YOSEMITE VALLEY, Calif. — Update: Parts of Yosemite Valley have reopened Saturday. Western Yosemite Valley has reopened, but the rest of Yosemite Valley will be open Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for day-use with limited services. A full reopen is scheduled for Monday at 7 a.m.
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Original article: Juan Zuluaga and Marta Madrigal of Colombia are snapping keepsake pictures at Yosemite National Park's Big Oak Flat Entrance as part of their two-month motorcycle journey across the U.S.
"We are very lucky," said Zuluaga.
Lucky because they would be able to see the national park's famous Yosemite Valley floor before it closes for several days.
At Yosemite Valley's "Swinging Bridge" location, water underneath from the Merced River is just a few feet from the top of the wooden walk.
A short distance away water is creeping onto a nearby hiking trail.
They are tell tale signs flooding is a real possibility.
"The situation we're in now is that we've got the huge snowpack. We've had cool temperatures. Now, we've got the heatwave for the weekend," said Scott Gediman, park ranger and public affairs officer.
Gediman has been a Yosemite Park ranger 27 years and says the closure is to "err on the side of safety."
"When it gets above 10 feet — 10 feet is what we call flood stage. And it's fluctuating everyday, but they're talking it cresting at like 11.2, 11.3-feet. That means water in meadows, the river next to us is wider and possibly some water in some of the hotels, things like that," said Gediman.
Yosemite's snowpack is its largest on record at 240% or about two-and-a-half-times a normal year.
As the snow melts, the Merced River flows higher.
Fahim Shafi from San Ramon says he comes to Yosemite at least twice a year.
"I have never seen it like this in my 25 years in the Bay Area. It's amazing," said Shafi.
Ray Bunn and his wife Karen made the trip to Yosemite from Modesto and they were amazed by the enormous amount of snow.
"I didn't think about all the snow, but there's so much snow this year that I can see maybe it would be flooding the campgrounds I guess whatever they have," said Bunn.
For those who made reservations at Yosemite's famous The Ahwahnee hotel, their reservations are being canceled.
The Chessler family of four from Mountain View planned their visit a year in advance and were able to stay just one night instead of their scheduled three.
They experienced first hand the reason for the closure.
"We were hiking. The path was washed out and we had to ford a log over the river. Kind of precarious," said Betsy Chessler.
Not everything in the national park is closed, though.
"The valley hotels and restaurants are closed. However, the Wawona Hotel and restaurant will still be open this weekend. That is up in the southern portion of the park," Chelsie Layman, Director of Yosemite Hospitality Sales and Marketing.
Once the river peaks, which is expected over the weekend, Yosemite Valley could reopen Wednesday morning or be closed possibly longer.
Though the flooding and extra snow is closing parts of the parts and changing some plans, the record snowpack means some of the most spectacular waterfalls the park has seen in years.
"I've never seen the waterfalls this big. It benefits the riparian habitat. It's good for river system. It flushes it out. So, it's a natural process," said Gediman.