It's almost Labor Day 2013, a weekend when Yosemite Valley should be jammed with campers and hikers. But will it be? The ongoing Rim fire near and inside part of the national park has blackened 280 square miles, making it the seventh largest fire in California's history.
Park officials say there's no need to change your holiday plans just yet. As of Tuesday morning, it was blue skies in Yosemite Valley, and views beyond its granite walls were crystal clear, they said.
"Most of Yosemite remains open and operational," park ranger and spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Tuesday. "Everything in the southern portion of the park, including Yosemite Valley and Wawona, remain clear of smoke impact."
The fire, the seventh largest in California history, is burning in about 5% of the park, 15 to 20 miles from Yosemite Valley.
The valley has been relatively unaffected by the monster blaze in the Stanislaus National Forest and the northern part of the park near the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The Ahwahnee hotel, lodges and campgrounds are open. Only the White Wolf lodge and campground shut as a precautionary measure.
"Visitors are certainly talking about the fire, but once they see how beautiful things are here, that usually stops," Scott Gediman, park ranger and spokesman told USA Today.
Labor Day weekend is the third busiest holiday at the park after Memorial Day and July 4.
Though no statistics are available yet, the number of visitors seemed lighter than usual this week, Cobb said. That means anyone without reservations who wants to go might get be able to pick up a canceled room or campground.
The fire is about 20% contained. If your plans take you to Yosemite this weekend, monitor the situation before you go.
--The National Park Service continues to update closures and fire information on the Rim Fire website. One park entrance along Highway 120 remains shut, and the Merced and Tuolumne groves of giant sequoias have been closed too.
--Crane Flat and Hodgdon Meadow campgrounds are closed because they are being used to shelter firefighters and for other fire operations.
--The park service is monitoring air quality in Yosemite Valley and will be posting any alerts or changes in the smoke levels of the air.
--Call (209) 372-0200 for a recorded message with updated road information in the park. Also call centers are fielding inquiries about the fire at (209) 372-0327 and (209) 372-0329.