Last Month in Yosemite: March 2016

Last Month in Yosemite: March 2016

In March, we opened the Yosemite Art Center, saw fleeting (and flowing) spring phenomena, welcomed bears back from their winter dens, and more.

A recap of things we saw, heard and did in the park last month,  from our El Portal office to you!

Painting: © Douglas Castleman


• The Yosemite Art Center opened for the season in mid-March! This year's workshops kicked off with fun courses in the Valley led by Mariko Lofink (mixed media) and Douglas Castleman (watercolor). Check out the full schedule here, and keep an eye on the blog for profiles of some of our guest artists.


Photo: © Caitlin Lee-Roney


• With warmer temperatures bringing spring-like weather to the park, black bears have officially emerged from their dens. This year, thanks to our donors, wildlife managers will be able to use new technology to monitor and protect these iconic Yosemite residents.

As the bears grow more active and start foraging for grasses and berries, it's a good time to remember the role we play in keeping them (and other animals) wild, by storing food properly (in bear-proof lockers and canisters), driving slowly and staying alert on park roads, and keeping a safe distance from wildlife. Last year marked a record low number of bear incidents in the park — let's work together as a Yosemite community to continue that trend! 

Photo: © Phil Pillsbury

• Warm weather didn't just bring out the bears — it also made for some incredible water displays! Melting snow and rain showers led to fuller-than-average waterfalls. There was enough mist during the March full moon to produce a lunar spectral arc (or moonbow) at the base of Yosemite Falls, a colorful natural wonder not usually seen until April or May. Watch the Yosemite Nature Notes "Moonbow" episode (available on YouTube or the Yosemite National Park website) for a deeper look at moonbows in the park.


Photo: Courtesy of NPS


• Over in Camp 4, the first-come, first-served campground near Yosemite Lodge, crews are replacing the tent cabins that have housed Yosemite Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers for over a decade. This project, which is funded our donors, ensures that the "SAR-siters" have a comfortable place to live while they donate their time helping with hundreds of emergency operations each year. 


Photo: © Steven Bumgardner

• We spotted frazil ice, which forms when mist freezes and floats downstream, in Yosemite, Sentinel and Ribbon creeks last month. This dramatic, weather-dependent phenomenon that occurs when waterfalls are flowing strongly (as they are this spring) and overnight temperatures drop below freezing. Keep an eye out for this slushy substance in the park this season — especially if you head out for an early morning walk after a below-freezing night.


• Finally, with spring just settling in, we're already looking ahead to autumn. We're working with our partners at UC Merced to plan another weeklong California Naturalist training course at the Sierra Nevada Research Station in Wawona.  Last year’s inaugural program, taught by our resident naturalist, Pete Devine, brought together 23 enthusiastic participants, including one who called the course "a wow experience!" The application period for the 2016 course, scheduled for late October/early November, is set to open this summer — stay tuned.


As we dive into April, lupine and redbud are brighting the landscape with splashes of purple and magenta. Rivers, streams and rivulets are flowing. It’s a beautiful time in Yosemite — and spring is just getting started. Thanks for reading!


Yosemite Insider