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Flood-damaged Yosemite Valley reopens

March 14, 1997

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) _ The heart of Yosemite National Park reopened this morning, the waterfalls and granite cliffs as gorgeous as ever, 2 1/2 months after disastrous flooding shut down one of America’s tourist meccas.

``It’s awe-inspiring,″ said Nancy Ashline of Boone, N.C., one of the first visitors allowed back on the Yosemite Valley floor since the New Year’s flood. ``Words can’t describe how beautiful this is.″

She and her husband, Peter, came to California for a weekend conference in Anaheim 300 miles south, but decided to make a quick trip to Yosemite after learning the valley would reopen today.

``It was perfect timing,″ she said. ``It worked out well for us.″

Yosemite Valley’s first tourists this year are having to dig a little deeper in their wallets.

Admittance to the park and the valley will cost $20 instead of the familiar $5 from years past.

The National Park Service raised the entrance fee in January, but delayed implementing it at Yosemite until the valley was reopened.

The national park was closed when days of rain turned the normally placid Merced River into a raging torrent which roared out of its banks, washing out roads, sewers, campgrounds and other facilities. Park officials are asking Congress for help in paying an estimated $178 million in damage.

Some portions of the park had already reopened since the flooding, like the Wawona area high above the valley floor, the popular Badger Pass Ski Area for cross-country skiing and the Crane Flat area on the western edge of the park.

Crews have been working round the clock to restore services in the park, but much damage remains.

Activities like horseback riding on scenic trails and rafting on the Merced probably will not be available at all this year, said Keith Walklet, Yosemite Concession Services spokesman. The valley also has fewer rooms and campsites available for overnight tourists, and hundreds of employees of concessionaires remained laid off.

Highway 41 through Fresno and Highway 120 through Oakdale are open to private vehicles. However, badly damaged Highway 140 through Merced will be open only to tour buses on a limited basis and in convoys.

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