Monday, April 14, 2014

Peak of Spring

The Merced River canyon below Yosemite Valley is ablaze with poppies and dozens of other flower species just now. The color of millions of petals is dazzling even from miles away on the Glacier Point Road. Clarkia is already in bloom in the very lowest foothills.

The Merced River itself is running just above average, peaking overnight at just under 1300 cfs at Pohono Bridge. It's been a startlingly mild winter and spring, but 1977's drought had the Merced at less than 300 cfs on this date. With a snowpack measured at one third of normal water content, high flows will not last until the typical annual peak in the 3rd week of May. I'd expect visitors may start to be disappointed by waterfall volume as of July. We did have light flows of frazil ice (better called 'wist ice') 2 weeks ago, but this hasn't been a year for this phenomenon.

The Glacier Point Road was opened to bicycles for the weekend and it was a terrific national park experience to pedal through fir forest full of birdsong, melting snowbanks, and other happy cyclists, with the safety of there being no motor vehicles on the road. Cars can now drive out to Glacier Point.

Snowplants have been emerging for about 3 weeks already. Miner's Lettuce and Gooseberry are blooming in Yosemite Valley. What we call 'the first dogwood' located along Hwy. 140 above Cascades is officially in bloom now; Valley trees will be lit up shortly. Orioles have been in the Valley since the end of March, with black-throated gray warblers right behind. Black-headed grosbeaks arrived in the Valley a week ago. Vireos and tanagers are on their way. Conservancy naturalists have started springtime birdwalks and botany walks from the Art Center and there are some really great natural history field seminars coming up.

Lunar eclipse tonight!