John Muir was enraptured by it. Ansell Adams immortalized it. President Teddy Roosevelt created the National Park Service to protect it. Then, as now, the beauty of Yosemite National Park astounds its visitors. Whether you seek the solitude of its many hiking trails, the fragrant mists of its soaring waterfalls or the colors of sunset reflected in the granite face of Half Dome, Yosemite will leave its enchanting mark on your soul.
Yosemite National Park was created in 1890, largely due to the efforts of writer and naturalist John Muir. A native of Scotland, he first came to the valley in 1868 on a vacation from his new home in Wisconsin. His concern about the damage livestock was doing to the Yosemite area led him to successfully lobby for the park’s creation. In 1903, president Theodore Roosevelt toured Yosemite with Muir and was similarly impressed with its beauty. Muir had no problem convincing the President that Yosemite needed increased protection, and in 1906 the park came under the federal government’s control.
Yosemite National Park is located in central California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The spectacular scenery was largely created from glacial activity. This scraping of ice over the landscape has produced the many waterfalls, U-shaped canyons and the iconic mountain, Half Dome. Rock falls, some triggered by earthquakes, others perhaps by water seepage turning into ice have also helped shape the area. The winding path of the Merced River has helped to carve out the valley floor.
Yosemite National Park is home to several waterfalls. Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in North America. Bridalveil Falls is aptly named because of the wind’s tendency to blow the falling water sideways, making it look as delicate as a bride’s veil. The tallest waterfall in North America, Ribbon Falls, is also within park boundaries. It, along with the seasonal Horsetail Fall, flow off El Capitan. One of the most recognizable features of the park is Half Dome, an 8,842-foot peak with a vertical cliff of plutonic granite. It is the youngest peak in Yosemite.
Many species of native wildflowers and trees can be found in Yosemite. Trees include the Giant Sequoia, which can live up to 3,000 years and are considered to be the largest living thing on the planet. These giants can be found in three groves: the Mariposa, the Merced and the Tuolumne. The California Black Oak, noted for its edible acorns, and the Ponderosa Pine can also be found throughout the park. Flowers include the Mariposa Lily, the Shooting Star and the Dog Wood, which is a seasonal flower (April to July) that blooms on Dog Wood trees.
Yosemite is home to several animal species, some of which have been saved from extinction. Bighorn sheep, golden eagles and peregrine falcons are just some of the creatures that have comfortably increased their numbers. Black bears, which actually come in shades of brown, red or white in addition to black, are plentiful. Mule deer can often be found in meadow areas. Coyotes are more often heard rather than seen, and mountain lions live in relative secrecy. Smaller creatures, such as squirrels and marmots, are plentiful. Birdwatchers will find, in addition to several nesting pairs of falcons, Red-Tail Hawks, Great-Grey Owls, Ravens and Stellar’s Jays.
There are between 300 to 500 black bears within the borders of Yosemite National Park. While there is a vast territory for these animals to seek their natural foods, more and more bears are finding human food a temptation. The danger lies when they lose their fear of people entirely and brazenly walk into campsites and raid improperly stored food or break into cars because they smell something interesting. Yosemite has implemented regulations concerning the storage of food in bear-proof storage lockers that are provided in camp areas. If you see a bear, the best thing to do is to keep your distance.