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.

Althea Roberson, First Black Woman Ranger In Yosemite

March 27, 2021 Posted by: RB - Creative Media Associate - Original Interview Steven J. Burke

In 1983 Althea Roberson became the first Black woman ranger at Yosemite National Park. In 1988 for Black History Month she was interviewed about her experience for the Courier; News Magazine of the National Park Service.


Tracing the Yosemite Valley Railroad

January 24, 2020 Posted by: SL – Creative Media Assistant (Yosemite Valley)

An almost-forgotten piece of local history, the steam locomotives of the Yosemite Valley Railroad transported visitors to the park from 1907 until 1945. Seventy-five years later, two curious interns set out to search for remnants of the old shortline railroad that was once the best way to get to Yosemite.


The Green Book

April 05, 2019 Posted by: Shelton Johnson

A cross-country road trip to visit Yosemite was a very different experience just 60 years ago...especially if you happened to be Black. The Negro Motorist Green Book listed dining and lodging options friendly to African-American travelers. We recently discovered that the 1957 edition included five Yosemite establishments. What does this mean for Yosemite's history...and present?


Separation Anxiety: Finding a Sense of Place Away From Place

September 05, 2018 Posted by: NL - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Like many relationships, Yosemite and I began ours as acquaintances. Growing up, I visited Yosemite most winters, exploring the snow blanketed meadows and thin waterfall streams. While working in other national parks and public lands, I dreamed about working in Yosemite Valley.


A View from Cook's Meadow

August 10, 2017 Posted by: KCS - Creative Media Assistant (Yosemite Valley)

As John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” It’s a sentiment I can certainly believe in when I walk out on the creaking boardwalk in Cook's Meadow.


Mushrooms...Predators in the Duff?!

December 29, 2016 Posted by: GW - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)


Some people love them. Some people hate them. Regardless of your stance they are a fascinating life form. They are mysterious, beautiful, weird, tasty, deadly… predators!? That’s right, things just got weird—some mushrooms are actually predators!



June 05, 2016 Posted by: BA - Climbing Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

As a big wall climber and ranger in Yosemite National Park, I am often asked what it is like on the wall. My best analogy is that a big wall climb is like living within a dream.


If All Goes Well, There Will Be No Swimming

February 06, 2016 Posted by: CJ - Creative Media Assistant (Yosemite Valley)

Like in summer, there are bodies of water to cross when travelling in the wintry Yosemite Wilderness. But winter has that extra bag of tricks: it’s cold. For some, the coldness itself may not be much of an obstacle to overcome, but winter changes to a landscape can test anyone’s abilities and common sense. Instead of fording a creek, one is forced to walk over ice. If all goes well, there will be no swimming.


The Parasitic Mind-Controlling Worms of Yosemite!

November 20, 2015 Posted 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.


America's Lizard

October 21, 2015 Posted 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.


Snowed In at Glacier Point

March 19, 2015 Posted by: CJ - Web & Social Media Volunteer (Yosemite Valley)

This winter has turned out to be warm and dry but, a few years ago, Yosemite National Park was hit with a large snowstorm. In March 2011, three NPS employees skied to the cabin for what was supposed to be a short overnight trip into the wintry wilderness. Caught in the storm of this young century, these individuals wrote down their story as it unfolded.


Peregrine Falcons

March 09, 2015 Posted by: JG - Entrance Station Ranger (Arch Rock)

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth. Soaring hundreds of feet in the sky, the peregrine falcon uses its keen eyesight to spot smaller birds, such as waterfowl, doves, and song birds. With its prey in sight, the peregrine falcon will fold its wings back, and dive towards its target. Reaching speeds of over 200 MPH, faster than a NASCAR racer, the peregrine falcon snatches its prey out of mid-air.


First to Bloom

February 08, 2015 Posted by: CJ - Web & Social Media Volunteer (Yosemite Valley)

When visitors ask “when will the first wildflowers be blooming?” an easy answer is May, June, or July. However, months before the poppies, pentstemons, lilies, and shooting stars show their pretty summer colors to the world, a small, special flower grows high up in seemingly harsh conditions.


Bear Series, Part Four: “Bear-Men” of the American Frontier

November 19, 2014 Posted 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.


Bear Series, Part Three: The Return of the California Grizzly

November 05, 2014 Posted 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.


Bear Series, Part Two: Bears of Our Forests and Our Imaginations

October 29, 2014 Posted 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.


An Uncharacteristic Aerial Fisherman

October 08, 2014 Posted 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.


Yosemite's Ghost Forests

October 07, 2014 Posted by: CF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Despite its hearty stature, large stands of lodgepole pine can be found bleached of their color and stripped of their bark, in what are known as “ghost forests.” During the 1950s some 46,000 acres of lodgepole in Yosemite had effectively been defoliated and transformed into a ghost forest. So, how did some of the sturdiest high elevation trees die off in such large numbers?


Yosemite…A Soundscape, Landscape and Nightscape Escape!

October 03, 2014 Posted 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?


Yosemite Valley: A Land of Beauty, Peace, Sanctity, and “ELMER!”

September 29, 2014 Posted by: AR - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Perhaps the strangest and most mysterious question people ask in Yosemite Valley is “Where’s Elmer?”


Bear Series, Part One: A Bear's Sense of Smell

October 01, 2014 Posted by: JG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

When you visit Yosemite National Park, you are likely being smelled by at least one of Yosemite’s black bears.


A Bird with a Plume

September 25, 2014 Posted by: TA - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Woooooot! Hike after hike I would hear this mysterious noise and puzzle over its source....


Yosemite Walls

September 22, 2014 Posted 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.


The River Changelings: Monitoring of Benthic Macroinvertebrates in the Tuolumne River

September 20, 2014 Posted by: AH - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

On June 6, 2014, a small group of Yosemite Ranger Naturalists set out to find some elusive creatures…with nets and water shoes.


A Difficult Journey

September 18, 2014 Posted by: KO - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

I could feel the trail dust tickling the hairs of my nose as I trudged along obediently behind my friend and fellow ranger, my pack feeling heavier by the minute. Even up in the high country of Yosemite the lack of moisture in late summer and fall is palpable.


Pocket Gophers to the Rescue

September 15, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (White Wolf, Hetch Hetchy, Hodgdon Meadow)

Yes, pocket gophers are here to help restore the meadow after a fire!


The Whole Story About Half of a Tree

September 13, 2014 Posted 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.


Danger in the Beauty Above

September 12, 2014 Posted by: LH -Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

In Yosemite Valley, the California black oaks are one of the beautiful tree species we enjoy; unfortunately that beauty comes with inherent dangers.


What's in a Name?

September 08, 2014 Posted by: KA - Park Ranger/Student Intern (Wawona)

The names around the park might be difficult to pronounce, but they reflect some of the park’s history. The words “Wawona” and “sequoia” carry interesting meanings.


A Perspective on Time at Yosemite

September 04, 2014 Posted by: JW - Park Ranger (Wawona)

The grand features of Yosemite National Park have a magnetism that draws not only individuals, but entire generations of people back time and time again to bask in its rich splendor. Yet, a lifetime of our own visits only represents a brief heartbeat in the constantly changing existence of this dynamic landscape.


An Artist and His Chocolate

September 02, 2014 Posted 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....



August 29, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

Ah, common names—so wonderfully descriptive, poetic, and unwavering.  Wish the same could be said about scientific names. Naming mushrooms, molds, rusts, smuts, and other fungi have always been a systematicist’s (scientists who name and categorize new species) nightmare.


"Little Apple"

August 27, 2014 Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

The manzanita is a dramatic looking shrub that brings a splash of color to its surroundings. The twisting bright red wood of the manzanita’s trunk beautifully contrasts with its light green gray leaves. Because of its environment the manzanita has adapted to both drought and fire.


Camp AE Wood: The Original Wawona Campground

August 27, 2014 Posted by: KL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

The Wawona campground is a beloved vacation destination for many visitors because of its peaceful atmosphere and proximity to the river. However, if you could travel back in time to visit Wawona, you would encounter a very different scene. For, if you were visiting the Wawona campground between 1891 and 1906, you would be standing in the middle of a military camp.


Seeing a Giant Sequoia in its Forest

August 25, 2014 Posted by: JJ - Park Ranger (Wawona)

Among the mightiest and noblest of Yosemite’s trees are the giant sequoias. The “real” story of the trees is not the tree itself; but rather, it’s the story of natural processes that help maintain a healthy giant sequoia forest.


Summer Vacation for the Sierra Tree Frog

August 16, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (Hodgdon Meadow)

How does a Sierra tree frog (Pseudacris sierra) keep from drying out at mid-summer Hetch Hetchy when temperatures can reach the triple digits and humidity can dip below 20%? Go deep.


Nighttime's Tiny Fighter Jets.....Bats!

August 07, 2014 Posted by: SC - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

As the sun lowers in the sky, shadows stretch out across Yosemite and the bright blue overhead is highlighted by streaks of orange and pink. Finally, the temperature begins to dip. As half of the world gets ready for bed, the other half of our living creatures begin to wake up. Winged predators take to flight. Bats!


Another Yosemite Anniversary

August 04, 2014 Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

As we commemorate the Yosemite Grant’s Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary, another anniversary is overshadowed by the festivities. Fifty years ago, Yosemite celebrated the official opening of the Pioneer Yosemite History Center (PYHC), perhaps not as momentous as the Sesquicentennial but noteworthy nonetheless.


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 3: A Bird in the Hand

July 28, 2014 Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)

While most of us are still asleep at 5 AM, Yosemite’s bird researchers are already hanging mist nets and sipping coffee as their day begins. The sun rises as the birds sing their morning chorus, and soon the banding station is busy with the processing of information on the netted birds. This posting is a summary of the birds captured June 20 through July 15, 2014.


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 2

July 21, 2014 Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)

A wide diversity of bird calls ring loud and clear every morning and there is a constant hubbub of birds flying by, delivering food to mates and hungry chicks. The bird researchers with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) project are already midway through their summer season. There is much to be learned from the birds, and Yosemite’s avian monitoring projects are hugely important.


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 1

July 16, 2014 Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)

The male Lawrence’s goldfinch dazzles with its shiny black face, gray back, and bright yellow chest, especially if your view is from just three feet away. I am in Hodgdon Meadow on June 12, 2014 with the bird researchers who are in charge of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)....


The South Fork Merced River

July 15, 2014 Posted by: KL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

If you have ever spent time in Wawona, chances are you have fond memories of splashing around in one of the area’s many marvelous swimming holes, or spending a lazy afternoon reading a book with your feet in the water. Here in Wawona, we are lucky to be located along the South Fork Merced River, which not only offers many great places to swim, but also serves as the main source of our drinking water. This year, has been grim for the South Fork. With several exceptionally dry years in a row, the South Fork is currently extremely low.


Incredibly Steller… Jays

June 15, 2014 Posted 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.


The American Dipper

March 29, 2014 Posted 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.


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.


Toboggan runs, ice skating competitions, and a bid for the Winter Olympics

February 06, 2014 Posted 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.


2013 Christmas Bird Count

January 09, 2014 Posted by: BW Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

More than century ago, bird populations were declining at an alarming rate.  Birds were being hunted to extinction to be used for food (like the passenger pigeon) or for fashionable ladies hats (like egrets).  The steepest declines were in the late 19th century.  During that time, a common holiday tradition was to participate in “side hunts”.  These hunts would be competitions between two sides to see which team could bring in the most game.  I response to the decline of bird populations, groups began forming that would become organized as the National Audubon Society.  Ornithologist Frank Chapman, one of the early officers of the National Audubon Society, suggested the idea of counting birds at Christmas instead of hunting them.  The first ever Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted in December of 1900 at 25 locations.


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?


Red-tailed Hawk - One of Nature's Top Predators

November 05, 2013 Posted 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.


School Students “Adopt” Boulders to Make a Difference

October 22, 2013 Posted 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.


Remember Winter?

September 27, 2013 Posted by: MS - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

The first taste of winter visited Yosemite’s high country on the last day of summer, bringing 6-10 inches of snow to the upper elevations of the park.  I had the good fortune to be camped at Young Lakes, north of Tuolumne Meadows, for the flurry.


Stewards of Stone - Stabilizing Yosemite Cemetery

September 25, 2013 Posted 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.


Wildfire: Friend or Foe?

September 19, 2013 Posted by: BH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Wildfire: friend or foe?  Within the Sierra Nevada, fire has been an integral part of the ecosystem for thousands of years.  During that time the flora and fauna have adapted to a Mediterranean style climate of hot and dry summers allowing for a vastness of fire tolerant plants to adapt to that natural cycle.  A unique plant that has a rich and distinctive life cycle within this unique ecosystem is buckbrush Ceanothus.


An Uncommon Sighting on a Smoky Saturday

September 12, 2013 Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Despite the recent shroud of smoke in Yosemite Valley, there is still much to see. Although common elsewhere, only eight sightings of great egret are known in Yosemite.


Lyell Glacier

September 11, 2013 Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison

August 29 marked the 142nd Anniversary of the first recorded ascent of Mount Lyell, Yosemite’s highest peak (13,114 feet). J. B. Tileston made that ascent in 1871. He left his base camp at four in the afternoon the day before he summited. Darkness found him bivouacked high in the mountains where he....


Pacific Tree Frog: Pseudacris rigilla

September 07, 2013 Posted by: CF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Yosemite is home to many things. Our most recognizable features are towering granite walls and waterfalls, but if you take a closer look you just might be lucky enough to see some of the tiny creatures that dwell in and around them. One such creature is the Pacific tree frog.


Sculpture? Jewelry? Pegmatite?

September 07, 2013 Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

Sometimes the planet Earth seems like an inventor constantly coming up with new ideas. On a walk near White Wolf earlier this season, I was surprised to find a jammed-together patch of milk-white rocks almost two feet long; geologists call this pegmatite.


Oooh, Shiny!

September 05, 2013 Posted 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.


Back Off! Rodents of Unusual Size and Courage

September 05, 2013 Posted 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...


First Automobile Permit Issued 100 Years Ago

August 23, 2013 Posted by: JT - Park Ranger/Web Manager (Yosemite Valley)

On August 28, 1913, Park Ranger Forest Townsley issued the first automobile permit in Yosemite National Park. While early visitors had driven automobiles in Yosemite as early as 1900, cars weren’t formally allowed until 1913.


Diversity at a Different Elevation

August 16, 2013 Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

When you hear the word “Yosemite,” you may immediately think of Half Dome, El Capitan, wildflowers in Tuolumne Meadows, and blue alpine lakes.  But on the western side of the park, roughly 2,000 feet in elevation below the towering El Capitan of Yosemite Valley, lies El Portal, home to park administration buildings, and a plethora of plants well suited to a dry, and hot life.


The Hodgdon Cabin

August 16, 2013 Posted by: KL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

Wawona is home to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of historic buildings that have been relocated from all over the park. Each building tells a different story about Yosemite’s history. A visit to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center provides the opportunity to look into the lives, homes, and workplaces of the people who shaped and were shaped by Yosemite in centuries past.


The Wildest Creature that John Muir Ever Saw

August 04, 2013 Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

"He is, without exception, the wildest animal I ever saw, --a fiery, sputtering little bolt of life." Imagine for a moment, if we had opportunity to spend the day with John Muir as our mountain guide. As Muir leads us into the upper montane forest, he excitedly speaks of searching out the “wildest animal I ever saw.” Would you be delighted or disappointed to discover that this creature is less than a foot in length and weighs just a few ounces?


Meadows of Milkweed

August 04, 2013 Posted 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.


Run With a Ranger on the Wawona Meadow Loop

August 04, 2013 Posted by: SS - Park Ranger (Wawona)

As I lace up my running shoes, the early morning air is crisp and clean with an aroma of pine and wet grass; it is the beginning of my day unfolding.  The Wawona Meadow Loop is a 3.5-mile dirt road that encompasses one of few lower montane Sierra Nevada meadows: terrain gently rolling through ponderosa pine, incense-cedar, and California black oak woodland.  Mountain dogwoods tightly crowd and overhang the path along one section I have dubbed “Dogwood Alley.” The dramatic blossoms in spring and the peach and rose-hued leaves in autumn lure me back to run this particular scenic loop regularly.  Even in winter, the thin snow crunches underfoot and utter silence offers a cold meditative run for me in the low angle light of solstice.


Staying Cool During the Heat of Summer

August 03, 2013 Posted 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.


Wawona - Try It

August 03, 2013 Posted by: JJ - Park Ranger (Wawona)

The early morning sun in Wawona tells me there’s something very special about this place. Hearing the flow of the South Fork of the Merced River is calming, smoothing, and refreshing. Sitting quietly in the Wawona Meadow and closing my eyes creates another dimension of Wawona. Wawona, Yosemite's Sleepy Hollow, is like no other place in the Sierra.


Bird Banding Bonanza!

July 26, 2013 Posted by: JR - MAPS Avian Technician

It's been a hot, busy summer so far during this year's field season of bird banding in Yosemite. Banding occurs at six stations clustered on the west slope of Yosemite, which are each operated once every ten days as part of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. Data are collected at over 300 MAPS stations across the U.S. and Canada every summer between May and August, and scientists and land managers use these data to look at demographic trends in songbird populations both locally and continent-wide.


A Wolf in Flower’s Clothing

July 19, 2013 Posted by: JW - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat Entrance Station Ranger)

A common trail companion and "square one" for a Sierra wildflower lesson, lupine is easy to find and easy on the eyes. It has multiple flowers of bluish purple and the two most common types found in Yosemite either grow close to the ground or as a small bush. This group of flowers is in the genus lupinus and the legume family. They can be referred to as lupine, lupin, or even bluebonnets (if you're in Texas). Like a movie star on the Riviera, give lupine a sandy spot with ple


Blink of an Eye

July 19, 2013 Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Eating lunch at Taft Point (a lovely overlook reached by a trail leaving from Glacier Point Road), my favorite bird paid me a visit. A large, black bird with an inquisitive nature, the common raven is a frequent visitor to campgrounds, picnic areas, and picturesque overlooks. While the raven kept an eye on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I caught the raven's eye on film.


Rainbow Walk to Lukens Lake

July 06, 2013 Posted by: AH - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

A walk to Lukens Lake from White Wolf these days presents you with a panorama of colors that only deepen with your continued observation. Don’t be distracted by the meadows bubbling with Jeffrey’s Shooting Stars leaning and bending in every direction or the towering Mountain Bluebells overtaking certain sections of the trail. Take a closer look on your hands and knees at the 4 different species (and colors) of little violets blooming or the herds of pink elephants (Elephant’s


Steller's Jay Coloration

July 01, 2013 Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison

The Steller’s jay is one of the more common birds Yosemite visitors see. It has beautiful blue feathers that aren’t blue at all--that is, they have no blue pigment in them.


Lady Slipper Orchids

June 25, 2013 Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison

I was exploring Yosemite's mountain forests at about 5,000 feet elevation recently, when I found my favorite patch of lady slipper orchids still in bloom. I say "favorite patch" because the first time I ever saw such lovely and unusual flowers was here in this gorgeous little swale. It was love at first sight and a turning point in my life. I was so taken by them that I decided to study botany in college.


Wawona Meadow

June 21, 2013 Posted by: KL- Park Ranger (Wawona)

The Wawona Meadow has played many different roles throughout its history: a home to wildlife, a food preparation area for American Indians, a hotspot of biological diversity, and more recently, a pasture, a golf course, and an airstrip! Like all Sierra Nevada meadows, our meadow here in Wawona is important habitat for plant and animal communities, including some of Yosemite’s rarest birds. It also serves as a natural floodwater reservoir and filtration system.


Wawona’s Covered Bridge

June 14, 2013 Posted by: KL - Park Ranger (Wawona)

Over the South Fork of the Merced River in Wawona is a covered bridge. There are only a dozen covered bridges here in California, which is reason enough that this bridge is special. But Wawona’s covered bridge is special for a whole host of other reasons, especially for the story it tells of Wawona’s past, and the people who called this place home.


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.


Orange Peels in the Forest?

June 10, 2013 Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Hiking along a trail in the White Wolf area, to my surprise I saw an orange peel on the forest floor! Did someone litter? No, it wasn’t the discarded shell from a delicious fruit we know well, but a cup-shaped fungus growing upward from the ground.


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.


Glacier Point Hotel

May 06, 2013 Posted by: DR - Museum Technician

The Glacier Point Hotel was open from 1918 through 1969, when an electrical fire destroyed the building and the adjacent Mountain House.


Welcome to Yosemite Ranger Notes

October 01, 2012 Posted by: JT - Park Ranger/Web Manager

An introduction to Yosemite Ranger Notes


Sierra Mountain Kingsnake

April 23, 2013 Posted 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


Galen Clark, Mariposa Grove Cabin

April 12, 2013 Posted by: DR - Museum Technician

Galen Clark was the first “Guardian” of Yosemite after the Yosemite Grant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Clark persuaded lawmakers to protect the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as well as Yosemite Valley for future generations.


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.


First Blooms of the 2013 Wildflower Season!

January 11, 2013 Posted by: Bob Roney

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.



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.


What Causes Rockfall on Calm Days in Summer?

December 19, 2012 Posted 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?


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.


Rain Beetles

December 01, 2012 Posted by: EW - Park Ranger

These beetles have literally been waiting their entire lives for this moment, this one moment…


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.


What's a Bird Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

October 10, 2012 Posted 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).


Last updated: March 27, 2021

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