Looking out onto Wawona Meadow in 1936, Yosemite National Park visitors could have seen Civilian Conservation Corps men hard at work—digging two mile-long ditches to divert water to the edges of Wawona Meadow. A walk in Wawona Meadow today reveals how these historic ditches, now deepened to 10 feet in some places, have altered meadow hydrology by diverting surface flow, draining groundwater, drying out the landscape, and altering plant communities.
Wawona Meadow, one of the first areas explored by Euro-Americans, felt the effects of early settlers decades before the CCC built these ditches. Cattle and horses heavily grazed the meadow; an airstrip occupied the southern portion; and in 1918, the lower third of the meadow was developed into a golf course. The airstrip was decommissioned in the late 1930s; grazing ceased in 1970; and although the golf course is still there, the upper 165 acres of the meadow provides valuable lower montane meadow habitat. With the Wawona Meadow Ecological Restoration Project, park ecologists aim to restore the meadow to its original lush state with ample water—full of willows, sedges, buttercups, and lupine—by undoing human damage.