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Yosemite Announces Trail Closures After Visitor Death

Cites safety, human waste as factors in decision to close paths amid shutdown.

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Yosemite National Park will close the trails to two popular waterfalls, park officials announced on Friday, just hours after news broke that a visitor fell to his death there amidst the ongoing government shutdown.

In a message posted to Yosemite’s official Twitter account, the park announced that the John Muir and Mist Trails to Vernal and Nevada Falls would be closed to visitors starting on Saturday, January 5, and cited safety and human waste concerns. Tuolumne and Merced Groves will also be off-limits.

Nevada Fall was the scene of a fatal accident on Christmas when a visitor slipped and fell on a granite slab above the cascade and suffered a head injury, the NPS said on Friday. According to Outside, which first reported the story, rangers were on site within an hour, but the man later died of his injuries.

With the government shutdown still ongoing, Yosemite and other national parks are operating with a small fraction of their normal staff, a fact with implications for both public safety and hygiene. “Overflowing” pit toilets have forced rangers to shutter restrooms at Joshua Tree and Rocky Mountain National Park, among other destinations, and led some tourists to relieve themselves in the open. 

Late last month, Yosemite announced it was closing Hetch Hetchy and Mariposa Grove “due to lack of restrooms and resulting impacts from human waste.”

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