Sketch of Yosemite National Park and an Account of the Origin of the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valleys
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U. S. Geological Survey.


Many people believe that the Yosemite National Park consists principally of the Yosemite Valley and its bordering heights. The name of the park, indeed, would seem to justify that belief, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The Yosemite Valley, though by far the grandest feature of the region, occupies only a small part of the tract. The famous valley measures hut a scant 7 miles in length; the park, on the other hand, comprises no less than 1,124 square miles, an area slightly larger than the State of Rhode Island, or about one-fourth as large as Connecticut. Within this area lie scores of lofty peaks and noble mountains, as well as many beautiful valleys and profound canyons; among others, the Hetch Hetchy Valley and the Tuolumne Canyon, each scarcely less wonderful than the Yosemite Valley itself. Here also are foaming rivers and cool, swift trout brooks; countless emerald lakes that reflect the granite peaks about them; and vast stretches of stately forest, in which many of the famous giant trees of California still survive.

The Yosemite National Park lies near the crest of the great alpine range of California, the Sierra Nevada. To the initiated this fact in itself means a great deal, for the Sierra Nevada is a land not only of scenic wonders, but of marvelous climate—a climate paralleled by that of few mountain regions elsewhere in the world. It has a climate of sunshine and serene skies; dry, but not too dry; in summer warm, but not uncomfortably warm; withal characterized by nights that are cool, even frosty at the higher levels. The winters are cold enough to insure a snowfall of 2 to 4 feet in the lowest valleys and to maintain perpetual ice fields and glaciers on the highest crests. One goes to the Yosemite region not merely to admire its cliffs and waterfalls, nor to walk through the aisles of its great forests, but to revel in the full enjoyment of these wonders in the pure, invigorating air and the restful calm that reigns from day to day.

FIGURE 1.—Cathedral Lake, a typical glacial tarn of the High Sierra.

No wonder that the Yosemite region has acquired fame as a paradise for campers and mountaineers and is year after year invaded by tens of thousands of tourists and vacation seekers. Of late, too, it is becoming known as an attractive winter resort, frequented by those who enjoy snowshoeing, tobogganing, and other winter sports. Its possibilities in this regard have long lain neglected, partly, no doubt, because winter sports generally have not been popular on the Pacific coast, partly because the Yosemite Valley was rather inaccessible in winter. Now, however, the railroad from Merced to El Portal, a few miles from the boundary of the park, insures ready access to the Yosemite Valley and permits the hotels there to remain open for the accommodation of tourists throughout the year. From El Portal a short stage drive over a macadamized wagon road takes the traveler to the heart of the Yosemite Valley, which, with its hotels, camps, and livery facilities, constitutes the main tourist center and the base from which excursions may he made.

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Last Updated: 02-Apr-2007