Yosemite Sets March 15 Reopening

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yosemite National Park is expected to reopen March 15 unless more storms hit and hamper repair efforts to the main highways leading to the park.

Yosemite has been closed since Jan. 1, when severe rainstorms caused flooding in Yosemite Valley and landslides closed the highways leading to the park's entrances.

Park officials put the cost of damages to Yosemite Valley at $178 million.

Yosemite ranks as one of California's top tourist destinations with more than 4 million visitors a year.

There was no damage to the valley's famous Ahwahnee Hotel or other lodging establishments, but some campgrounds and canvas-sided cabins were damaged and will be removed as part of a long-planned park restoration.

According to a park spokesman, highways 120 through Sonora and 41 through Oakhurst are expected to be fully operational on March 15. The third highway leading to the park, highway 140 through Merced, only will be open to a morning and evening shuttle system.

Highway 140 is expected to be fully operational by Memorial Day, the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Gray Line of San Francisco, which operates daily tours to Yosemite from San Francisco, said the firm would restart its programs as soon as the park reopens.

Tauck Tours, which operates California and America West programs that visit Yosemite, has had to reroute several of its tours in the last month but will be back in Yosemite once the park reopens, according to a company spokesman.

Tauck has substituted an extra night in San Francisco and the Napa Valley for Yosemite.

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