Oral history passed down by local American Indians says the people of the Yosemite area were created here and have been here since the beginning of time. Seven present-day tribes descend from the people who first called this area home. As Europeans arrived in the mid-1800s, violent disruption ensued that displaced the native populations. Early white settlers arrived and hosted writers, artists, and photographers who spread the fame of "the Incomparable Valley" throughout the world. Park pioneers, like Galen Clark, then spoke of Yosemite's need for protection, and that environmental philosophy was advocated by the scientists of the time and later enforced by the park's first nature guides. Early on, women helped make Yosemite what it has become--as influential concessionaires, adventurers, and NPS employees who went beyond the time's traditional roles.
Did You Know?
In Wawona and downstream, the South Fork Merced River provides habitat for a rare plant, the Sierra sweet bay (Myrica hartwegii). This special status shrub is found in only five Sierra Nevada counties. In Yosemite, it occurs exclusively on sand bars and river banks along the South Fork Merced River downstream from Wawona and on Big Creek.