Washburn Fire: Drop in visitors to Yosemite impacts nearby businesses

Concerns about smoky haze and air quality are among the reasons some tourists are opting out.

Thursday, July 14, 2022
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Though smoky skies aren't impacting the community, some restaurants and hotels can't say the same.

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many are opting to continue with travel plans and take an alternate entrance to the park. But for those who are concerned about ash in the air or smoky skies once inside the park, they are making alternate plans.

Even as the Washburn Fire continues to burn inside Yosemite, the national park remains open.

But the South gate has now been closed since Friday afternoon, eliminating the ease for park visitors with plans to stay in nearby Oakhurst.

Though smoky skies aren't impacting the community, some restaurants and hotels can't say the same.

The Visit Yosemite Madera County office has been inundated with calls from tourists who want to know if they should cancel their plans. Visitors still have the option to access the park through other entrances but that could mean congestion and a delay if they are coming from the south.

"Our visitors have to take an extra detour to enter the park through the Highway 140 route," says Brooke Smith with the office.

Just four miles from the South Gate entrance, Seasons Bistro at the Narrow Gauge Inn sits empty.

The inn, popular for its close proximity to Sugar Pine Railroad, water falls, hikes and horseback riding is still open, but the South Gate being closed means the nearest entrance to Yosemite is roughly two hours away.

Front desk agent Allena Gonzalez says in the last day, more than 20 of the inn's 26 reservations were canceled.

She adds, "There's a slight feeling of devastation. Just being unsure of how it effects our business here. The employees having their jobs their hours. This time of year is our busy season."

"The majority of our business relies on the south gate being open," Gonzalez says.

Concerns about smoky haze and air quality are among the reasons some tourists are opting out.

It's the reason why Sierra Sky Ranch has seen occupancy drop after accepting cancelations in recent days, and anticipates issues with bookings in the days to come.