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Yosemite National Park Celebrates 120th Birthday on October 1

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Date: September 20, 2010

Third National Park in the United States designated on October 1, 1890

Yosemite National Park was designated by an Act of Congress on October 1, 1890, making it the third national park in the United States, after Yellowstone (1872) and Sequoia (1890). Friday, October 1, 2010 marks the 120th birthday of the park.

Although the park is celebrating its 120th birthday, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias have been preserved since 1864. Congress passed a bill, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864 that set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, that stated the lands be held “…for public use, resort, and recreation…inalienable for all time.” This was truly the birth of the national park concept, since this was the first time in history that land was set aside purely for preservation and recreation for all people. The Grant was administered by the State of California until 1906, when Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias were ceded to the federal government and included in Yosemite National Park.

“I feel privileged to serve as the Superintendent of this special place. Meeting park visitors and seeing their passion and love for Yosemite is one of the best parts of my job,” stated Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “In addition to this landmark birthday, we are looking forward to celebrating two other significant milestones in the next few years,” Neubacher continued.

Although the park is not planning any special events for the 120th birthday, a huge celebration is being planned for the Sesquicentennial of the Yosemite Grant in 2014. Additionally, the National Park Service will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. Several special events to commemorate the milestone are also in the planning stages.

Yosemite National Park receives approximately 4 million visitors from around the world each year. The park is famous for its waterfalls (Yosemite Falls is the tallest in North America), granite domes, meadows, and spectacular high country lakes. The park encompasses 747,956 acres in the central Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California, with approximately 95% of the park federally designated wilderness.

Yosemite National Park was declared a World Heritage Site on October 31, 1984.

Did You Know?

Nevada and Vernal Falls

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.