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Blog 5 Important Dates In Yosemite’s History
Alex Silgalis | 12/30/2020Arts & Entertainment, Museums, History & Culture |   

With the help of many individuals such as John Muir and Ansel Adams, Yosemite has captured the attention of the world. Impossibly tall granite cliffs. An abundance of waterfalls. A wealth of stories over the years. We thought... why not create a list of important dates in Yosemite’s history that aren’t just simple dates. Rather, let's showcase its wildness and at the same time provide a picture as to why it has become as famous as it has.


A view of the Domes in Yosemite National Park, photographed around 1865. Photo by Carleton E. WatkinsOnly thirteen years after its "discovery" and more than 25 years before it would become the 3rd National Park, on June 30th, 1864, Abraham Lincoln and the federal government enacted the Yosemite Land Grant. This was the FIRST time the United States, or any country for that matter, set aside a piece of land for the protection and enjoyment of everyone, not just royalty.  The Land Grant encompassed only a small part of what we know as Yosemite today; Yosemite Valley and The Mariposa Grove of Big Trees. The grant placed those areas under the State of California's control and care since the federal government did not have any means to fulfill those roles at that time. 


John Muir (1838-1914) seated on boulder; naturalist and conservationist who initiated efforts resulting in the creation of Yosemite National Park in 1890. [RL004398] - Image appears courtesy: NPSThere really isn’t anyone so closely associated to the park as John Muir. It was in 1868 that he left San Francisco, on foot, and made his way to Yosemite.  We don't know the exact date of his arrival but the best information seems to indicate somewhere around the 22nd of May (more about his ramble can be found here). He feel in love with Yosemite so much that first visit that he decided to return the next summer and guide sheep to the Tuolumne Meadows. And the rest is history.


View of lower Yosemite Valley (looking west) from Union Point on the Four Mile Trail, 1866. [RL016347]Although Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley were preserved since 1864, it wasn’t until October 1st, 1890 that Yosemite became a National Park. This is when the protected area went from its original 39,000 acres to nearly to over 960,000 acres (Note - the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley were interestingly enough not part of the new Yosemite National Park - they remained separate and under the control of the State of California). The creative of the national park is largely thanks to John Muir who observed and documented the virgin meadows surrounding the valley were being overrun by grazing of domestic sheep, nearly destroying the beauty. Can you imagine Tuolumne Meadows without wildflowers?


John Muir and President Roosevelt at Yosemites Glacier Point, 1903

1903 was the year that it all started to come together.  The the two-park "system" that protected Yosemite; The Land Grant areas of Yosemite Valley and The Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, and the expansive 1500 sq. mile Yosemite National Park around it, was an immense and complicated enterprise to run and effectively protect. Especially when two different entities were involved. John Muir saw this all too well and decided to capitalize on an opportunity, a camping trip in the spring of 1903 with then President Theodore Roosevelt, to attempt to remedy it.  For three nights the duo camped out in Yosemite; the first night at the base of the Grizzly Giant in the Mariposa Grove, the second night high above Yosemite Valley near Sentinel Dome, and the third night on the edge of Bridalveil Meadow down in Yosemite Valley.  It was on the third night that Muir made his impassioned pitch and convinced the President to embrace preserving more natural areas around the country as well as resolving the problematic partitioned allocation and control of Yosemite. The latter culminated in the unification of the greater Yosemite protected lands via the Yosemite Recession Bill in June, 1906.


Another person intertwined with Yosemite is Ansel Adams. Most people think first of his photographs of the iconic Tunnel View, his masterpiece. In fact, this wasn’t the one that made him a legend. It was actually “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome”, taken on the chilly spring morning of April 10th, 1927.  You can find out about many of Ansel's images and much more at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley.


Rock climbing and Yosemite go together like peanut butter and jelly. With such a high concentration of high-quality granite to climb, it’s not a shocker. There’re many dates to talk about in the history of Yosemite’s rock climbing, but one bubbles to the top. The 1st ascent of the northwest face of Half Dome by Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas. Considered the 1st grade VI climb ever in the United States, this marked the beginning of a new era of climbing.


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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