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[Yosemite]

Merced River foot bridges

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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Merced River foot bridges

Postby mebgardner » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:01 am

I'm starting a new thread for a discussion about foot bridges over the Merced, during upcoming flood season.

I'm picking up on this this thread I started in a different subject, and felt it was getting "off topic":

AlmostThere wrote:Bridges? What bridges?

All the bridges are on "front country" trails. Most are built sufficiently high off the water to not be inundated and swept away, like their predecessors.

The Wapama bridge was destroyed and rebuilt in runoff a few years ago -- there is no way to build that in such a manner that it wouldn't be. And shortly after it was rebuilt, people died crossing it when the falls was high.

Backcountry stuff, it's rare to find a bridge. Usually a waterway has to be pretty dangerous for a sustained period to get one.


So, on we go...

AT, I was referring to the foot bridges that cross the Merced, going "uphill" from LYV. I guess that is a "front country" route, but it would be a popular route, as part of it is JMT.

The bridges are marked on the (now old) topo maps online, on the Yosemite maps links.

Some of what I've read (not here, on this site) stated that at least one of those bridges was out. This was posted many years ago, and I just assumed that it was rebuilt. I have no more details than that.

I'm thinking that, if one of them was truly out, there would be a thread / posting about it on this site. Since I have not seen one, I assumed that "all was good".

But, I did not want to be looking at a downed foot bridge across a swollen Merced, in the narrow gorge just above LYV, and then turn around because I assumed wrong...
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:39 am

All those bridges are there. I crossed them all last weekend. The Merced sometimes gets the one over the top of Nevada Falls a little wet, but the river isn't that high and probably won't be.

You can work around the bridge below Vernal by using the horse trail from Happy Isles visitor center, and work around the one above Vernal by using the winter route to the JMT switchbacks. The one above Nevada better be there, though.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby mebgardner » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:01 pm

AlmostThere wrote:All those bridges are there. I crossed them all last weekend. The Merced sometimes gets the one over the top of Nevada Falls a little wet, but the river isn't that high and probably won't be.

You can work around the bridge below Vernal by using the horse trail from Happy Isles visitor center, and work around the one above Vernal by using the winter route to the JMT switchbacks. The one above Nevada better be there, though.


Did you happen to also cross the bridges at 1) just below Bunnell Point, and 2) just west of Echo Valley, and then heading east and 3) across Echo Creek?

There's a series of (2? 3?) more bridges just east of the Merced Lake HSC, over the lake input, but the one's I'm really interested in are those through the "narrows" from Lost Valley to Echo Valley.

I've read the water can get up pretty close to the trail, and high water may make that section of trail impassable, and / or take out bridges.

But, my degree of concern is starting to relax, thanks to your help with the "boots on the ground" report.

You Lucky! I want your job, you're in the park, now.

Thank You!
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:42 pm

I didn't go that far. Bunnell is a 22 mile round trip for a day hike. I suspect that the farther out you go, the more snow there is, and it is snowing again this week. Runoff should be peaking in May, I think.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 27, 2016 3:09 pm

There aren't any bridges out according to the ranger I just talked to. Flows along the Merced drainage are at only 91% of normal. The bridges are designed for higher rates, although debris can throw a wrench (tree) into that. But still, it's all good.

I suppose it's better than what we've had for a few years, but this whole El Nino thing was kind of a dud, IMO...I'm glad I never started that ark I was thinking about.

If you're worried, Meb, this is where to check on things current, including trail closures:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 27, 2016 6:44 pm

So anyhow, I looked at the current satellite images of that whole area. No snow to really speak of, but the creeks and the Merced are absolutely raging! Lot's a trees at the edges of the main channel, and lots of standing water in the low-lying forests and meadows.

East of Merced HSC, the bridge doesn't actually cross the Merced, it crosses Lewis Creek, and it's still there, as is the one up on the descent where the trail from Fletcher crosses Lewis Creek.

The three bridges on Echo Creek all look good, including the one further up the Cathedral Fork, which, btw, is way high up high across the creek anyhow, so it's not ever an issue.

Now then, there does seem to be a problem at the bridge the crosses the Merced just downtrail from Echo Valley. It look pounded and sort of bent by a big logjam that hit it and that you can still see. I would probably cross it, because it does look fully intact, but the east abutment ramp looks to be at least partially submerged for a fair distance. Although, I didn't see any obvious current, but if you know that channel, you know it starts dropping off there, so I would be hesitant to make any sort of call without standing there and seeing it with my "boots on the ground". If you want to have a look and see what you think, the coordinates are:
37.7412847, -119446121

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that there are actually two bridges across the the Merced down by Bunnell, and both look absolutely fine. The first one to the east is shorter and its coordinates are: 37.7440590, -119.461236. The second is the longer one, and its coordinates are: 37.7448904, -119.461274. And,for anyone interested, when I rave about nice campsites in uphill from the trail in that area, that's where I'm talking about.

Basically though, if you were inclined to head out now, you would see some spectacular water. The trails look clear. Maybe bring your Gore-tex boots, gaiters, and a couple extra pairs of socks though.
Last edited by Phil on Wed Apr 27, 2016 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 6:46 pm

Where are you finding current satellite images?

If it's Google Earth, those are old -- there's a lot more snow that that up there. You'd see it on the webcams if not for the clouds.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:08 pm

Dated 2016. The last time I went to there and up to Red Peak/Ottoway about a month ago on the same site, the entire area was snowed in and the lakes were frozen solid. There's also still quite a bit of snow up higher, and the water is big and looks like it's definitely spring runoff. Merced HSC is still shut down from the images, and given everything together, inclusive of the fact that we're not talking anything much over 7000-ish feet, I'm assuming the images are at least real-time enough to call it reasonably current. Also, from what I can tell from the High Sierra webcam up on Glacier Point showing as of yesterday, that whole valley in the lower Merced drainage above LYV looks pretty clear to me.
Last edited by Phil on Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:12 pm

There was still a lot of snow left on Clouds Rest, and we walked among snow patches -- there was melting snow on the bridge over Nevada. The webcam shows plenty of snow at Badger that doesn't show in the images. I think those are old satellite shots. In fact, they are loading them from Google Earth -- those shots are from 2014.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:06 pm

If I screwed up and got all excited about dated images, I'm sorry. I also edited that last post and deleted way more than I meant to, so sorry for that too. I was taking the date on the copyright for the images along with what was clearly spring runoff. But, even if there is some snow, I think we both know what those bridges look like and the incredibly low odds that they've been washed away.

Yeah, Ive been checking the webcams of Badger Pass and the High Sierra, too. That drainage up to Merced Lake is no higher than 7200 feet or so, and it looked clear from the shots as of yesterday. The big rock which shall remain nameless looks clear except for that one patch, Watkins is clear, whatever is on CR will be gone in a couple weeks, unless we actually do get EL NIIIIINO. Badger Pass has maybe a foot of base that's melting fast. And the plowing on Glacier Point Rd was done in 4 days??? Huh???? Nothing epic about that at all.

I've been out early when I was supposed to be postholing in knee deep show and had clear going, and I've been out when it was supposed to be clear and ended up postholing. Generally though, I've found that early season reports tend to over-report snowpack. We did get that snow last week, but before that the rangers up in Tuolumne reported that it was just patchy up to 9500 on the southern aspects, and a quote I read from the plow operators up on Sonora Pass at 9600 said that it was only about knee deep in some places.

We definitely got more snow this year, but it doesn't strike me as any big shake. You saw pics from Tioga with 12 feet?
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:19 pm

I have a picture from last Saturday that shows the sheet ice on the back of Half Dome. There was snow on the face, the top and the back of Clouds Rest. There was snowmelt streaming from Glacier Point, which was clearly still covered with snow, and the road was closed (it reopened Monday). Our vehicle slid on the icy road and there were several inches of snow on the ground at Chinquapin. There was significant snow on the north rim, and the domes were wearing hats of snow.

I don't doubt that it's melted out below the rim, and that the Little Yosemite Valley area is melted out now. But there is still significant snow up high. Friends failed to summit Alta Peak, and wore snowshoes from Wolverton -- around 7000 feet, which is about the same as Badger, which still has plenty of snow. It's doing what snow always does in April - May, melting down to icy cruddy late spring snow, but it's still there.

Yes, I saw a snowbank of about 12 feet -- the plows create tall snowbanks and the person on her bike stood next to it for scale. The last update from Tuolumne Meadows said 22 inches, which are mostly still there since it hasn't gotten warm enough to really get the melt going up there. And a few feet of snow fell last week - depending on where in California you're looking, there was inches to feet of new snow. So the pack isn't great, and the lower stuff melts out fast, but there's still more to melt.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:36 pm

Well, one way or another with the conditions, the coordinates of those 3 bridges are right, and, according to the ranger, still there. :wink:

Thanks for the clarification and the lesson. It's nice to have someone around that's on it!
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:14 pm

Here are the pics taken - she went up the east side, which opens to the gate just outside the park this Friday. Of course, it's just the east side, from Lee Vining. Lots more miles to do yet.

http://snowbrains.com/caltrans-9943-tio ... y-at-noon/
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby Phil » Thu Apr 28, 2016 7:23 am

That's an interesting site. Thanks for turning me on to it.

It's funny, but what actually brought me here to begin with almost a year ago now was looking for reliable snow depth reports for Red Peak. I had absolutely no idea that I would end up staying and enjoying being a part of it. To me though, that's part of the allure of backpacking...I love the isolation, the challenge, the work it takes to be where not just everyone wants to or can be, but I also love the fact that the people I encounter are usually more than willing to give of themselves, and I have yet to encounter anyone in the backcountry that can't at least spare you a friendly moment to look you in the eyes, smile, and be genuinely happy to see you, if only just in passing.
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Re: Merced River foot bridges

Postby mebgardner » Thu Apr 28, 2016 7:28 am

Did I mention how thankful I am for you folks? Thank You!
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