Smoke from Mariposa fire obscures vistas in Yosemite National Park

Smoke was taking a visible toll Saturday on Yosemite National Park, where some of the most picturesque vistas on earth were hidden behind eerie curtains of thick haze drifting in from the devastating Detwiler fire, about 35 miles to the west.

From the famous Tunnel View overlook on Highway 41, granite monoliths towering over Yosemite Valley including El Capitan and Half Dome resembled gray silhouettes. Bridalveil Fall was barely visible.

Earlier in the week, these formations, along with waterfalls gushing with unusually heavy runoff from this winter’s historic snowpack, could not be seen at all through the gray shroud.

Yosemite Valley, which attracts as many as 50,000 visitors on a summer weekend, remains open, but visitors from the across the nation and around the world expressed disappointment over the decrease in visibility as they posed for selfies.


Among them was Ken Welsh, 60, from New Zealand, who said he arrived at the Tunnel View vista prepared to be “blown away by a technicolor dream.”

Instead, he shrugged, then headed back to the car. “It leaves a lot to the imagination, doesn’t it?” he sighed.

Gabrielle Stacey, 43, of Bristol, England, shaded her eyes and squinted hoping it would improve the view.

“All I see is a lot of potential,” she said. “I’ll make sure to check the California fire situation before I book another trip to Yosemite.”


The fire, which has scorched 75,200 acres since it erupted July 16, was 30% contained on Saturday morning, officials said.

Jacky Liang, 24, of Santa Cruz, found plenty to like about the hazy backdrop as he photographed his girlfriend at Tunnel View.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “The smoke adds an edgy ambience to the shadows cast by the formations, almost as though they’re cloaked in mist.”

Lindsey Ross, 36, of Austin, Texas, wouldn’t go that far.


“If you’ve never been to Yosemite before,” he said, with a wry smile, “you don’t know what you’re missing.”

Smoke from the Detwiler fire blankets the entire Yosemite Valley, as seen from the Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The Detwiler fire forced an entire town’s residents to evacuate the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, but over the past week, it has slowed significantly and no longer threatens any large communities, a fire official said Saturday.

But the blaze still may be two weeks away from being fully contained, Cal Fire spokesman Brandon Vaccaro said. Evacuation orders remain in place for several roads in the area.


The blaze, which began just east of Lake McClure in Mariposa County, has destroyed 60 dwellings and sent a plume of smoke as far away as Idaho.

For four days, residents of Mariposa — a town of about 2,000 not far from Yosemite National Park — were uprooted from their homes and businesses following an evacuation order. They were allowed to return Friday to the town, which was partially covered in ash.

At least one neighborhood outside Mariposa along Highway 140 was destroyed.


The blaze is continuing through vegetation in the northeast toward the Stanislaus National Forest, although it’s not expected to reach that area. Vaccaro said firefighters expect to fully contain the fire by Aug. 5.

Officials from Cal Fire and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office plan to hold a community meeting to address fire-related concerns at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mariposa County High School Auditorium, at 5074 Old Highway North in Mariposa.


Times staff writers Sahagun reported from Yosemite Valley National Park and Lau from Los Angeles.


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