Founded in 1890, Yosemite National Park is the nation’s third oldest national park, located east of Modesto, California. A world heritage site, the park serves as an outdoor classroom for environmental education and is recognized for its granite cliffs, spectacular lakes and ponds, and biological diversity. Spread over 750,000 acres of scenic wild land, the park was established primarily to preserve the mountain and valley scenery in the central Sierra Nevada that stretches along California’s eastern flank.
The park area is believed to have once been made up of gentle rolling hills and it was inhabited by various tribes in its history. The concept of a park system developed in Yosemite, with the grant signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1855. Later, as a result of the destruction of the high country and watershed for Yosemite Valley, Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of Century Magazine, and John Muir launched a successful campaign to persuade Congress to set aside the high country as a national park in 1890.
Famous Yosemite photographer Ansel Adams first visited the park in 1916 at the age of 14. Finding the Sierra Nevada, especially the Yosemite Valley, a place of great beauty, Adams returned to Yosemite National Park in 1921 and made it his home and the object of many famous black-and-white photographs he took during his lifetime. Adams influenced the crusade by the Sierra Club to establish nearby Kings Canyon National Park.
The prime attractions in the park are the glacially carved Yosemite Valley, Crane Flat, Hetch Hetchy Valley, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona Basin. Characterized by sheer walls and a flat floor, Yosemite Valley’s evolution began when alpine glaciers lumbered through the canyon of the Merced River. The valley consists of imposing waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, and unique rock formations. Crane Flat is a magnificent forest and meadow area with scenic views.
Hetch Hetchy Valley is the starting point for many wilderness trails and is home to spectacular scenery. Located 36 miles south of Yosemite Valley, the Mariposa Grove is the largest stand of giant sequoia redwoods in the valley. Surrounded by towering peaks and domes, Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open sub-alpine meadow. Wawona, once an Indian encampment, is the site of Yosemite History Center and a historic hotel dating back to the late 19th century.
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Ahwahnee Hotel is a great American castle, noted for its huge cathedral ceilings, enormous stone hearths, and richly colored Native American and Oriental rugs.
The park is also home to numerous animal and bird species, such as, black bear, bighorn sheep, golden eagle, great gray owl, mule deer, and peregrine falcon. In addition, there are about 27 varieties of trees in the park, of which the most popular are giant sequoia redwoods, ponderosa pine, and California black oak. A countless number of waterfalls including Yosemite, Bridalveil, Vernal, and Nevada falls can also be seen there. Further, a host of such activities as auto touring, backpacking, biking, botanizing, ice skating, and rafting are available there.