Ranger-naturalists have been interpreting the natural and cultural resources of Yosemite for park visitors for nearly a century. In this blog, some of Yosemite's park rangers share recent observations from around Yosemite.
All posts are shown below, or you can view posts by topic.
November 20, 2015Posted by: BA - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
I am often approached in the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center with oddities found while exploring Yosemite National Park. About a week ago, I was brought some particularly interesting photos of a long and skinny worm found in a puddle near North Pines Campground.
October 21, 2015Posted by: KG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
It was another beautiful Yosemite morning. I walked out the door onto my sandy lawn to get things started. I grabbed my bike to head over to the office and that’s when I saw… the body. Smooshed on the shoulder of the road was a snake-like yet flattened form. Closer inspection revealed little legs sticking out the side. I assumed it used to have a tail, though the animal must have lost it in some other battle. What was this creature? Being from Wisconsin originally, I’m not exactly from lizard country, so I’ve always been fascinated by them and this was a different specimen than anything I’d ever seen. After a few moments, I was back on my bike and headed for my usual daily adventures. Going about my day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What was that? Maybe it was an escaped pet of sorts? Ranger naturalists are naturally curious people, and I decided to do a little bit more investigating.
November 19, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Long ago, some believed the stereotypical rugged, resourceful, and individualistic American was created by challenging and pushing back against the wilds of the western frontier. Despite cultural connections dating back to the “Old World,” bears at first were not spared from extermination.
November 05, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
As a park ranger I am often asked by visitors from around the world what species of bear currently lives in Yosemite. People are often surprised when I tell them that only the American black bear lives here now. I am quick to point out to visitors that Yosemite was indeed once also home to the brown bear, which was often called the California grizzly.
October 29, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
The opportunity to view wildlife, in particular, charismatic megafauna is one of the key attractions that draw hundreds of millions of visitors to national parks across the United States each year. At Yosemite, arguably the most iconic and charismatic of all wildlife present is the American black bears. People want to experience something truly wild here, something apart from our highly structured and ordered, some might say overly-civilized, and increasingly urbanized world.
October 08, 2014Posted by: KF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
When we think of a bird, some blanket characteristics come to mind: seasonal migration, flashy male plumage and less-noticeable female plumage, a semi-circular nest made of grass and sticks and feathers, and cute, downy nestlings. The belted kingfisher in Yosemite National Park defies all of these stereotypes in unique ways.
October 03, 2014Posted by: SP - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Imagine the sounds you would hear in urban areas…horns honking, motors revving, car alarms blaring…these sounds quickly add up to what could be an unhealthy accumulation of decibels. Will these sounds soon flood out Yosemite’s natural sounds?
September 22, 2014Posted by: CK - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Yosemite Valley is a place best characterized by the contrast between stalwart permanence and ephemerality. Nowhere is this more evident than Yosemite Falls. Granite, 100 million years old, pitted against individual drops of water whose tenure on the canyon wall is a mere blink of the eye as they travel between the high-country snow and the Merced River. Following the course of the waterfall itself, we can find tenacious inhabitants. Lichen, the union between algae and moss, proliferates.
September 13, 2014Posted by: KG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
As you venture into Yosemite Valley, your journey will undoubtedly involve a trip down Southside Drive. You pass a beautiful little chapel while pulling up to a stop sign, and glance to your right for just a moment. That’s where you will catch a glimpse of a broad opening in the forest with a single tree in the middle. This tree, however, is very peculiar indeed.
September 02, 2014Posted by: SS - Park Ranger (Wawona)
Although not as well known in national artistic circles as the now-famous names of Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, William Keith, and Thomas Moran, Chris Jorgensen is locally known and beloved by those of his adopted state of California. Born in Norway and brought to San Francisco as a boy by his widowed mother, Christian Jorgensen initially showed little sign of his future success....
June 15, 2014Posted by: KG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
If you’ve been to Yosemite, you’ve almost certainly seen them. Some visitors might identify them at first glance, while others may just settle in for the moment to watch “that blue bird with the triangle head” as it forages for acorns or (unfortunately) scours populated areas for crumbs.
March 29, 2014Posted by: CF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
The American dipper is North America’s only aquatic songbird and are typically found near clear, cold, streams, and swift moving rivers (like the Merced). Their main diet consists of underwater invertebrates and even with the frigid winter water and air temperatures, the dipper will forage all year round. This little bird has thoroughly adapted to this semi-underwater lifestyle.
February 06, 2014Posted by: MO - Park Ranger/Web Manager (Yosemite Valley)
Yosemite was once the stage for avid winter enthusiasts. It was even an option for hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1932. Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, believed strongly, that “Yosemite is a winter as well as a summer resort…That it has not been more patronized during the winter months is due partly to limited accommodations and partly to lack of publicity.” In some ways he was right, and his hopes for Yosemite later came to fruition.
James Chenowith Lamon (pronounced “lemon”), a native of Virginia, came to California during the Gold Rush in 1851. Lured by stories of a great valley, he was one of the first few hundred tourists to visit Yosemite in the late 1850s. In the winters of 1862-63 and 1863-64, Lamon stayed in Yosemite Valley while all other settlers and pioneers moved down to the foothills. Can you imagine what that was like?
November 05, 2013Posted by: CL - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Red-tailed hawks are top predators. In the words of author Pete Dunne, “...anything readily available and catchable is an odds-on favorite to become prey. Any furred, feathered, or scaled creature that is smaller than a groundhog and turns its back on a meal-minded red-tailed hawk might safely be said to be courting a shortcut toward the cosmic.” Dunne’s poetic description does not exaggerate.
October 22, 2013Posted by: SB - NatureBridge Educator
Visitors embarking on Yosemite’s popular hikes along the John Muir and Mist Trails to Vernal and Nevada Falls, Half Dome, or beyond, begin their journey on a half mile walk from Happy Isles through a lush boulder garden draped in deep green mosses. Unfortunately, some of these boulders have been vandalized by visitors who have etched initials, words, and symbols into the mosses exposing the bare granite beneath.
September 25, 2013Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
The Yosemite Cemetery is filled with echoes of Yosemite’s past. For American Indians the origins of these echoes reach back many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The echoes of non-Indians go back only to the mid-nineteenth century, yet this was a time of great change in the American perspective on wild lands and scenic resources. A visit to the Yosemite Cemetery will bring you closer to many of the personages that began the development of what we now call Yosemite National Park.
September 05, 2013Posted by: TA - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Every year millions of people come from around the world to witness the spectacular mountain scenery of Yosemite National Park and to catch a glimpse of a wild animal. During my time as a ranger, I have found that most people are here to see one elusive animal in particular: a bear! But I will let you in on a little secret. There is an animal in Yosemite that has an even more magnetic personality than a bear and an absolutely unmatched sense of courage in the face of danger. And I can almost guarantee that anyone who has visited Yosemite has seen this little guy...
September 05, 2013Posted by: SC - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Collecting is an art. Some of us take pleasure in matching the dish towels to the throw pillows or the tea kettle to the living room rug, while others are transfixed by the newest and most exciting gadget on the market. A glimpse at our homes may provide insight into the fashion, technology, and stories of our time, while a historic home might feature up-and-coming trends from 1864. But, a close look at the home of a packrat can give us a glimpse at life 50,000 years ago! Packrats, also known as woodrats, are professional collectors.
August 04, 2013Posted by: KP - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley
It is that time of year again! Yosemite Valley meadows are in bloom and the showy milkweed plants are living up to their names. The showy milkweed, native to western North America, is both a home to the milkweed beetle and a vacation layover for the monarch butterfly.
August 03, 2013Posted by: LO - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
This summer has brought some hot days. To cope with the heat, animals may try to avoid it. By being crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) or spending time in the river or shade, animals can stay cool as the temperature soars. But, on those searing days, you may notice what seems to be unusual animal behavior.
April 23, 2013Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
Dangerous snake? It sure is... if you are a lizard, nestling bird, or small mammal. If you are a human being, it is mostly harmless. The Sierra mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata multicincta), with its rings of white, orange, and black, has to be the most spectacularly colored snake in Yosemite. Some call it the coral kingsnake because of its somewhat similar appearance to the venomous coral snake. Fortunately for Yosemite visitors, the nearest wild coral snake lives in Arizona.
April 09, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Observant visitors to Mirror Lake over the past month may have noticed evidence of beaver (Castor canadensis) activity. Several cottonwood trees around the main reflection pool are showing the toothmarks of gnawing by beavers.
April 05, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
It is hard to overstate the importance of the California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) to Yosemite National Park. With so many other icons, it may be easy to overlook the black oak, but it is one of the most important cultural, biological, and scenic resources in the park.
March 15, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Spring in the mountains is a funny thing. Like a wave slowly washing over the Sierra Nevada, spring will crash first onto the foothills and then, following the warmer temperatures, work its way up to the highest peaks in a spray of late summer wildflowers.
March 09, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
James Mason Hutchings was one of the earliest and most important pioneer figures of Yosemite Valley. It was Hutchings that published the first illustrations of Yosemite Valley, his daughter was the first non-Indian to be born in the Valley, and he owned one of the first hotels in the Valley.
March 09, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
We were all young once. You may not remember it well now, but we often possess an innocence and honesty in our youth that is uncommon as adults. Such is the case of Evie, a young junior ranger, who recently returned a couple of sticks she took from the park saying in an adorable letter, “I know I’m not supposed to take things from the park…..Please put them back in nature.”
February 22, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Photographers flock to Yosemite year round, but there is a special reason they were here this week. There is a small, ephemeral water fall that puts on quite a show in mid- to late-February. Horse Tail Fall, on the east shoulder of El Capitan, is a great example of the amazing natural phenomena that exist in Yosemite.
February 15, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
The recent warmer temperatures have melted much of the snow in Yosemite Valley, revealing damp ground underneath. One of the things that was uncovered was the fruit of the California buckeye (Aesculus californica), which had fallen to the ground at the end of summer.
January 14, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Yosemite brought in the New Year wearing a sparkling white gown of snow, left from a series of storms near the end of December. At one point, there was 14 inches on the ground in Yosemite Valley and much of that has stuck around as daily temperatures have been fairly cold. The snow certainly produced hazardous driving conditions as well as beautiful photos as the park was transformed into a winter wonderland.
January 14, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
One of eleven bird species in the woodpecker family that can be found here, many acorn woodpeckers make a home at the lower elevations of Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite Valley, this is one of the most apparent birds, often making quite a ruckus with loud nasal squawks that could resemble maniacal laughter. Seek out oak woodlands to find these year-round residents.
Every January the Merced Canyon opens the annual flower show with waterfall buttercups (Kumlienia hystriculus). These beauties live around wet areas where water continually drips or near waterfalls where they are kept fresh by spray.
December 20, 2012Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Now that the California black oaks in Yosemite Valley have dropped most of their leaves, something strange has been revealed among the branches. Even though it is winter, big green leafy clumps of mistletoe are still growing up there.
December 19, 2012Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
What causes rockfall on calm days in summer? When it rains and rocks fall we pretty much know that running water probably triggered it. Likewise we understand that earthquakes and the freezing and thawing of ice on cliffs can also trigger rockfall. However, there are other triggers that remain a mystery. Why is it that rocks also fall on perfectly calm summer afternoons with no apparent cause?
December 18, 2012Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
2012 Christmas Bird Count
Last Sunday over 40 enthusiastic birders braved the cold temperatures to participate in the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count. This nationwide event is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and features local groups identifying and counting every bird they see in a given area for one day.
October 10, 2012Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
On October 2, 2012, local naturalist Michael Ross spotted a bird he had never seen before, at least not in Yosemite. After careful observation he determined it was a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis).
(209) 372-0200 The public information office is open from 9 am to 5 pm Pacific time (closed for lunch). Once connected, dial 3 then 5. If the ranger is already on the line, you'll be returned to the main menu. If the ranger is not there, you can leave a message and we will return your call.