Yosemite Flood May 2005

Yosemite Flood May 2005

Page Type Page Type: Album
Additional Information Image Type(s): Water


Merced River Peak FlowratesHistorical Peak Flow Rates of the Merced River (2005 in Red)

This album is a selection of photos from a small flood in Yosemite Valley in May 2005.

There are so many amazing pictures of Yosemite, especially here on SummitPost, taken in all seasons. The images here are not very current, and many of them have poor lighting, bad white balance, I was trying to keep the camera dry, etc... They are definitely not works of art. But spring is here and perhaps some might be interested in seeing the valley in different circumstances than normal.

On May 16, 2005, my brother and I were camped in the Backpackers' campground in Yosemite, having just completed his first overnight trip to the top of Yosemite Fall. It had rained lightly all night, and we didn't think too much of it. We slept in the next day, past 9:00 AM, not motivated to get up until the rain stopped. After leaving the tent I was shocked to see Tenaya Creek had swollen and covered 1/3 of the campground.

Roads in and out of the valley were closed most of the day, and we had a blast running around taking photos and seeing new (and very temporary) waterfalls, flooded meadows, and getting generally soaked everywhere we went.

Information was poor. We had no idea when the roads would open (hours perhaps, some people thought days). At that moment I couldn't think of a better place anywhere to be trapped.

It was about a one day in ten year event. Flow rates at the Pohono Bridge at the west end of the valley recorded rates of 10,200 cfs, compared to a median peak annual flow rate of 4,680 cfs from 1917 (when record keeping began) until 2008. This rate has been exceed only nine times over this 92 year period.

Overall it was a very impressive experience seeing the valley in these conditions, though the flood was not especially damaging. The North Pines and Backpackers' Campgrounds needed repair and both were closed for a period of time, as was a portion of the Housekeeping Camp. As water receded roads reopened without damage, and buildings were largely unaffected. There are many signs around the valley regarding the flood of 1997, which was a much more serious event. It had 2.5 times the flow and closed the valley for over two months, causing $178 million in damage. If you are interested the Yosemite Association has an excellent writeup on the 1997 event.


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Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 6, 2010 9:52 pm - Voted 10/10

an interesting story and

actually great photos! Thanks for sharing...


mrchad9 - Apr 6, 2010 10:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: an interesting story and

Thank you very much... It was quite a day. And we were lucky to be there. We decided to take a 3 day weekend, almost went Friday-Sunday, but due to poor preparation we weren't ready and went Saturday-Monday instead. This all happened by surprise on Monday.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 6, 2010 10:20 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: an interesting story and

What a lucky co-incidence! and of course, amazing that you did not get flooded inside your tent.


Nanuls - Apr 7, 2010 1:20 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice record

Must have been some spectacle!


mrchad9 - Apr 7, 2010 3:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice record

Thank you... It was pretty wild- fun watching everyone else in the valley running around freaking out too.


SoCalHiker - Apr 7, 2010 1:50 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice and interesting

Thanks for sharing. Cheers.


Marcsoltan - Apr 7, 2010 3:21 pm - Voted 10/10


I've seen the flood markers on the way out of the valley. It was unbelievable. But, to have been there and seen it all is even more amazing. You said it was raining lightly all night. It must have rained pretty hard in the high country to produce so much water. I have slept in the same campground during an all night rain many times, but never saw anything like this. Kind of scary, anyway you look at it.


mrchad9 - Apr 7, 2010 7:55 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Amazing!

Thanks for the comment Marc! True- I hadn't thought of how much it might have rained up high, and I also remember it being fairly warm, it was going for a long time too (constant from maybe 7 PM to 9 AM and a little during the day as well). We wore jackets in a failed attempt to stay dry, but it wasn't cold. Likely all of that helped with the snow melting process.

The markers you've seen around the valley are from the flood of 1997, which was much more devastating. It wiped out highway 140 and destroyed things thoughout the valley... I added a link to the writeup for those that might be interested in it.


Marcsoltan - Apr 7, 2010 11:47 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Amazing!

Thanks for clarifying the two different floods. I have to admit that I didn't know there were two different ones. I just remembered the really bad one, and I am terrible with dates/years. I'll check out the link.


lisae - Apr 7, 2010 4:06 pm - Voted 10/10

Comparison Photos

I really appreciate the comparison photos. Thanks for posting them!


mrchad9 - Apr 7, 2010 7:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Comparison Photos

No problem lisae. It was interesting putting them together too. I was surprised how close some of the angles were. Thanks for the comment.


boyblue - Apr 14, 2015 11:51 pm - Voted 10/10


I don't know how I missed this amazing gem of yours, but it really makes me miss the good old days. You know. When winters and springs in California were actually rainy.

I hope you are well and still hiking and climbing, Mr. Chad.

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