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The Mono-logue » Tioga Pass watch

‘Tioga Pass watch’ Category

Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spills

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Water courses down the Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spillway, possibly for the first time ever. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

For the first time since at least as far back as 1983, Saddlebag Lake Reservoir on Lee Vining Creek is spilling. This is a rare event—and possibly a first—for the highest lake you can drive to in California.

Saddlebag Dam, at 10,090′ elevation, was built in 1921 to enlarge an existing alpine lake for hydropower generation purposes. The dam was raised and a spillway was added in 1925. The reservoir is oversized compared to the volume of water produced in its watershed, and given the agreement between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), which requires it to be very low every spring. It is unclear if it has ever spilled before now. Last week it was inches away from its spillway, at the end of the day on Monday it was very full at 9,400 acre-feet of water, and on Tuesday it spilled! (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Restoring carbon in Tuolumne Meadows with Lydia Baldwin

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Ever wonder about the carbon storing potential of Tuolumne Meadows? If you have, you’re not so different from our researcher for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists. Come listen to Lydia Baldwin present her research in Tuolumne Meadows on Wednesday August 9 at 4:00pm to learn more!

Tuolumne Meadows in spring 2015. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Wet meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada that were historically disturbed are currently losing both soil-water holding capacity and the ability to store carbon. These wetlands formerly functioned as sinks of carbon dioxide, but now they could act as significant contributors of CO2 into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the maintenance and addition of carbon to soil can also enhance its capacity to hold water. This refreshing ‘ologist is testing whether the reestablishment of a sedge-dominated community at Tuolumne Meadows, a high-elevation wet meadow in Yosemite National Park, will restore the meadow to a carbon-accumulating ecosystem.

Join us to hear Lydia explain how she monitors gross primary production and plant respiration to create a model of growing season carbon dynamics to determine if these treatments increase the meadow’s carbon storage. Be ready to learn and ready to eat because admission and snacks are both free!

Tioga Pass will open on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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According to Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass will open for the season to all vehicular traffic on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am.

Current conditions at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass will open for the season on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am. Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

There will be minimal services available—no drinking water, gasoline, food, lodging, or cell phone service (911 emergency calls will not be operational). The Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Tamarack Flat is the only campground currently open along the Tioga Road, and it fills nearly every day on a first-come, first served basis.

For hikers and backpackers: “Anyone planning to hike or backpack near Tuolumne Meadows and in all high elevation areas of Yosemite should be prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Trails are still impacted by snow and ice. River crossings are high and swift moving. There are several high water areas currently impacting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park. Trail conditions may vary at any time.”

Cyclists and pedestrians may use the road tomorrow, Wednesday, June 28. Find the full text of the Yosemite press release here.

Well, I guess we know who will be winning our office Tioga Pass poll!

When will Tioga Pass open? Here’s our office poll….

Monday, June 26th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The Tioga Pass area on the summer solstice, June 20, 2017. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The question of the year so far is “When will Tioga Pass open?” Your guess is as good as ours. In fact, here’s the office poll—compare your guess to ours!

  • Jess: June 16 soft opening; June 17 official
  • Elin: June 23 at noon
  • Bartshe: June 23
  • Ellen: June 24
  • Nora: June 26
  • Gabby: June 27
  • Greg: June 28 at noon
  • Lisa: June 29
  • Arya: June 30
  • Andrew: June 30
  • Geoff: July 1
  • Julissa: July 6

At 9,945 feet above sea level, Tioga Pass is the highest point on Highway 120 and the California State Highway system. There are 26 avalanche zones that this year had snowdrifts upwards of 50 feet, often concealing rocks and trees. Once the road is clear of snow, crews must repair any damage to the pavement, shoulders, and guardrails. The latest Tioga Pass opening date was July 8, 1933, and the earliest was April 29, 1988 … we’re all wondering what it will be this year!

Updated on Tuesday, June 27 at 4:30pm to add that it looks like Lisa will be the winner, unless we get a strange summer snowstorm!

Tioga Pass “lower gate” will open on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm

Saturday, June 17th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Caltrans will open the “lower gate” on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm.

This gate will be opened on Monday, June 19, 2017 at 2:00pm. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lower gate is located 3.5 miles west of Highway 395, and when it is open visitors and locals can access the high country near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The park gate will remain closed; access to Tuolumne Meadows and beyond is still not possible by car.

The area of Tioga Pass around the park gate is still mostly snow-covered, lakes are covered in old unstable ice, and creeks and rivers are running very fast and cold, so be prepared for those conditions if you plan to recreate there once the lower gate is open.

Sonora Pass (Highway 108) opening tomorrow at noon

Thursday, June 8th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Update at 11:24am on Friday: Sonora Pass will not be opening today. Crews will reevaluate tomorrow.

The latest news from Caltrans is that Sonora Pass (Highway 108) is scheduled to open tomorrow, Friday, June 9, at noon. Opening the road is subject to current weather conditions.

The Tioga Pass road at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, just before crews plowing from east and west met and punched through. Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

According to the Caltrans email, there is no estimated date for opening Tioga Pass (Highway 120) yet. Caltrans crews plowing from the east have met up with Yosemite National Park crews plowing from the west, and work will now continue to remove snow from the shoulders, remove rocks from the road, and repair any damaged sections of road. In particular, extensive damage occurred to guardrails from the unusually heavy snowpack, so those are being repaired and/or replaced before the road can be opened.

Summer 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The benchmarks in this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter show the smallest change in lake level that I think we’ve ever published (see page 13).

Out on the landbridge where we installed the temporary fence to keep the nesting gulls safe, wildlife cameras capture the lake’s rise on some of the very flattest exposed lakebed, so even small changes in lake level are clearly visible. The 2.3-inch-rise shown in the photos is only the beginning this year.

After five years of streams slowing to a trickle and Mono Lake dropping, this is a year of renewal and revival for the Mono Basin’s resilient natural systems. Streams are overflowing their banks, meadows are flooded, and thirsty cottonwoods are plunging their roots into the saturated soil. Mono Lake is rising fast—water is lapping higher on the tufa towers and salt-tolerant plants along the shore now have wet feet.

It’s a year of benchmarks for human-engineered systems too. Grant Lake Reservoir will flow over the spillway, too full to contain the immense volumes of snowmelt from the upper Rush Creek watershed. Mono Lake will sequentially flood the posts of the temporary fence, shortening the length needed to protect the gulls. Salty lake water will change the paths at South Tufa, forcing visitors to walk higher above the new shore.

This is a year not to be missed. It has already joined the ranks of other big years: 1969, 1983, 1995 … 2017.

So come to Mono Lake, find a spot on the shore, and take note. The water’s edge wasn’t there yesterday, and it won’t be there tomorrow—Mono Lake is refilling before our eyes. At the end of your stay in the Mono Basin, return to your benchmark spot and see how the shoreline has changed. You’ll be able to say that you were here during the amazing summer of 2017 and saw it happening.

Tioga Pass: Memorial Day weekend update

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Tioga Pass will not be open for this holiday weekend, and there is still no estimated opening date. But plowing crews have rounded the corner near Ellery Lake, making good progress toward the Yosemite National Park entrance gate.

A photo from Sunday, May 21, 2017 taken at Ellery Lake looking back east at Ellery Bowl with bikers for scale. Photo courtesy of Nathan Taylor.

Warm weather is aiding the crews as they work, but avalanches remain a hazard. As work progresses, pedestrians, bicyclists, skiers, etc. are advised to stay out of these areas (the photos in this post were taken on a Sunday, when crews do not work). (more…)

Tioga Pass from the air

Monday, May 8th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Caltrans just sent out a video of a flyover of Tioga Pass, filmed last Monday, May 1. The video shows the road from low in Lee Vining Canyon to the eastern gate to Yosemite National Park; there is no sound in the video.

There is no estimated opening date for Tioga Pass, and this video helps to show why. We knew there was a lot of snow up there—it’s exciting to see just how much!

Current conditions in the Inyo National Forest for fishing season opener

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Spring has arrived in the Mono Basin, but at the higher elevations roads and lakes are still covered in snow and ice. We know it can be frustrating trying to figure out what is open and what is not at this time of year, so here is a list of current conditions throughout the Inyo National Forest:

Opening day for the fishing season in Mono and Inyo counties is this Saturday, April 29, 2017.

● All lakes below 7,500 feet in elevation and free of ice will be open.
● Lundy Lake is extremely low and there will be no access for boat launching.
● All anglers 16 years or older must have a 2017 California Fishing License which may be purchased online, by clicking here, or by visiting most local tackle shops.

A member of the the Caltrans District 9 Team stands in front of a massive snowbank on Tioga Pass. Photo courtesy of Caltrans District 9.

Visitor centers, roads, and campgrounds: (more…)

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