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Highway 140 into Yosemite National Park remains closed indefinitely after 4,000-ton rockslide

Helicopter view shows debris from El Portal Road rockfall

El Portal Road (Highway 140 into Yosemite) was closed by a rockfall, according to Yosemite National Park, but reopened Saturday, June 17, 2017. Highways 41 and 120 from the west remained open.
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El Portal Road (Highway 140 into Yosemite) was closed by a rockfall, according to Yosemite National Park, but reopened Saturday, June 17, 2017. Highways 41 and 120 from the west remained open.

The Arch Rock Entrance into Yosemite National Park from Highway 140, or El Portal Road, remained closed Tuesday due to a 4,000-ton rockslide, with no estimated time for reopening, spokesman Scott Gediman said in a release.

Yosemite National Park staff are assessing the area and the road will remain closed at least through the weekend of June 17-18, Gediman said. Around 150 feet of the roadway is covered in up to 15 to 20 feet of debris.

After the assessment is complete, crews including rangers and geologists will begin to remove the rock and repair the road to make it safe for visitors. There is no estimate for when the road will reopen, Gediman said.

Noel Morrison, communications manager for the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, said the organization was working on getting information about the closure out to visitors and residents after the news broke early Tuesday afternoon.

“Unfortunately these sorts of things happen on every highway leading into the park and it has big impacts on local economies,” Morrison said. “We’re working on developing a long-term plan in case there are longer effects from this rockslide.”

She said the group would continue work to ensure travelers keep visiting Mariposa County and the surrounding area, despite the closure.

“We’ll direct them to our visitor’s center to determine the best course of action,” Morrison said, noting any suggested detours would depend on each guest’s itinerary.

The visitor’s center is located at 5158 Highway 140 in Mariposa, and can be called at (209) 966-7081 for more information.

Around noon Monday, the large rockslide occurred from a cliff about 1 mile east of the park’s boundary on Highway 140.

The rockfall originated from a point mid-way up the cliff, approximately 400 feet above the base of the cliff and 600 feet above El Portal Road, Gediman said.

Roughly 4,000 tons of rock, in the form of a 50 x 80 x 15 foot slab, detached from the cliffside and crashed down into the road, Gediman said.

The massive rock formation slid down the cliff, hit a ledge, and broke into pieces. These pieces then fragmented upon hitting the base of the cliff, fanning out over an area more than 1,000 feet wide, Gediman said.

The bulk of the debris slid and rolled down the slope at the base of the cliff, piling up on the El Portal Road, and continuing down, and into the Merced River.

The largest boulder on the road is estimated about 130 tons in weight, and there are several other boulders that are only slightly smaller. The road sustained damage, both to the paved surface and the retaining wall.

No injuries or vehicle damage were reported during the rockslide. The entrance on Tioga Road also remains closed due to snow, while all other entrances to the park are open.

Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) buses will run on a modified schedule. To see the schedule, please visit www.yarts.com

For current information, dial (209) 372-0200, then press 1, and 1 again.

For a previous story on the rockslide, click here.

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