Yosemite Ranger Notes

About This Blog

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.

Newts Wrestling

February 26, 2014 Posted by: BW - Park Ranger (White Wolf/Big Oak Flat/Yosemite Valley)

At the lowest elevations of Yosemite National Park, there is an amphibian that is making quite a scene. Sierra newts (Taricha sierrae), formerly a subspecies of the California newt, are beginning their breeding season. Like all amphibians, this newt requires water to reproduce and the males returned to their breeding pools earlier this winter.


Remember Hetch Hetchy: The Raker Act and the Evolution of the National Park Idea

December 20, 2013 Posted by: BW - Park Ranger

Yesterday, December 19, was the centennial of the Raker Act, the bill that allowed the building of a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The Raker Act was highly controversial and the points of view that were argued on both sides of the controversy are valuable perspectives that are still relevant today.


The First Pioneer Settler of Yosemite Valley

December 17, 2013 Posted by: BW - Park Ranger

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?


The World’s a Stage, and it’s Showtime for a Flower

June 14, 2013 Posted by: BW - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

Even though the dogwood flowers have faded away by now, there are plenty more plants ready to continue the show as they begin to bloom throughout the park.  A drive along the Tioga Road reveals more than the epic scenery of the high country.


Hetch Hetchy Wildflowers: Species List

June 07, 2013 Posted by: BW & AH - Park Rangers (White Wolf)

Hetch Hetchy is a wonderful place to experience wildflowers early in Yosemite’s summer season. At about 3,800 feet, it is lower in elevation than many other parts of the park–so it’s also one of the first places that flowers bloom in Yosemite. Here is a small sampling of flowers recently seen blooming along the 2.5-mile trail to Wapama Falls.


Busy Beaver at Mirror Lake

April 09, 2013 Posted 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.


Western Redbud from your Window

April 05, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Visitors over the past two weeks may have been struck by the brilliant pinky-purple flowers of the western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) tree on their drive to the park.


California Black Oak Grove Study Begins in the Valley

April 05, 2013 Posted 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.


Rollercoaster Rivers

March 15, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

This week has been very warm in Yosemite. Yosemite Valley’s average high temperature for March is 58°F but this week, we have seen highs nearly 15 degrees warmer.


Spring has Sprung Somewhere

March 15, 2013 Posted 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.


Our inner 6-year old

March 09, 2013 Posted 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.”


Hunting for the Hutchings House

March 09, 2013 Posted 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.


Horsetail Fall

February 22, 2013 Posted 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.


Winter Wind Valentine

February 15, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Some travelers to Yosemite this winter may be surprised to find something besides snow in the air.  Pollen from the incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is flying far and wide this February.


The Buckeyes are Looking for Spring

February 15, 2013 Posted 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.


Ode to the Lyell Glacier

February 15, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

The news last week that the park’s largest glacier has stagnated brings the effects of climate change in Yosemite to the forefront of our thoughts.


The Future of our Reservoir of Snow

February 06, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Last week we explored the idea of our snowpack functioning as a reservoir, storing and slowly releasing water for much of California to use throughout the year. This vital function is so important that it has prompted the creation of a scientific army of surveyors that measure and predict the condition of the snowpack. The results of the snow surveys are useful in predicting our water resources for the year, but they can fluctuate greatly depending on the weather that year.


Acorn Woodpecker

January 14, 2013 Posted 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.


Our Reservoir of Snow

January 14, 2013 Posted 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 04, 2013 Posted by: BW

A beautiful phenomenon with a funny name, hoar comes from Old English and means grayish white or gray-haired with age.  This type of frost forms large white crystals on cold surfaces.


Winter Solstice

December 21, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

With just over nine and a half hours of daylight here at Yosemite National Park, today is the shortest day of the year.  This day also marks the lowest point the sun will reach in our daytime sky.


2012 Christmas Bird Count

December 18, 2012 Posted 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.


Leafy Mistletoe

December 20, 2012 Posted 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 16, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

The fresh layer of snow in the Valley has brought out the coyotes.  Several have been spotted over the past few days, roving around in search of food.


The Real Return of Yosemite Falls

December 04, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Yosemite Falls may have been flowing by Thanksgiving, but it's not really back until the roar of water announces the return.


Birding in Cook’s Meadow

November 26, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Even though our neo-tropical migrants have flown south for the winter, Yosemite is still a great place to go birding.


The Return of Yosemite Falls

November 18, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Each year in late summer and autumn, visitors to Yosemite are faced with a troubling question. Where is Yosemite Falls?



November 13, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

This large bobcat, which has been regularly sighted around the Valley in the past month, was spotted behind the Rangers’ Club intently stalking some small prey item.


Showy Milkweed

November 12, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

The most common milkweed plant in Yosemite Valley is putting on its last show of the season.


Last updated: March 27, 2021

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