THE YOSEMITE VALLEY
Yosemite National Park, created in 1890, is the third oldest park in the United States and one of our oldest nature preserves. A wonderland of geological formations and biological diversity, the park spans nearly 1,200 square miles on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range in central eastern California. More than 3 million visitors each year flock to see Yosemite’s grandeur. In 1984 Yosemite was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The land that Yosemite comprises has attracted people for centuries. The Ahwahneechee tribe lived in the Yosemite Valley for at least 4,000 years. Non-native trappers arrived in 1827. In 1848, the California Gold Rush and westward migration brought thousands of people to the area. Miners flocked into Yosemite and the Sierra foothills. Conflict with the local Indian tribes resulted, which caused the short-lived Mariposa Indian War. While the war ended in 1851, word fast spread about Yosemite’s incredible beauty. The first group of tourists arrived in 1855. Nine years later, President Lincoln named Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as the country’s first public preserve.
Famed naturalist John Muir fell in love with Yosemite and became the chief voice in its preservation. Muir helped draw up the park’s proposed boundaries and wrote eloquent articles about its beauty and importance. These efforts helped lead to the park’s establishment in 1890. Two years later, Muir founded the Sierra Club to further promote the area’s protection.
With good Reason John Muir wrote, “No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite.” The park boasts spectacular granite formations, crystal-clear streams, majestic waterfalls, ancient redwood trees, two major rivers (the Merced and Tuolumne), prolific wildlife and much more.
Half Dome: The most iconic site of Yosemite, Half Dome is a granite formation that rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. It gives the impression of a giant granite dome with its Northwestern half missing, creating a sheer vertical drop. Half Dome’s unique shape is the result of glacial interaction with underlying rocks. Half Dome is a popular but difficult day hike. At the end, hikers must ascend the final 400 feet by cables.
El Capitan: This stunning vertical rock is the largest granite monolith in the world. Rising more than 3,000 feet above the valley floor, El Capitan is a favorite for experienced rock climbers.
Yosemite Falls: This is the tallest waterfall in North America. Snow runoff cascades down the 2,425 foot drop, with peak flow in May. In wintertime an ice cone is often visible at the top of the falls.
Bridalveil Falls: A 620-foot waterfall of delicate beauty, Bridalveil Falls is located near the entrance of Yosemite Valley. Water roars and thunders over the cliff during the springtime peak flow.
Mirror Lake: Though it’s more of a pond than a lake, this Yosemite Valley spot is an extremely popular destination. It boasts glorious reflections of Half Dome and Mount Watkins in spring, when the water level is high.
Meadows: Yosemite’s peaceful meadows and wetlands are the best place to spot the park’s unique flora and fauna. Bears, deer, foxes, bald eagles, raccoons, and more may be seen amidst the wildflowers and lush grasses. The most popular meadows have boardwalks and trails, including Cook’s, Sentinel, Stoneman and Leidig.
Giant Sequoias and Mariposa Grove: Mariposa Grove is blessed with about 500 mature giant sequoias. Giant sequoias can live to be 3,000 years old and are the largest known living things on earth.