Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Infobox Protected area
name = Yosemite National Park
iucn_category = Ib

caption =
locator_x = 20
locator_y = 84
location = Tuolumne, Mariposa, & Madera Counties, California, USA
nearest_city = Mariposa
lat_degrees = 37
lat_minutes = 50
lat_seconds = 0
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 119
long_minutes = 30
long_seconds = 0
long_direction = W
area = 761,266 acres (3,081 km²)
established = October 1, 1890
visitation_num = 3,242,644
visitation_year = 2006
governing_body = National Park Service
world_heritage_site = 1984

Yosemite National Park (pron-en|joʊˈsɛmɨtiː respell|yo|SEM|it-ee) is a national park located in the eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of 761,266 acres or 1,189 square miles (3,081 km²) and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. [Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed), p. 324.] Yosemite is visited by over 3.5 million people each year, many of whom only spend time in the seven square miles (18 km²) of Yosemite Valley. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity.cite web | title =Nature & History | publisher = United States National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/nature.htm | date = October 13, 2006 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007 ] Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. [cite web | title =Yosemite Wilderness| publisher = United States National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/yosemitewilderness.htm | accessdate = March 15 | accessyear = 2008 ] Although not the first designated national park, Yosemite was a focal point in the development of the national park idea, largely owing to the work of people like John Muir and Galen Clark.

Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,000 to 13,114 feet (600 to 4,000 m) and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane, upper montane, subalpine, and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat or documentation for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.

The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1200 m) during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.


Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada of California. It takes approximately 3.5 hours to drive to the park from San Francisco and approximately 6 hours from Los Angeles. Yosemite is surrounded by wilderness areas: the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the southeast, the Hoover Wilderness to the northeast, and the Emigrant Wilderness to the north.

The 1,189 sq mi (3,081 km²) park is roughly the size of Rhode Island and contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 1,600 miles (2,600 km) of streams, 800 miles (1300 km) of hiking trails, and 350 miles (560 km) of roads.cite web | title =Nature & Science | publisher =United States National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/index.htm | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007 ] Two federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Merced and the Tuolumne, begin within Yosemite's borders and flow westward through the Sierra foothills, into the Central Valley of California. Annual park visitation exceeds 3.5 million, with most visitor use concentrated in the seven square mile (18 km²) area of Yosemite Valley.

Rocks and erosion

Almost all of the landforms in the Yosemite area are cut from the granitic rock of the Sierra Nevada Batholith (a batholith is a large mass of intrusive igneous rock that formed deep below the surface).Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed), page 329] About 5% of the park (mostly in its eastern margin near Mount Dana) are from metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks.cite web | publisher = United States National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/geo_landforms.htm | title = Geology: The Making of the Landscape | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate =January 27 | accessyear = 2007] These rocks are called "roof pendants" because they were once the roof of the underlying granitic rock. [cite web | publisher = United States Geological Survey | url = http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/geology/publications/pp/160/sec2a.htm | title = Geological Survey Professional Paper 160: Geologic History of the Yosemite Valley - The Sierra Block | date = November 28, 2006 |accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

Erosion acting upon different types of uplift-created joint and fracture systems is responsible for creating the valleys, canyons, domes, and other features we see today. These joints and fracture systems do not move, and are therefore not faults.Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 331.] Spacing between joints is controlled by the amount of silica in the granite and granodiorite rocks; more silica tends to create a more resistant rock, resulting in larger spaces between joints and fractures.Kiver, "Geology of U.S. Parklands" (5th ed.), p. 220.]

Pillars and columns, such as Washington Column and Lost Arrow, are created by cross joints. Erosion acting on master joints is responsible for creating valleys and later canyons. The single most erosive force over the last few million years has been large alpine glaciers, which have turned the previously V-shaped river-cut valleys into U-shaped glacial-cut canyons (such as Yosemite Valley and Hetch Hetchy Valley). Exfoliation (caused by the tendency of crystals in plutonic rocks to expand at the surface) acting on granitic rock with widely spaced joints is responsible for creating domes such as Half Dome and North Dome and inset arches like Royal Arches.

Popular features

Yosemite Valley represents only one percent of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms over the valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world because of its diverse range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility. Granite domes such as Sentinel Rock and Half Dome rise 3,000 feet and 4,800 feet (900 and 1,450 m), respectively, above the valley floor.

The high country of Yosemite contains beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, the Clark Range, the Cathedral Range, and the Kuna Crest. The Sierra crest and the Pacific Crest Trail run through Yosemite, with peaks of red metamorphic rock, such as Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs, and granite peaks, such as Mount Conness. Mount Lyell is the highest point in the park.

The park has three groves of ancient Giant Sequoia ("Sequoiadendron giganteum") trees; the Mariposa Grove (200 trees), the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees), and the Merced Grove (20 trees). Giant Sequoia are the largest trees in terms of biomass in the world and are one of the tallest and longest-lived. (Coast Redwoods ("Sequoia sempervirens") which are related to the Giant Sequoia, live along the Northern Californian coast are the tallest and the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine of Eastern California are the oldest). These trees were much more widespread before the start of the last Ice Age.Kiver, "Geology of U.S. Parklands" (5th ed), page 227]

Water and ice

Tuolumne and Merced River systems originate along the crest of the Sierra Nevada in the park and have carved river canyons 3,000 to 4,000 feet (900 to 1,200 m) deep. The Tuolumne River drains the entire northern portion of the park, an area of approximately 680 square miles (1,760 km²). The Merced River begins in the park's southern peaks, primarily the Cathedral and Clark Ranges, and drains an area of approximately 511 square miles (1,320 km²).cite web | title = Water Overview | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/water.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

Hydrologic processes, including glaciation, flooding, and fluvial geomorphic response, have been fundamental in creating landforms in the park. The park also contains approximately 3,200 lakes (greater than 100 m²), two reservoirs, and 1,700 miles (2,700 km) of streams, all of which help form these two large watersheds.cite web | title = Hydrology and Watersheds | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/wtr_hydrology.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007] Wetlands in Yosemite occur in valley bottoms throughout the park, and are often hydrologically linked to nearby lakes and rivers through seasonal flooding and groundwater movement. Meadow habitats, distributed at elevations from 3,000 to 11,000 feet (900 to 3,500 m) in the park, are generally wetlands, as are the riparian habitats found on the banks of Yosemite's numerous streams and rivers.cite web | title = Wetland Vegetation | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/veg_wetlands.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

Yosemite is famous for its high concentration of waterfalls in a small area. Numerous sheer drops, glacial steps and hanging valleys in the park provide many places for waterfalls to exist, especially during April, May, and June (the snowmelt season). Located in Yosemite Valley, the 2,425-foot-high (739 m) Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America. Also in the valley is the much lower volume Ribbon Falls, which has the highest single vertical drop, 1,612 feet (492 m). Perhaps the most prominent of the Yosemite waterfalls is Bridalveil Fall, which is the waterfall seen from the Tunnel View viewpoint at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel. Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy Valley is another notable waterfall. Hundreds of ephemeral waterfalls also exist in the park.

All glaciers in the park are relatively small glaciers that occupy areas that are in almost permanent shade, such as north- and northeast-facing cirques. Lyell Glacier is the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada (and therefore the park) and covers 160 acres (65 ha).Kiver, "Geology of U.S. Parklands" (5th ed.), p. 228.] None of the Yosemite glaciers are a remnant of the much, much larger Ice Age alpine glaciers responsible for sculpting the Yosemite landscape. Instead, they were formed during one of the neoglacial episodes that have occurred since the thawing of the Ice Age (such as the Little Ice Age).Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 340.] Global warming has reduced the number and size of glaciers around the world. Many Yosemite glaciers, including Merced Glacier, which was discovered by John Muir in 1871 and bolstered his glacial origins theory of the Yosemite area, have disappeared and most of the others have lost up to 75% of their surface area.


Yosemite has a Mediterranean climate, meaning most precipitation falls during the mild winter, and the other seasons are nearly dry (less than 3% of precipitation falls during the long, hot summers).Wuerthner, "Yosemite: A Visitor's Companion" (1st ed.), p. 8.] Due to orographic lift, precipitation increases with elevation up to 8,000 feet (2,400 m) where it slowly decreases to the crest. Precipitation amounts vary from 36 inches (915 mm) at 4,000 feet (1,200 m) elevation to 50 inches (1,200 mm) at 8,600 feet (2,600 m). Snow does not typically persist on the ground until November in the high country. It accumulates all winter and into March or early April.cite web | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/wtr_climate.htm | title = Climate | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

Temperature decreases with increasing elevation. Temperature extremes are moderated by the fact that Yosemite is only about 100 miles (160 km) from the Pacific Ocean. An anticyclone sits off the coast of California in the summer, sending cool air masses toward the Sierra Nevada that result in clean dry air in the Yosemite area.

Mean daily temperatures range from 25 to 53 °F (-3.9 to 11.5 °C) at Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet (2,600 m). At the Wawona Entrance (elevation 5,130 feet; 1,564 m), mean daily temperature ranges from 36 to 67 °F (2.2 to 19.4 °C). At the lower elevations below 5,000 feet (1525 m), temperatures are hotter; the mean daily high temperature at Yosemite Valley (elevation 3,966 feet; 1,209 m) varies from 46 to 90 °F (7.8 to 32.2 °C). At elevations above 8,000 feet (2,440 m), the hot, dry summer temperatures are moderated by frequent summer thunderstorms, along with snow that can persist into July. The combination of dry vegetation, low relative humidity, and thunderstorms results in frequent lightning-caused fires as well.


Ahwahneechee and the Mariposa Wars

Paiute ceremony in 1872 at current site of Yosemite Lodge]
Paiute and Sierra Miwok peoples lived in the area for ages before the first white explorations into the region. A band of Native Americans called the Ahwahneechee lived in Yosemite Valley when the first non-indigenous people entered it.cite web | title = Discovery of the Yosemite and the Indian War of 1851 Which Led to That Event | last= Bunnell | first= Lafayette H.| url= http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/discovery_of_the_yosemite/17.html | chapter=Chapter 17 | | publisher = F.H. Revell | year = 1892 | accessdate=January 27|accessyear=2007 ISBN 0-93966-658-8.]

The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century dramatically increased white travel in the area. United States Army Major Jim Savage led the Mariposa Battalion into the west end of Yosemite Valley in 1851 while in pursuit of around 200 Ahwahneechees led by Chief Tenaya as part of the Mariposa Wars.Harris, "Geology of the National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 326.] Accounts from this battalion were the first confirmed cases of Caucasians entering the valley. Attached to Savage's unit was Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, the company physician, who later wrote about his awestruck impressions of the valley in "The Discovery of the Yosemite". Bunnell is credited with naming the valley from his interviews with Chief Tenaya. Bunnell wrote that Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Pai-Ute Colony of Ah-wah-nee. The Miwoks (and most white settlers) considered the Ahwahneechee to be especially violent due to their frequent territorial disputes, and the Miwok word "yohhe'meti" literally means "they are killers". [cite web | url= http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/origin_of_word_yosemite.html | title= Origin of the Word Yosemite | last=Anderson| first=Daniel E. | publisher = The Yosemite Web | month = July | year = 2005 |accessdate = January 27 | accessyear=2007 ] Correspondence and articles written by members of the battalion helped to popularize the valley and surrounding area.

Tenaya and the rest of the Ahwahneechee were eventually captured and their village burned; they were removed to a reservation near Fresno, California. Some were later allowed to return to the valley, but got in trouble after attacking a group of eight gold miners in the spring of 1852.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 46.] The band fled and took refuge with the nearby Mono tribe; but after stealing some horses from their hosts, the Ahwahneechees were tracked down and killed by the Monos. A reconstructed "Indian Village of Ahwahnee" is now located behind the Yosemite Museum, which is next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Early tourists

Entrepreneur James Mason Hutchings, artist Thomas Ayres and two others ventured into the area in 1855, becoming the valley's first tourists. Hutchings wrote articles and books about this and later excursions in the area, and Ayres' sketches became the first accurate drawings of many prominent features. Photographer Charles Leander Weed took the first photographs of the Valley's features in 1859. Later photographers included Ansel Adams.

Wawona was an Indian encampment in what is now the southwestern part of the park. Settler Galen Clark discovered the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia in Wawona in 1857. Simple lodgings were built, as were roads to the area. In 1879, the Wawona Hotel was built to serve tourists visiting the Grove. As tourism increased, so did the number of trails and hotels.

Yosemite Grant

Concerned by the effects of commercial interests, prominent citizens including Galen Clark and Senator John Conness advocated for protection of the area. A park bill passed both houses of the U.S. Congress, and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 48.] This is the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by action of the U.S. federal government, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park.cite web | title = History & Culture | publisher = United States National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/historyculture/index.htm | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007 ] Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were ceded to California as a state park, and a board of commissioners was proclaimed two years later.

Galen Clark] Galen Clark was appointed by the commission as the Grant's first guardian, but neither Clark nor the commissioners had the authority to evict homesteaders (which included Hutchings). The issue was not settled until 1875 when the homesteader land holdings were invalidated. Clark and the reigning commissioners were ousted in 1880, and Hutchings became the new park guardian.

Access to the park by tourists improved in the early years of the park, and conditions in the Valley were made more hospitable. Tourism significantly increased after the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, but the long horseback ride to reach the area was a deterrent. Three stagecoach roads were built in the mid-1870s to provide better access for the growing number of visitors to the Valley.

Scottish-born naturalist John Muir wrote articles popularizing the area and increasing scientific interest in it. Muir was one of the first to theorize that the major landforms in Yosemite were created by large alpine glaciers, bucking established scientists such as Josiah Whitney, who regarded Muir as an amateur.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 49.] Muir wrote scientific papers on the area's biology.

Increased protection efforts

Overgrazing of meadows (especially by sheep), logging of Giant Sequoia, and other damage caused Muir to become an advocate for further protection. Muir convinced prominent guests of the importance of putting the area under federal protection; one such guest was Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of "Century Magazine". Muir and Johnson lobbied Congress for the Act that created Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 50.] The State of California, however, retained control of the Valley and Grove. Muir also helped persuade local officials to virtually eliminate grazing from the Yosemite High Country.

The newly created national park came under the jurisdiction of the United States Army's Fourth Cavalry Regiment on May 19, 1891, which set up camp in Wawona. By the late 1890s, sheep grazing was no longer a problem, and the Army made many other improvements. The Cavalry could not intervene to help the worsening condition of the Valley or Grove.

Muir and his Sierra Club continued to lobby the government and influential people for the creation of a unified Yosemite National Park. In May 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with Muir near Glacier Point for three days. On that trip, Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of the Valley and the Grove away from California and return it to the federal government. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that did precisely that.

National Park Service

The National Park Service was formed in 1916, and Yosemite was transferred to that agency's jurisdiction. Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Tioga Pass Road, and campgrounds at Tenaya and Merced lakes were also completed in 1916.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 52.] Automobiles started to enter the park in ever-increasing numbers following the construction of all-weather highways to the park. The Yosemite Museum was founded in 1926 through the efforts of Ansel Franklin Hall. [National Park Service, "Yosemite: Official National Park Handbook", p. 117.]

In 1903, a dam in the northern portion of the park was proposed. Located in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, its purpose was to provide water and hydroelectric power to San Francisco. Preservationists like Muir and his Sierra Club opposed the project, while conservationists like Gifford Pinchot supported it. In 1913, the U.S. Congress authorized the O'Shaughnessy Dam through passage of the Raker Act.Schaffer, "Yosemite National Park" (4th ed.), p. 51.]

More recently, preservationists persuaded Congress to designate 677,600 acres (2,742 km²), or about 89% of the park, as the Yosemite Wilderness — a highly protected wilderness area. [cite web|url=http://planning.nps.gov/wilderness/document/California%20Wilderness%20Act.pdf|title=PUBLIC LAW. 98-425|author=98th U.S. Congress|year=1994|accessdate=2007-02-09|format=PDF] The Park Service has reduced artificial inducements to visit the park, such as the "Firefall", in which red-hot embers were pushed off a cliff near Glacier Point at night. Traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley during the summer months has become a concern. Plans to exclude all automobiles in the summer that are not registered at a hotel or campground within the valley have been investigated; this would put summer day-use visitors in the valley on a free shuttle bus system, on bicycles, or on foot.

Hotels and concessioners

In the early years of the park, different companies ran multiple hotels and resorts. These resorts included the Wawona Hotel, the Yosemite Park Lodge, and Camp Curry, a tent cabin site in Yosemite Valley. The "Yosemite Park & Curry Company" was formed in 1925 to consolidate those often-competing concessions. The Park Service granted the newly formed company exclusive right to operate hotels, restaurants and most stores in Yosemite. Two years later, the new company was headquartered on the mezzanine level of its new hotel, The Ahwahnee. The Yosemite Park and Curry Company ran the concessions in the park for over 50 years until the company was sold in the late 1970s to United States Natural Resources (USNR) and a couple of years later to MCA which operated Universal Studios. During those ownership changes, the Curry Company name continued. In 1993, MCA was acquired by Matsushita. Then Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan objected to a Japanese firm operating concessions in a U.S. national park, so to avoid delay of federal approval of the acquisition, Matsushita arranged for the sale of the concessions company, ownership of its concession properties was transferred to the federal government, and the Yosemite Park and Curry Co. name was retired. The park concession contract is now operated by Delaware North Companies "Parks and Resorts" (the official concessionaire name in DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.).


Tectonic and volcanic activity

The area of the park was astride a passive continental margin during the Precambrian and early Paleozoic. Sediment was derived from continental sources and was deposited in shallow water. These rocks have since been metamorphosed.

Heat generated from the Farallon Plate subducting below the North American Plate led to the creation of an island arc of volcanoes on the west coast of proto-North America between the late Devonian and Permian periods.Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 328.] Later volcanism in the Jurassic intruded and covered these rocks in what may have been magmatic activity associated with the early stages of the creation of the Sierra Nevada Batholith. 95% of these rocks were eventually removed by uplifted-accelerated erosion.

The first phase of regional plutonism started 210 million years ago in the late Triassic and continued throughout the Jurassic to about 150 million years before present (BP).Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed), page 329] Around the same time, the Nevadan orogeny built the Nevadan mountain range (also called the Ancestral Sierra Nevada) to a height of 15,000 feet (4500 m). This was directly part of the creation of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, and the resulting rocks were mostly granitic in composition and emplaced about 6 miles (10 km) below the surface.Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 337.] The second major pluton emplacement phase lasted from about 120 million to 80 million years ago during the Cretaceous. This was part of the Sevier orogeny.

Starting 20 million years ago (in the Cenozoic) and lasting until 5 million years ago, a now-extinct extension of Cascade Range volcanoes erupted, bringing large amounts of igneous material in the area. These igneous deposits blanketed the region north of the Yosemite region. Volcanic activity persisted past 5 million years BP east of the current park borders in the Mono Lake and Long Valley areas.

Uplift and erosion

Starting 10 million years ago, vertical movement along the Sierra fault started to uplift the Sierra Nevada. Subsequent tilting of the Sierra block and the resulting accelerated uplift of the Sierra Nevada increased the gradient of western-flowing streams.Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 339.] The streams consequently ran faster and thus cut their valleys more quickly. Additional uplift occurred when major faults developed to the east, especially the creation of Owens Valley from Basin and Range-associated extensional forces. Uplift of the Sierra accelerated again about two million years ago during the Pleistocene.

The uplifting and increased erosion exposed granitic rocks in the area to surface pressures, resulting in exfoliation (responsible for the rounded shape of the many domes in the park) and mass wasting following the numerous fracture joint planes (cracks; especially vertical ones) in the now solidified plutons.Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 332.] Pleistocene glaciers further accelerated this process and the larger ones transported the resulting talus and till from valley floors.

Numerous vertical joint planes controlled where and how fast erosion took place. Most of these long, linear and very deep cracks trend northeast or northwest and form parallel, often regularly spaced sets. They were created by uplift-associated pressure release and by the unloading of overlying rock via erosion.

culpting by glaciers

A series of glaciations further modified the region starting about 2 to 3 million years ago and ending sometime around 10,000 BP. At least four major glaciations have occurred in the Sierra Nevada, locally called the Sherwin (also called the pre-Tahoe), Tahoe, Tenaya, and Tioga. The Sherwin glaciers were the largest, filling Yosemite and other valleys, while later stages produced much smaller glaciers. A Sherwin-age glacier was almost surely responsible for the major excavation and shaping of Yosemite Valley and other canyons in the area.

Glacial systems reached depths of up to 4000 feet (1200 m) and left their marks in the Yosemite area. The longest glacier in the Yosemite area ran down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River for 60 miles (95 km), passing well beyond Hetch Hetchy Valley. Merced Glacier flowed out of Yosemite Valley and into the Merced River Gorge. Lee Vining Glacier carved Lee Vining Canyon and emptied into Lake Russel (the much-enlarged ice age version of Mono Lake). Only the highest peaks, such as Mount Dana and Mount Conness, were not covered by glaciers. Retreating glaciers often left recessional moraines that impounded lakes such as the 5.5 mile (8.9 km) long Lake Yosemite (a shallow lake that periodically covered much of the floor of Yosemite Valley).Harris, "Geology of National Parks" (5th ed.), p. 333.]



With habitats ranging from thick foothill chaparral to expanses of alpine rock, Yosemite National Park supports over 250 species of vertebrates, which include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This high diversity of species is also the result of habitats in Yosemite that are largely intact, compared to areas outside the park where various human activities have resulted in habitat degradation or destruction.cite web | title = Wildlife Overview | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/nature/wildlife.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite Park Service | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

Along much of Yosemite's western boundary, habitats are dominated by mixed coniferous forests of Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, Incense-cedar, White Fir, and Douglas Fir, and a few stands of Giant Sequoia, interspersed by areas of Black Oak and Canyon Live Oak. A relatively high diversity of wildlife species are supported by these habitats, due to relatively mild, lower-elevation climate and the mixture of habitat types and plant species. Wildlife species typically found in these habitats include American Black Bear, Bobcat, Gray Fox, Mule deer, Mountain Kingsnake, Gilbert's Skink, White-headed Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Spotted Owl, and a wide variety of bat species. In the case of bats, large snags are important as roost sites.

Going higher in elevation, the coniferous forests become purer stands of Red Fir, Western White Pine, Jeffrey Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and the occasional Foxtail pine. Fewer wildlife species tend to be found in these habitats, due to their higher elevation and lower complexity. Species likely to be found include Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, Chickaree, Fisher, Steller's Jay, Hermit Thrush, and Northern Goshawk. Reptiles are not common, but include Rubber Boa, western fence lizard, and Northern Alligator Lizard.

As the landscape rises, trees become smaller and more sparse, with stands broken by areas of exposed granite. These include Lodgepole Pine, Whitebark Pine, and Mountain Hemlock that, at highest elevations, give way to vast expanses of granite as treeline is reached. The climate in these habitats is harsh and the growing season is short, but species such as Pika, Yellow-bellied Marmot, White-tailed Jackrabbit, Clark's Nutcracker, and Rosy Finch are adapted to these conditions. Also, the treeless alpine habitats are the areas favored by Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. This species, however, is now found in the Yosemite area only around Tioga Pass, where a small, reintroduced population exists.

At a variety of elevations, meadows provide important, productive habitat for wildlife. Animals come to feed on the green grasses and use the flowing and standing water found in many meadows. Predators, in turn, are attracted to these areas. The interface between meadow and forest is also favored by many animal species because of the proximity of open areas for foraging and cover for protection. Species that are highly dependent upon meadow habitat include Great Grey Owl, Willow Flycatcher, Yosemite Toad, and Mountain Beaver.

Management issues

Despite the richness of high-quality habitats in Yosemite, three species have become extinct in the park within historical time, and another 37 species currently have special status under either California or federal endangered species legislation. The most serious current threats to Yosemite's wildlife and the ecosystems they occupy include loss of a natural fire regime, exotic species, air pollution, habitat fragmentation, and climate change. On a more local basis, factors such as road kills and the availability of human food have affected some wildlife species.

The black bears of Yosemite were once famous for breaking into parked cars to steal food. They were also an encouraged tourist sight for many years at the park's garbage dumps, where bears congregated to eat park visitors' garbage and tourists gathered to photograph the bears. Increasing encounters between bears and humans and increasing damage to property led to an aggressive campaign to discourage bears from relying on human food or interacting with people and their property. The open-air dumps were closed; all trash receptacles were replaced with bear-proof receptacles; all campgrounds were equipped with bear-proof food lockers so that people would not leave food in their vehicles, which were easy targets for the powerful and resourceful bears. Because bears who show aggression towards people usually are eventually destroyed, park personnel have continued to come up with innovative ways to have bears associate humans and their property with unpleasant experiences, such as being hit with rubber bullets. Today, about 30 bears a year are captured and ear-tagged and their DNA is sampled so that, when bear damage occurs, rangers can ascertain which bear is causing the problem. [cite news | url= http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/04/0423_wirebears.html | title= DNA to Help Identify "Problem" Bears at Yosemite | publisher= National Geographic | date = April 23, 2001 | accessdate=2007-01-04]

Increasing ozone pollution is causing tissue damage to the massive Giant Sequoia trees in the park. This makes them more vulnerable to insect infestation and disease. Since the cones of these trees require fire-touched soil to germinate, historic fire suppression has reduced these trees' ability to reproduce. The current policy of setting prescribed fires is expected to help the germination issue.

Yosemite National Park has documented more than 130 non-native plant species within park boundaries. These non-native plants were introduced into Yosemite following the migration of early Euro-American settlers in the late 1850s. Natural and human-caused disturbances, such as wildland fires and construction activities, have contributed to a rapid increase in the spread of non-native plants. A number of these species aggressively invade and displace the native plant communities, resulting in impacts on the park's resources. Non-native plants can bring about significant changes in park ecosystems by altering the native plant communities and the processes that support them. Some non-native species may cause an increase in the fire frequency of an area or increase the available nitrogen in the soil that may allow more non-native plants to become established. Many non-native species, such as Yellow Star Thistle ("Centaurea solstitialis"), are able to produce a long tap root that allows them to out-compete the native plants for available water.cite web | url= http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/veg_exotics.htm | title= Exotic Plants | date = December 22, 2004| publisher= National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | accessdate= January 4 | accessyear = 2007]

Bull Thistle ("Cirsium vulgare"), Common Mullein ("Verbascum thapsus"), and Klamath Weed ("Hypericum perforatum") have been identified as noxious pests in Yosemite since the 1940s. Additional species that have been recognized more recently as aggressive and requiring control are Yellow Star Thistle, Sweet Clovers ("Melilotus" spp.), Himalayan Blackberry ("Rubus discolor"), Cut-leaved Blackberry ("Rubus laciniatus") and Periwinkle ("Vinca major").


Yosemite Valley is open year-round, but much of the remaining park is closed due to snow in late fall (autumn) and re-opens in mid to late spring. Open-air tours around Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are available. Many people enjoy short walks and longer hikes to waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, or walks amongst Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa, Tuolumne, or Merced Groves. Others like to drive or take a tour bus to Glacier Point (summer-fall) to see a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley and the high country, or drive along the scenic Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows (summer-fall) and go for a walk or hike.

s encourage people to use this system since parking within the valley during the summer is often nearly impossible to find. [cite web | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/trip/shuttle.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | title = Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus | date = September 21, 2006 | accessdate = January 4 | accessyear = 2007]

In addition to exploring the natural features of the park, visitors can also learn about the natural and cultural history of Yosemite at a number of facilities in the valley: the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the adjoining Yosemite Museum, and the Nature Center at Happy Isles. There are also two National Historic Landmarks: the LeConte Memorial Lodge (Yosemite's first public visitor center), and the world-famous Ahwahnee Hotel.


Over 800 miles (1300 km) of trails are available to hikers—anything from the easy stroll, to the grueling hikes up several park mountains, to multiple-day backpack trips.

The park can be divided into 5 sections for the day-user—Yosemite Valley, Wawona/Mariposa Grove/ Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, and Crane Flat/White Wolf. Numerous books describe park trails, and free information is available from the Park Service in Yosemite. Most park workers strongly encourage guests to experience portions of the park other than Yosemite Valley.

Between late spring and early fall, much of the park is open to multiple-day backpack trips. All overnight trips into the back country require a wilderness permit and most require approved bear-resistant food storage.cite web | publisher = National Park Service: National Park Service | last = Roberts | first = Hayes | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/bfoodstorage.htm | title = Food storage | date = January 9, 2007 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]


Bicycle rentals are available in Yosemite Valley spring through fall. Over convert|12|mi|km of paved bike paths are available in Yosemite Valley. In addition, bicyclists can ride on regular roads. Helmets are required by law for children under 18 years of age. Off-trail riding and mountain biking are not permitted in Yosemite National Park. [cite web|url=http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/pphtml/planyourvisit.html|title=Plan Your Visit|work=Yosemite National Park|publisher=U.S. National Park Service]

Driving destinations

While some locations in Yosemite require hiking, other locations can be observed via automobile transportation. Driving locations also allow guests to observe the night sky in locations other than their campsite or lodge. All of the roads in Yosemite are scenic, but the most famous is the Tioga Road, typically open from late May or early June through November.cite web | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | title = Auto Touring | url =http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/touring.htm | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

As an alternative to driving, bicycles are allowed on the roads. However, bicycles are only allowed off-road on convert|12|mi|km of paved trails in Yosemite Valley itself; mountain biking is not allowed.cite web | title= Biking | url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/biking.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | month = March | year = 2007 | accessdate = March 23 | accessyear = 2007]


Rock climbing is an important part of Yosemite.cite web | last = Roberts | first = Hayes | title = Climbing | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/climbing.htm | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = May 10, 2006 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007] Camp 4—a walk-in campground in Yosemite Valley—was instrumental in the development of rock climbing as a sport, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.cite press release | title = Camp 4 Listed With National Register of Historic Places | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = February 27, 2003 | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/news/2003/camp0227.htm | accessdate = 2007-01-27 ] Climbers can generally be spotted in the snow-free months on anything from ten-foot-high (3 m) boulders to the 3,300 foot (1 km) face of El Capitan. Classes are offered by numerous groups on rock climbing.

Winter activities

Many of the roads in the park close due to heavy snow in winter; however, Yosemite Valley is open all year long. Downhill skiing is available at the Badger Pass Ski Area—the oldest downhill skiing area in California, offering downhill skiing from mid-December through early April.cite web |url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wintersports.htm | title= Skiing | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | date = September 21, 2006 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007 ] Much of the park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with several backcountry ski huts open for use.cite web | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | title = Tuolumne Meadows Winter Conditions Update | url = http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tm.htm | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007] cite web | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | last = Roberts | first = Hayes | title = Winter Wilderness Travel | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/winter.htm | date = December 22, 2004 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007] Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight ski trips.cite web | last = Roberts | first = Hayes | title = Permits | publisher = National Park Service: Yosemite National Park | url = http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/permits.htm | date = January 17, 2006 | accessdate = January 27 | accessyear = 2007]

The Bracebridge dinner is an annual holiday event, held since 1927 at the Ahwahnee Hotel, inspired by Washington Irving's descriptions of Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of the 1700s in his "Sketch Book". Between 1929 and 1973, the show was organized by Ansel Adams.cite news | title = Ansel Adams' love of Yosemite lives | url = http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061226/ENT/612260312/1091/ENT | date = December 26, 2006 | publisher = The Cincinnati Enquirer | accessdate = 2007-01-27]

ee also

*List of books for further reading about the Sierra Nevada



*Harris, Ann G. "Geology of National Parks: Fifth Edition". (Iowa, Kendall/Hunt Publishing; 1998) ISBN 0-7872-5353-7.
*Kiver, Eugene P. and David V. Harris. "Geology of U.S. Parklands: Fifth Edition". (Jonh Wiley & Sons; New York; 1999) ISBN 0-471-33218-6.
*National Park Service: Yosemite National Park (adapted public domain text)
** [http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/wtr_climate.htm Climate] (22-Dec-2004) Retrieved on January 27, 2007
** [http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/veg_exotics.htm Exotic Vegetation] (22-Dec-2004) Retrieved on January 27, 2007
** [http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/nature.htm Nature & History] (13-Oct-2006) Retrieved on January 27, 2007
** [http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/water.htm Water Resources Overview] (22-Dec-2004) Retrieved on January 27, 2007
** [http://www.nps.gov/yose/nature/wildlife.htm Wildlife Overview] (22-Dec-2004) Retrieved on January 27, 2007
*Schaffer, Jeffrey P. "Yosemite National Park: A Natural History Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails". (Wilderness Press, Berkeley; 1999) ISBN 0-89997-244-6.
*Wuerthner, George. "Yosemite: A Visitor's Companion". (Stackpole Books; 1994) ISBN 0-8117-2598-7.
*"Yosemite: Official National Park Service Handbook (no. 138)", Division of Publications, National Park Service.

External links

* [http://www.nps.gov/yose/ National Park Service: Yosemite National Park]
* [http://www.yosemite.org The Yosemite Association]
* [http://www.yosemite-national-park.org/ Yosemite Park Organization]
* [http://thehive.modbee.com/?q=node/153 Historic Yosemite Indian Chiefs - with photos]
* [http://www.lib.byu.edu/dlib/irvine/ Historic Photographs of Yosemite National Park taken by Edith Irvine]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Yosemite National Park — Yosemite Nationalpark Yosemite Valley …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Yosemite National Park —   [jəʊ semɪtɪ næʃnl pɑːk], Nationalpark in Kalifornien, USA, in der Sierra Nevada, 3 081 km2, eingerichtet 1890 (bereits seit 1864 Naturschutzgebiet); von der UNESCO zum Weltnaturerbe erklärt. Bekanntester der Cañons ist das Yosemite Valley (etwa …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Yosemite National Park — national park in EC Calif., in the Sierra Nevadas, notable for its steep walled valley (Yosemite Valley), high waterfalls, etc.: 1,183 sq mi (3,064 sq km) …   English World dictionary

  • Yosemite National Park — Parc national de Yosemite Parc national de Yosemite Catégorie Ib de la CMAP (Zone de nature sauvage) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Yosemite National Park — Национальный парк Йосемити Категория МСОП  Ib (Территория дикой природы) …   Википедия

  • Yosemite National Park — noun a national park in California famous for its waterfalls and rock formations • Instance Hypernyms: ↑national park • Part Holonyms: ↑California, ↑Golden State, ↑CA, ↑Calif. * * * Yosemite National Park [Yosemite National Park …   Useful english dictionary

  • Yosemite National Park — Sp Josèmičio nacionãlinis párkas Ap Yosemite National Park L JAV (Kalifornija); PPP …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • Yosemite National Park — a national park in E California. 1182 sq. mi. (3060 sq. km). * * * National preserve, central California, U.S. Made a national park in 1890, it encompasses 761,320 ac (308,106 ha) in the Sierra Nevada range. Its many features include giant… …   Universalium

  • Yosemite National Park — Yo|sem|i|te Na|tion|al Park a national park in California, US, famous for its beautiful lakes, ↑waterfalls, and large redwood trees …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Yosemite National Park — Yosem′ite Na′tional Park′ n. geg a national park in E California, in the Sierra Nevada: granite peaks, waterfalls, giant sequoias, and a steep walled valley(Yosem′ite Val′ley). 1182 sq. mi. (3060 sq. km) …   From formal English to slang