Falling boulders are the single biggest force shaping Yosemite Valley, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the California national park system. Now swaths of some popular haunts are closing for good after geologists confirmed that unsuspecting tourists and employees are being lodged in harm’s way.
Today, the National Park Service will announce that potential danger from the unstable 3,000-foot-tall Glacier Point, a granite promontory that for decades has provided a dramatic backdrop to park events, will leave some of the valley’s most popular lodging areas permanently uninhabitable, The Associated Press reported.
“There are no absolutely safe areas in Yosemite Valley,” said Greg Stock, the park’s first staff geologist and the primary author of a new study that assesses the potential risk to people from falling rocks in the steep-sided valley. The highest risk area is family friendly Curry Village, which was hit by a major rock fall several years ago.
A newly delineated “hazard zone” also outlines other areas, including the popular climbing wall El Capitan, where the danger posed by the rock falls is high but risk of injury is low because they aren’t continuously occupied.
“Rock falls are common in Yosemite Valley, California, posing substantial hazard and risk to the approximately four million annual visitors to Yosemite National Park,” reads the ominous opening line of the report.
The move to close parts of historic Curry Village, a camp of canvas and wooden cabins, comes four years after the equivalent of 570 dump trucks of boulders hit 17 cabins, flattened one and sent schoolchildren scrambling for their lives. The park fenced off 233 of the 600 cabins in the village.
The new report, obtained by The Associated Press, now identifies 18 more that will be closed today.