Rules that expand kayak and canoe access on the Merced River in Yosemite National Park went into effect last Friday, according to Canoe and Kayak. The new rules allow both kayakers and canoers on the river and a greater variety of terrain through which they can travel.
As Outside wrote last June, the newly established Merced River Plan, finalized in 2014, was the result of five years of negotiations between the National Park Service and private stakeholders, many of whom yearn for a park service that is friendlier to adventure-sports athletes.
“We want to embrace paddling,” Yosemite National Park chief of staff Mike Gauthier said during an inaugural paddle through the Merced River earlier this month, according to a press release published by American Whitewater. “We want it to work, and we want it to be really successful.”
Under the new rules, an additional 45 private boaters per day will be able to run the river through the entire length of Yosemite Valley. Previously inaccessible passages include a two-mile section rated Class I and a 3.5-mile section near Phono, rated Class III-IV. Outside the valley, but still within the park, daily use limits will range from ten people per day through the Class V+ Merced Gorge to 50 people per day on the Class IV+ section from El Portal to the park boundary. The multiday, self-support Class V South Merced is also now open to 25 people per day.
Experts expect most boaters will take advantage of the new allowances between March and May and have encouraged visitors to avoid crowds by visiting before Memorial Day.