Parks Institute Stage 1 Fire Restrictions June 1, 2013
Due to high fire danger, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are instituting fire restrictions inside the parks. More »
Road Construction Delays (if Entering/Exiting Hwy. 198)
Expect minimal construction delays on main road through parks (Generals Hwy) through June 2013 on weekdays generally from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. See link for schedule. Call for 24-hour road conditions info: 559-565-3341 (press 1, 1, 1). More »
Vehicle Length Limits Have Changed in Sequoia NP (if Entering/Exiting Hwy 198)
Planning to see the "Big Trees" in Sequoia National Park? If you enter/exit via Hwy. 198, please pay close attention to new vehicle length advisories for your safety and the safety of others. More »
Some Opening/Closing Dates for Services and Facilities May Change – Check Back for Updates
Some opening/closing dates for facilities and visitor services in the parks may change due to weather or other circumstances. Call 559-565-3341 or send us an email using the "Contact Us" link below the main menu (bottom left, this page).
You May Have Trouble Calling Us. Use the "Contact Us" Link (Bottom Left) to Send an E-mail.
We are experiencing technical problems receiving some incoming phone calls at the parks. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please keep trying to reach us or check this website for frequently-asked questions. The search box (top, right) may be helpful.
Susan Thew: Unsung Heroine of Sequoia National Park
National Park Service
The Golden Twenties rejuvenated the spirit of the United States - it was an era marked by economic prosperity, the rise of commercialism, and the emergence of jazz and social dancing. Perhaps the most significant of all were the advancements made towards women's rights. Women's suffrage, the proposal of the Equal Rights Amendment, fashion, and large-scale entrance into the workforce brought about a newly found liberation for women.
Susan Priscilla Thew embodied this newly-found liberation and her enthusiasm and energy left a lasting impact on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. With little experience but great motivation, 40-year-old Susan Thew left Giant Forest in August of 1923 to explore the rugged terrain of the Sierra. Thew hoped to capture a still untouched landscape in images and words that would make clear the need for its preservation. Little did Thew know that her work would succeed in nearly tripling the park's acreage - making her one of the most prominent female figures in the history of these parks.
Susan had originally come to California to escape the harsh Ohio winters with her father, Richard Thew, a wealthy industrialist and inventor. In the summer of 1918, having determined to stay year-round, she drove the rough dirt road to Giant Forest and encountered the beauty and serenity of the sequoias for the first time. Although she only spent a limited amount of time within the park, she was instantly captivated.
She soon acquainted herself with the superintendent of the park, Colonel John R. White, and learned of the various efforts to create a greater Sequoia National Park. It was then that the idea of promoting for park expansion began to take hold of Susan Thew and she began her travels into the high country east of Sequoia - the High Sierra.
National Park Service
For the next several years, with determination and ambition, Susan applied herself to the campaign to preserve the grand wilderness of the Southern Sierra. She spent several summers traversing some of the most rugged terrain in the continental United States. With one companion and small packtrain, she covered hundreds of miles, photographing the landscape in hopes of conveying something of its beauty.
With these images, the largest and most complete photographic record of the region to date, Thew produced a publication for distribution to members of Congress promoting the park idea. Entitled "The Proposed Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park," this gazetteer gave a vivid sense of the grandeur of the land needing protection.
Since the founding of Sequoia National Park in 1890, numerous bills to enlarge the park had been introduced, but none had succeeded. Not until the 1926 proposal, when Susan Thew submitted her gazetteer, did an enlargement bill succeed: The park boundaries were extended to include the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah Peaks, the Kern Canyon, and the Sierra Crest. After passage of the bill, the director of the National Park Service sent a telegram to Susan in recognition of her efforts. Although many factors were included in the passing of the bill, her persuasiveness and ardor were undoubtedly the deciding factor in the push for park expansion. Her dedication had paid off.
National Park Service
During the campaign to create Kings Canyon National Park in 1940, Thew's approach was used again. Photographer Ansel Adams created a portfolio of stunning images for distribution among members of Congress and, like Thew, his efforts contributed to success in passing an expansion bill.
Throughout her life, Susan Thew remained an advocate for preservation and understanding, but never more so than in her role in the expansion of Sequoia National Park. It was here that Susan found inspiration:
In 1918, Susan Thew discovered something she loved and devoted all her efforts to making a change. She not only found a new source of personal energy in the parks, she ensured that generations to come would have the same opportunity.
Did You Know?
Sequoia & Kings Canyon Parks form the heart of the second-largest contiguous roadless area left in the lower 48 states. The southern Sierra is so rugged that few roads cross it; you must go north to Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park or south to Walker Pass or Tehachapi Pass.