Challenge of the Big Trees
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Chapter Seven:
Two Battles for Kings Canyon

In the vast Sierra wilderness, far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is yet a grander valley of the same kind. It is situated on the south fork of the Kings River, above the most extensive groves and forests of the giant sequoia, and beneath the shadows of the highest mountains in the range, where canyons are the deepest and the snow-laden peaks are crowded most closely together. [1]

SO WROTE JOHN MUIR in 1891 about an area he had come to love and admire in nearly two decades of exploration. Muir was not the earliest to explore the region or to pen its praises, but it was Muir, poet and scientist of the Sierra Nevada, and after him his beloved Sierra Club, who would inextricably link their goals and philosophy with the future parkland. [2]

Thus began one of the longest and ultimately most cantankerous struggles to create a national park. Recent historians of the park movement in America have suggested that national parks were created from lands deemed "worthless" for traditional resources like minerals, timber, agriculture and water. [3] The problem of Kings Canyon, and its ultimate solution however, were quite the opposite. Contestants so perceived the presence of such valuable resources, especially irrigation and hydroelectric potential, that they fought one another to a developmental standstill for more than sixty years. In so doing, they allowed recreation and preservation factions to gain power, divide their enemies, and negotiate a compromise which allowed the eventual formation of one of the nation's earliest "wilderness" parks.


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/chap7.htm — 12-Jul-2004