Yosemite Valley, carved by glaciers and the Merced River, came to public attention in the 1860s, through the journalistic efforts of a Scottish immigrant named John Muir. He wrote countless articles describing the wonders of Yosemite, raising awareness that helped contribute to the eventual preservation of the area for generations to come.
Yosemite is not America’s first National Park. The Yosemite wilderness and Mariposa redwood grove were designated as protected wilderness areas in 1864, with legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln. But Yellowstone National Park was created a full eighteen years before Yosemite.
The original wilderness did not include Yosemite Valley and its world-famous landmarks—El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. The park as we know it was expanded after Teddy Roosevelt asked John Muir to guide him on a camping expedition to Yosemite in 1903.
Their night in the Mariposa Grove inspired one of Teddy’s most memorable quotes, in which he compared his night in the grove to “lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hands of man.” Muir lobbied the president to expand the park to include lands already in California’s possession, and in 1906, President Roosevelt signed a law that brought the Yosemite Valley under federal jurisdiction.
Here at Pendleton, we’re dismayed to write this, but domesticated sheep were once the primary threat to Yosemite. One threat? Shepherds who set meadow-fires to promote the growth of more edible grasses for their far-ranging flocks. The sheep caused trouble, too, destroying sub-alpine meadows and passing diseases to the native bighorn sheep. This prompted naturalist John Muir to call them “hoofed locusts.”
The original Yosemite Park Rangers were Buffalo Soldiers. According to the Yosemite National park website:
Buffalo Soldiers, like their white counterparts in U.S. Army regiments, were among the first park rangers, in general, and backcountry rangers, in particular, patrolling parts of the West…Approximately 500 Buffalo Soldiers served in Yosemite National Park and nearby Sequoia National Park with duties from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires. Their noteworthy accomplishments were made despite the added burden of racism.
You can read the entire (fascinating) history, listen to a podcast and watch a video of a modern-day re-enactor who works in Yosemite here: Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers .
Another item of interest? The Buffalo Soldiers inspired the traditional Park Ranger hat. Many were Spanish-American War veterans who had shielded themselves from tropical rains of Cuba and the Philippines by pinching their high-crowned, broad-brimmed hats into symmetrical quadrants. This distinctive peak was known as the “Montana Peak” on the home front, and eventually became part of the National Park Service ranger uniform.
Some Yosemite numbers:
Over 4 million visitors arrive each year to experience the 747,956 acres of wilderness, on 840 miles of hiking trails.
The mountains at Yosemite national park are still growing at a rate of 1 foot per thousand years.
Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest falls in the world, 2425 feet in height. That means in 1000 years, it will be 2426 feet tall, but of course we won’t be around to see that.
There are three Sequoia groves in Yosemite. Sequoias are the largest living things on the planet, with some reaching 300 feet in height, living for 3,000 years.
At 4000 feet high, El Capitan is the largest block of granite in the known world.
Are you ready for your own adventures? We’d love to come along. And remember, your purchase of our National Park Collection helps support preservation and restoration of America’s Treasures.
Yosemite Blanket photos: Allie Taylor @alliemtaylor