; they are also massive tourist attractions. Firefighters cleared bush around them and used sprinklers to try and protect the trees,  

The trees were changing in Yosemite even before this fire. With less snow, worse droughts and more fires, many are dying. “People come to Yosemite because we have some of the biggest trees on Earth,” said Garrett Dickman, a forest ecologist with the National Park Service. “But the whole experience in Yosemite is starting to be altered ... We’re just kind of seeing that tree line lift up in a weird way.”

He said that 10 years ago, the park’s disaster planning centered around storms coming off the Pacific Ocean. Now it has to change to wildfires. Every year wildfires are closing down California’s national lands.

None of this means you shouldn’t go to a national park. But, you should plan ahead, have a backup plan and possibly pick one close to home so that if the trip goes wrong or the weather turns nasty, you can head home for a staycation and try a different time.

Banner image: Robby McCullough via Unsplash

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