Tuesday 1 October 2013

Yosemite: Vast Edifice of Stone and Space

"Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space."

It was on this day in 1890 that President Benjamin Harrison signed an act of Congress which made a 1500 square mile tract of land in the Sierra Madres a national park.  Today, almost 4 million people visit Yosemite each year.

Photograph courtesy anseladams.com.

The Sierra Madres were the original home of the Native Indians.  It was Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who fought in the Mariposa Battalion, who first named the park Yosemite.  In 1849, the first non-Natives arrived in the Park on their way to the San Francisco Gold Rush.  In 1855, the first tourists arrived on horseback or by stagecoach.  Yosemite's beauty took their breath away.  An early visitor named  John Muir discovered meadows being overrun by sheep.  He started to lobby Congress to pass an act to protect the beautiful park.

Early visitor to Yosemite courtesy i.dailymail.co.uk.

It was not until 1890 that Congress finally passed the act to protect the tract of wilderness, the size of Rhode Island, called Yosemite, the first time the U.S. government had protected land for the public's enjoyment. 
And enjoy it they did.  People flocked to the site, cameras in hand, ready to snap beautiful photographs of the giant sequoias


rock formations (Half Dome & El Capitan)

El Capitan courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.

 and waterfalls. 

Yosemite Falls courtesy www.nps.gov.

Lumberjacks arrived as part of the timber rush of the mid-19th Century.  However, this worried environmentalists and conservationists who wanted to protect the park's forests.

Fallen redwood courtesy wordpress.com.

President Theodore Roosevelt camped at the park in 1903, a strong advocate for environmentalism.  His camping mate, John Muir, convinced him to pass a bill transferring control of the park from California to the United States government.

Artists were attracted to Yosemite, eager to capture its beauty, including Thomas Ayres who made a charcoal and chalk drawing of the Falls.



Photographers were also drawn to the park.  In 1916, a young Ansel Adams arrived at Yosemite, one of just over 15,000 visitors that year.  By 1927, Adams, camera in hand, was a familiar site at Yosemite, photographing every peak and valley, every waterfall and rock formation, in the park.  He would even live at Yosemite for a time.  

While the park suffered floods in 1937, 1955, 1957 and 1997, it remains a popular destination for many Americans and non-Americans alike.

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