Yosemite

History

Carl Boenish was the catalyst behind modern BASE jumping, and in 1978, he filmed the first BASE jumps which were made using ram-air parachutes and the freefall tracking technique (from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park). While BASE jumps had been made prior to that time, the El Capitan activity was the effective birth of what is now called BASE jumping. After 1978, the filmed jumps from El Capitan were repeated, not as a publicity exercise or as a movie stunt, but as a true recreational activity.

Legality

The National Park Service has banned BASE jumping in U.S. National Parks. The authority comes from 36 CFR 2.17(3), which prohibits, "Delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit." Under that Regulation, BASE is not banned, but is allowable if a permit is issued by the Superintendent. The 2001 National Park Service Management Policies state that BASE "is not an appropriate public use activity within national park areas …" (2001 Management Policy 8.2.2.7.) However, Policy 8.2.2.7 in the 2006 volume of National Park Service Management Policies, which superseded the 2001 edition, states "Parachuting (or BASE jumping), whether from an aircraft, structure, or natural feature, is generally prohibited by 36 CFR 2.17(a)(3). However, if determined through a park planning process to be an appropriate activity, it may be allowed pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit."

Once a year, on the third Saturday in October ("Bridge Day"), permission to BASE jump has explicitly been granted at the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. The New River Gorge Bridge deck is 876 feet (267 m) above the river. This annual event attracts about 450 BASE jumpers and nearly 200,000 spectators. 1,100 jumps may occur during the six hours that it's legal provided good conditions.

During the early days of BASE jumping, the NPS issued permits that authorized jumps from El Capitan. This program ran for three months in 1980 and then collapsed amid allegations of abuse by unauthorized jumpers. The NPS has since vigorously enforced the ban, charging jumpers with "aerial delivery into a National Park". One jumper drowned in the Merced River while evading arresting park rangers, having declared "No way are they gonna get me. Let them chase me—I'll just laugh in their faces and jump in the river". Despite incidents like this one, illegal jumps continue in Yosemite at a rate estimated at a few hundred per year, often at night or dawn. El Capitan, Half Dome, and Glacier Point have been used as jump sites.

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