Restoration Projects in Yosemite: Helping Restore the Natural Beauty of the High Sierra

Restoring Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restoration of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Since 1916, concessioners in Yosemite National Park have provided wilderness experiences for thousands of visitors by operating the Yosemite High Sierra Camps in some of the park’s most beautiful backcountry locations.  High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s high country, accessible only by foot or saddle. After decades of operation, the once pristine camps became impacted by heavy visitor use combined with minimal land management. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, the largest, oldest and most remote of the high camps was the first to benefit from planned restoration efforts, which began in 2001.  DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees worked to restore the camp with the guidance of the National Park Service at Yosemite.

Restoration workers at Merced lake High Sierra Camp.

Restoration workers at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

The success of the Merced Lake restoration inspired DNC to plan extensive restoration projects for the other High Sierra Camps during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The plan was expanded to include White Wolf Lodge in 2007 and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008. Since then, most High Sierra Camps have benefited from multiple efforts at ecological restoration. In 2011, ten years after the first restored pathway, it was time for the restoration crew to go back to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. DNC partnered with the National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy to improve the ecological health of the camp with grounds maintenance.  A group of 11 Yosemite Conservancy volunteers lead by DNC environmental managers Mark Gallagher and Debora Sanches donated 416 hours of labor to Merced Lake – helping to restore the camp to a more natural condition. The ecological restoration techniques included soil decompaction; collection and spread of native seeds and duff; transplanting native plants; trail delineation, erosion control and the creation of proper drainage for run-off.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp after restoration in 2011.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp during restoration in 2011.

 

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

In 2012, two major restoration projects took place at May Lake and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. In addition to trail delineation, decompaction and spread of duff in closed-off areas, volunteers also helped with deferred maintenance work such as roof replacement, corral post and hitching rails additions, plumbing improvements to prevent water waste and lodge foundation replacement.

In addition to the High Sierra Camps, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite recently started work on a two-phase ecological restoration project at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls – also in partnership with National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy. The restoration work includes removal of dirt roads, social trails, & non-native plants, and also transplanting of site-specific native plants and seeds. Yosemite Conservancy recruited 15 volunteers to work on the first phase of the project. DNC will work with the National Park Service at Yosemite to source native vegetation seeds in Yosemite National Park to be planted at the site in October.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

 

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Insider Look at Yosemite with a “Lodging and Learning” Package

If you know what to look for, a couple of boulders on a conspicuous little hill can tell you the stories of glaciers, and the creation of Yosemite Valley. If you know what to listen for, a bird’s song can alert you to what is going on in the forest around you, and tune you in to the tempo of the seasons. If you’re looking for an experience that gives you the opportunity to learn about Yosemite from an insider’s perspective, sign up for a Lodging and Learning Package.

Yosemite Conservancy naturalist

Discover Yosemite birds with Yosemite Conservancy naturalists


This new package, introduced by DNC and Yosemite Conservancy in February, allows visitors to experience a day and a half with a Yosemite Conservancy naturalist, and includes accommodations for two nights at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge or Curry Village and a group picnic lunch. Ramble through scenic Yosemite Valley locations and learn how this spectacular valley was formed, about the people that have lived here in the past like Native Americans or the environmentalist, John Muir. Get to know the trees, plants and animals of the park, and why fire is good. Your guide in these explorations is a Yosemite Conservancy naturalist like Pete Devine with years of experience in the area.

Although the program is new for Yosemite, we’re already starting to hear rave reviews. Our recent guest, Heidi G. had wonderful things to say about the program she experienced in February.

“My expectations were more than satisfied. Pete was so knowledge[able] and friendly that you felt like a close friend after a few minutes. If I were to picture the perfect instructor Pete Devine would be my image. Pete was enthusiastic and so good about answering all our questions. The visual aids really added to his funny, exciting commentary. He brought Yosemite’s history to life. Pete also allowed us to simply follow his easy pace and quietly absorb the majesty of the Park without worrying about where we were going…..sheep following our shepherd, grazing on the beauty!” “One of the BEST experiences in all of my years of travel!”

“Lodging and Learning” is a three-day, two-night package available March 18, April 8, 15 and 29 and May 13 so far. Because the program has been so well-received, we’re looking forward to announcing even more dates soon. Visit the Lodging and Learning page on our website for more details and to sign up.