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Presenting Nature








Design Ethic Origins

Design Policy & Process

Western Field Office

Park Planning

Decade of Expansion

State Parks

Appendix A

Appendix B


Presenting Nature:
The Historic Landscape Design of the National Park Service, 1916-1942
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VI. A DECADE OF EXPANSION, 1933 TO 1942 (continued)



Emergency Conservation Work made improvements possible in many national park villages. At Yosemite Village, these community improvements took the form of an extensive program of beautification. CCC enrollees removed deteriorated buildings in the old village and through grading, soil improvement, and plantings, returned the area to a naturalized condition. They installed log curbing and new paths, repaired existing trees, and and planted trees, shrubs, ferns, and other plants. The boulders that had been placed along the roads and parking areas in the 1920s were removed and replaced with ditches or curbs made of logs laid horizontally end-to-end and partially embedded in the earth. Planting occurred around the plaza, administration building, new hospital, residences, and museum. Ferns, trees, and shrubs were planted along foundations, at entrances and corners, and grapevines were planted in Craftsman fashion to climb up the boulder walls of buildings and give them a more naturalistic appearance. The museum garden, set aside in the late 1920s as an interpretive exhibit of park flora, was expanded and improved.

Transplanting projects were carried out in several enrollment periods. In spring 1934, native plants dug at various places outside the valley were transplanted around both old government residences and new ones that had been constructed with PWA funding. The plants covered a wide variety of species native to Yosemite Valley They included 41 azaleas (Rhododendron occidentale), 104 ferns, 10 spice bushes (Calycanthus occidentalis), 10 woodwardias (Woodwardia radicans), 12 manzanitas (Arctostaphylos mariposa), 21 spireas (Spirea spp.), 10 lungworts (Mertensia ciliata), 2 yellow flowers, 5 chinquapins (Castanopsis sempervirens), 2 willow trees (Salix spp.), 14 black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), 7 clumps of daisies (Bellis perennis), 8 alumroot (Heuchera spp.), 3 ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.), 2 Washington lilies (Lilium washingtonianum,) 1 cedar (Libocedrus decurrens), 8 quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides), 2 syringa (Philadelphus lewisii), 22 coneflowers (Rudbeckia californica), 6 mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), 2 lupines (Lupinus spp.), 3 dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii), 4 forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica), 3 monkeyflowers (Mimulus spp.), and 1 15-foot maple tree (Acer macrophylum). This project took 237 enrollee and 50 civilian man-days and was carried out under the supervision of Cascades Camp's landscape architect and landscape foreman. [47]

Plantings continued in subsequent seasons and the variety of species expanded. The inventory of trees, shrubs, and other materials planted in the village in fall and winter 1934 to 1935 included 1 Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia), 4 red firs (Abies magnifica), 36 redbuds (Cercis occidentalis), 94 spice bushes (Calycanthus occidentalis), 2 elderberries (Sambucus velutina), 12 mock oranges (Philadelphus lewisii), 19 toyons (Photina arbutifolia), 6 wild roses (Rosa californica), and 12 scrub oaks (Quercus dumosa), as well as additional ferns, azaleas, dogwoods, and miscellaneous shrubs and herbaceous plants. Ninety-six cubic yards of topsoil were hauled in for this planting. Wild-flower seed was broadcast over 3,090 square yards of the area. The work took 458 enrollee and 53 civilian man-days. [48]

In 1935, planting continued around the government residences. Native shrubs and trees were taken from various places outside the valley floor and were transplanted around the new and old government residences. CCC enrollees from the Cascades Camp continued to plant trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants similar to those planted in previous seasons. The planting was considered a success, "the residences beautified to a great extent." [49]

CCC crews also maintained trees in the valley that had been neglected or become hazardous. In spring 1935, dead limbs were removed from 223 oak trees around the government residences in the village. A total of 250 apple trees in the valley were trimmed and repaired; this work entailed cutting out suckers and draining cavities. The apple trees, located near Yosemite Falls and Camp Curry, were the remnants of orchards planted by some of the first settlers in Yosemite Valley [50]

Village improvements accompanied the planting program. In winter 1933-34, workers removed border stones lining the sidewalks of the plaza and in the spring filled the remaining holes and planted sod. At the same time flagstones were placed around the telescopes in front of the museum. In April 1935, large border stones were removed from the new village plaza, "by the aid of a gasoline shovel," and were hauled to the old borrow pit or set aside for fireplace construction.

CCC workers
As part of a beautification program for Yosemite Village, CCC enrollees planted azaleas, ferns, and other native plants at the entrances and along the foundations of buildings. Plantings, such as those at Lewis Hospital, helped erase the scars of construction and eliminate the lines of demarcation between manmade boulder walls and the natural setting. (National Archives, Record Group 79)

With the planting in the village under way, efforts turned to the beautification of other parts of the valley. Over a six-month period beginning in October 1935, 1,973 pine and cedar trees and 36 quaking aspens were planted in semibarren areas fronting on the road at Camps 7 and 15, "greatly enhancing the appearance of these camp grounds and adding to the general scenic beauty." Twenty-eight trees were transplanted to the cemetery. This work was labor intensive and required 1,258 enrollee and 105 civilian man-days. [51]

By the end of the seventh enrollment period, the project to screen campgrounds from the road was substantially completed at Campgrounds 7, 11, 12, 14, and 15, and similar planting was planned for Camp 16 during the eighth period. "The many rather unsightly conditions ever-present in any public campground will now be nicely screened so that the numerous wash-lines of campers and unkempt conditions in the individual camp sites will not be so noticeable." In addition, 3,771 feet of log railing was constructed around Camp 12 in 1935. The railing consisted of pine logs measuring nine to fourteen inches in diameter, which had been taken from pine thickets, peeled, and hauled to the valley. They were bolted to concrete posts made from sheet metal forms. [52]


In 1935, CCC enrollees from the Cascades Camp, under the direction of the park naturalist, carried out the largest planting project that had yet taken place at the Yosemite Museum. During the year, the two-acre garden was substantially overhauled. Enrollees watered, cleared out weeds, collected seed, hauled soil, prepared walks, transplanted trees and shrubs, and carried out other routine tasks. Superb records were kept of the plants transplanted from other parts of the park. The plantings around the museum building included 32 grapevines (Vitis californica), which were planted along the museum's stone foundations and intended as climbing vines across the boulder walls of the lower story. Evening primroses (Qenothera hookeri) were planted in the garden where they were protected from browsing deer and created a collection that became the object of popular evening walks in the museum garden. The inventory of plants added to the museum garden and grounds in 1935 included: 23 sweet shrubs (Calycanthus occidentalis), 27 redbuds (Cercis occidentalis), 2 cedar trees (Libocedrus decurrens), 12 manzanitas (Arctostaphylos mariposa), 4 Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga taxifolia), 4 mock oranges (Philadelphus lewissii), 3 toyon bushes (Photinia arbutifolia), 42 lupines (Lupinus spp.), 5 azaleas (Rhododendron occidentalis), 2 dogwoods (Cornus californica), 2 everlastings (Anaphalis margaritacea), 12 grass clumps, and 200 miscellaneous plants. Enrollees also prepared thirty seed boxes, eighteen inches square, for the experimental planting of seed in conjunction with the planting along the Wawona Road. To prepare the soil for planting, enrollees hauled in fifteen cubic yards of topsoil and scattered it around the garden. Twenty-six cubic yards of rock were dug out of the garden and hauled to the old borrow pit; an additional twenty-two cubic yards of debris were hauled to the Curry Dump. [53]

The garden paths were also replaced at this time, requiring the removal of 343 square yards of old walk and the installation of new walk made from rock removed in the cleanup of streambeds along the Merced River and crushed rock hauled in from elsewhere. Twelve cubic yards of pine needles were hauled to the area of the garden occupied by an outdoor exhibit interpreting Native American life that had been part of the museum since the 1920s. In the fall, additional flowers and shrubs were removed from construction sites at Crane Flat and along the Wawona Road and trucked to the valley for transplanting around the museum. [54]

While waiting for fire calls, one CCC fire-suppression crew built log benches for the entrance and garden. Materials came from insect-damaged trees felled for insect control. Hewn from single logs measuring as much as twenty-four inches across, the benches were given a weathered appearance by scorching them with a blowtorch and rubbing them with linseed oil. [55]

These projects had long-lasting results that are still visible today. The clinging vines and the trees planted in 1935, for example, continue to grace the museum entrance. This work also showed how the landscape and educational programs of the National Park Service could interact and mutually enhance one another and at the same time assist the road construction projects being carried out through PWA and roads and trails funds.


Civilian Conservation Corps work in Yosemite included rehabilitating springs and making them safe sources of drinking water. Landscape architects saw this work as an opportunity to develop beautiful rock gardens, following the precedent established in 1925 at Apollinaris Spring at Yellowstone. In the mid-1930s, the Cascades Camp transformed several of Yosemite's springs from unsightly and muddy spots into appealing places of tranquil beauty.

At Iron Spring, the upper spring was boxed and covered with soil, and water was piped to the lower spring, which had been dug out and lined with rocks. Eight log steps were built from the road down to the spring. Sod, moss-covered rocks, and various plants and trees were planted around the spring. Plantings included eighty ferns, seventy grass clumps, six raspberry bushes (Rhubus leucodermis), thirty heathers (Phyllodoce breweri), six mimulus (Mimulus spp.), twelve alumroot (Heuchera spp.), one wild spirea (Spirea spp.), six calycanthus (Calycanthus occidentalis), twelve mountain ash (Fraxinus dipetala), seven red firs (Abies magnifica), one azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), and one cedar (Libocedrus decurrens). [56]

Several seasons later, enrollees turned Fern Spring into an attractive naturalistic rock garden by artistically arranging rocks at the site and planting a variety of ferns, wild flowers, azaleas, and ground covers. A log guardrail was placed to define the parking area, and log seats were placed in the woods about the spring to improve the popular spot. [57]

Designers developed naturalistic solutions for providing water in the form of fountains. These projects involved connecting natural sources of water to places accessible by the public. In the early days of motoring, watering spots along highways, especially in mountainous terrain, provided motorists with refreshment and water for overheated automobiles. The Cascades Camp installed several roadside fountains along the Wawona Road. The fountains were made from cut and hauled, gnarly canyon live oak sections approximately twelve inches in diameter and three feet in length. A bowl was chiseled out of the log for the drinking fountain, and pipes were fitted into holes bored for the water line and drain. The water line was connected by a one-inch pipe 800 feet in length to a small reservoir built by a rock-and-earth dam on Grouse Creek. [58]

Such projects served a combination of important purposes. First, they sanitized popular watering spots. Second, they protected spring areas from compaction of soil and erosion that resulted from trampllng and a constant flow of water. Finally, they offered park designers an opportunity to create rock and water gardens with native plants and local rocks in the tradition of William Robinson's wild gardens and the naturalistic waterfalls and fern gardens of American practitioners such as Henry Hubbard, Samuel Parsons, and Ferruccio Vitale.

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