June 21, 2013
Lupine (right) are currently blooming in Wawona Meadow
The Wawona Meadow has played many different roles throughout its history: a home to wildlife, a food preparation area for American Indians, a hotspot of biological diversity, and more recently, a pasture, a golf course, and an airstrip! Like all Sierra Nevada meadows, our meadow here in Wawona is important habitat for plant and animal communities, including some of Yosemite's rarest birds. It also serves as a natural floodwater reservoir and filtration system. But when Euro-Americans arrived in Wawona in the 1850s, the meadow was quickly converted to grazing land, and cattle trampled the delicate meadow for more than a century. In the 1930s, CCC crews dug ditches to drain water from the meadow, changing waterflow patterns dramatically.
Today, after a major restoration effort, the Wawona meadow is much healthier than it used to be. Ditches have been filled in, cattle are nowhere to be found, and the airstrip is long gone. Right now, the meadow is verdant with early summer grasses, and wildflowers such as lupine and clarkia are in bloom. Despite its beauty and current appearance of health, the meadow faces yet another threat: climate change. Sierra Nevada meadows depend on snowmelt to keep them wet or moist throughout the year. Yosemite is predicted to see a significant reduction in the snowpack by the end of the century, which will likely have a serious drying effect on our meadows.
As you enjoy the results of the recent restoration efforts to the Wawona Meadow, think about the actions that you can take to help protect this beautiful spot from climate change.
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Did You Know?
In Yosemite Valley, dropping over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, the Merced River creates what is known as the “Giant Staircase.” Such exemplary stair-step river morphology is characterized by a large variability in river movement and flow, from quiet pools to the dramatic drops of the waterfalls themselves.