Sketch of Yosemite National Park and an Account of the Origin of the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valleys
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When one considers that the Yosemite Valley is to-day famed the world over, he finds it difficult to realize that it has been known scarcely more than 50 years. The valley was discovered in 1851, when a detachment of mounted volunteers under Capt. John Boling, in an effort to put an end to the depredations of the Indians that infested the region, pursued them to their mountain stronghold. The tales the soldiers brought hack of the marvelous scenery of the valley induced J. M. Hutchings, who was then gathering data on California scenery, to organize in 1855 an exploratory expedition to the Yosemite Valley. The next year a trail was opened across the mountains from Mariposa and the regular tourist travel may be said to have begun. That year also the first house in the valley (just below the Sentinel Fall) was built, the same house that subsequently be came known as Black's Hotel.

For many years all goods taken into the Yosemite region were carried by pack mules 50 miles over rough mountain trails from Mariposa or from Coulterville. It. was not until 1874 that the first wagon roads were completed. The tourist travel then increased by leaps and bounds. The stage traffic, which at first was small, soon became a vast, well-organized business. Indeed, the Yosemite stages, especially to those who visited the valley during the decade preceding 1906, the year the railroad was constructed, are likely ever to remain prominent in mind as one of the features that added picturesqueness and pleasure—though often also weariness—to the excursion.

The present boundaries and extent of the Yosemite National Park date back only to 1906. Prior to that year the Yosemite Valley was a State park under the control of California. In 1864 Congress granted to that State "the 'Cleft' or 'Gorge' in the Granite Peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountain * * * known as the Yosemite Valley * * *," as the act quaintly puts it, and with it the tract embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove, near Wawona. Galen Clark, the discoverer of that grove, became the first "guardian of the valley," and served in that capacity for many years. In 1908 he died at the ripe old age of 96 years. but his name will forever remain associated with the valley as that. of its "grand old man."

In 1906 the valley and the grove were receded by California to the United States and included in the Yosemite National Park, which had been established by Congress October 1, 1890, and already embraced a considerable portion of the Sierra Nevada immediately surrounding the valley. After sundry changes the boundaries of the combined tracts were definitely fixed by Congress and marked out on the ground in the alignment shown on the accompanying map1 (fig. 10). The boundary on the northeast side follows the crest line of the Sierra Nevada, passing over the summits of Mounts Conness, Dana, and Lyell. The southern boundary is so drawn as to include the Mariposa Grove, and the western boundary to encompass the Merced and Tuolumne groves of big trees, as well as beautiful Lake Eleanor.

1The following topographic maps may be purchased from the Director of the Geological Survey, Washington, D. C.: Yosemite National Park, on a scale of 2 mIles to the inch, 25 cents a copy unbound; 35 cents a copy folded and bound between covers; Yosemite valley, on a scale of 2,000 feet to the inch, 10 cents a copy.

The wording of the act of 1864 (see p. 5) itself eloquently testifies to the ignorance and complete misconception which formerly prevailed regarding the real nature of the Yosemite Valley and the mountain region in which it lies. In order that a truer understanding of the region might be gained, the Geological Survey of California, under the direction of the late Prof. J. D. Whitney, as early as 1866 undertook the task of systematically exploring and mapping the Sierra region. This work has since been carried on by others, notably by Clarence King, Joseph Le Conte, I. C. Russell. John Muir, Waldemar Lindgren, George F. Becker, Henry W. Turner, A. C. Lawson , F . L. Ransome, and J. N. Le Conte. As a result of the labors of these men a vast body of fact regarding the region is now available, and even its most puzzling features, its strangely carved peaks and domes and canyons, have become well understood. It was not, however, until very recently that anything approaching concordance of opinion was reached about the manner of their genesis and that an authoritative statement regarding their origin was possible for the information of the layman. Such a statement it is proposed to give here, explaining how the features included in the Yosemite National Park, and especially those of the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valleys, had their origin .

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Last Updated: 02-Apr-2007