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Yosemite National Park Information

Yosemite Tour

Yosemite National Park was established on 01 October 1890, and is the Nation's third oldest national park. The park was established for the purpose of preservation of the resources that contribute to its uniqueness and attractiveness. Congress recognized the importance of preserving this great park for future public enjoyment when it established Yosemite National Park. Yosemite National Park is a showcase of spectacular geological features, including the greatest concentration of granite domes in the world and the largest exposed granite monolith in the world.
The first application of a park concept originated in Yosemite with the grant of 1864 (Federal land given to California for preservation) signed by Abraham Lincoln and since that time the park has played an important role in pioneering park management concepts.
Yosemite National Park possesses outstanding recreational values and supreme scenic attractions, including alpine and subalpine wilderness, three groves of giant sequoia trees and thundering waterfalls that are among the world's highest. Yosemite was the birthplace of the idea of the Sierra Club and plays an important role in wildlife preservation and preserving biological diversity.
Yosemite National Park is a world heritage site which has made a significant contribution to California's cultural heritage, to the national park movement, and to Yosemite's 4,000 years of cultural heritage by Native Americans. The park provides solitude and inspiration and serves as an outdoor classroom for environmental education.
While man has lived in Yosemite for thousands of years, the park's human history is far shorter than its geological history. At one time, this area was made up of gentle rolling hills, crisscrossed with a maze of stream systems. Millions of years ago, California's Sierra Nevada was formed by a gradual series of earth upheavals. As the mountains rose, the land tilted and the westward flowing Merced River accelerated, carving deep, v-shaped river canyons. Later, massive glaciers flowed down the canyons. Colder temperatures slowed melting and eventually glaciers formed and began to carve away at the v-shaped canyons, transforming them into u-shaped valleys. Tributary streams did not carve their canyons as deep as Merced Canyon. Glaciers sheared off these canyons leaving them as "hanging valleys." Tributary creeks, which had once joined the main stream at the same elevation, now plummeted off of shear cliffs, giving birth to the park's famed waterfalls. Eventually, sediment washed down out of the high country, filled in Lake Yosemite to form the present valley floor.
The area's first residents were Native Americans who inhabited the region perhaps as long ago as 7,000 to 10,000 years. Various tribes lived in the area over the years, the most recent of which was a Miwok tribe that called Yosemite Valley Ahwahnee which is believed to mean, "place of the gaping mouth." They referred to themselves as the Ahwahneechee.
The Ahwahneechee lived off the land, harvesting acorns, hunting and fishing. The discovery of gold in the foothills of California ended this idyllic lifestyle when some of the tribe, angered by the encroachment of the western miners, attacked a trading post in the Merced River Canyon. In retaliation, the miners organized state-sanctioned Mariposa Battalion, which entered Yosemite Valley on 27 March 1851 in pursuit of the Yosemite Indians. Tenaya, the Yosemite chief, had been leading his tribe in raids on white settlers in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The Battalion captured Tenaya and his tribe. They marched them to reservations in the foothills and eventually let the Indians return to the valley, which was named after them.
By 1855, the first party of tourists arrived and nine years later, encouraged by a group of influential Californians, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as a state supervised public reserve.
In 1890, Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of Century Magazine, and John Muir, were concerned that the high country and watershed for Yosemite Valley were being destroyed by grazing and timber interests. The two launched a successful campaign to persuade Congress to set aside the high country as a national park.
In 1906, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were returned to federal jurisdiction. In 1932, the Wawona Basin, including the Wawona Hotel and golf course were purchased and included in the National Park.
Wawona was once an Indian encampment and, later, was the site of a wayside hotel built in 1856 by Galen Clark. Known as Clark's Station. It served as a stop for visitors in the transit between Yosemite Valley and Mariposa. In 1864, when Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Groves were set aside for protection. Clark became the first guardian of the area. In 1875, the year the original Wawona road opened, the Washburn brothers purchased the area and build the Wawona Hotel that is still in operation today. Wawona focuses on Yosemite's human history. It is the setting of the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of relocated historic buildings and horse-drawn coaches.
Open since 1927, The Ahwahnee is one of America's most distinctive hotels, unparalleled in magnificence and charm. The hotel is a great American castle, massive and warm with huge cathedral ceilings, enormous stone hearths and richly colored Native American and Oriental rugs. The hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark on 02 Jun 1987.

Size and Visitation
Yosemite National Park embraces almost 1,200 square miles of scenic wild lands set aside in 1890 to preserve a portion of the central Sierra Nevada that stretches along California's eastern flank. The park ranges from 2,000 feet above sea level to more than 13,000 feet and has these major attractions; alpine wilderness, three groves of Giant Sequoias and the glacially carved Yosemite Valley with impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations.
Size - as of 23 Sep 2000
Federal Land - 759,530.26 acres
Non-Federal Land - 1,736.02 acres
Gross Area Acres - 761,266.28
Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours a day, year round with the highest visitation in June, July and August and the lowest in December, January and February.
Visitation - 1999
Total Recreation Visits - 3,493,607

The story of Yosemite began about 500 million years ago when the Sierra Nevada region lay beneath an ancient sea. Thick layers of sediment lay on the sea bed, which eventually was folded and twisted and thrust above sea level. Simultaneously molten rock welled up from deep within the earth and cooled slowly beneath the layers of sediment to form granite. Erosion gradually wore away almost all the overlying rock and exposed the granite. And even as uplifts continued to form the Sierra, water and then glaciers went to work to carve the face of Yosemite. Weathering and erosion continue to shape it today.
Tuolumne Meadows and the High Country - This section of Yosemite has some of the most rugged sublime scenery in the Sierra. In summer the meadows, lakes, and exposed granite slopes teem with life. Because of the short growing season, the plants and animals take maximum advantage of the warm days to grow, reproduce, and store food for the long, cold winter ahead.
The Tioga Road (California 120), crosses this area. This scenic highway, originally built as a mining road in 1882-83, was realigned and modernized in 1961. The road passes through an area of sparkling lakes, fragile meadows, domes, and lofty peaks that only 10,000 years ago lay under glacial ice. Scenic turnouts along the road afford superb views. At Tioga Pass the road crosses the Sierra's crest at 9,945 feet, the highest automobile pass in California.
Tuolumne Meadows (at 8,600 feet) is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra. It is 55 miles from Yosemite Valley via the Tioga Road. Long a focal point of summer activity, it is also growing in popularity as a winter mountaineering area. In the summer Tuolumne Meadows is a favorite starting point for backpacking trips and day hikes. The meadows are spectacular in early summer, abounding in wildflowers and wildlife.
Giant Sequoia Groves - The Mariposa Grove, 35 miles south of Yosemite Valley, is the largest of three Sequoia groves in Yosemite. The Tuolumne and Merced Groves are near Crane Flat. Despite human pressures, these towering trees, largest of all living things, have endured for thousands of years. Only in recent years, however, have we begun to understand the Giant Sequoia environment. During the last 100 years protection has sometimes been inadequate and sometimes excessive. For example, in the late 1800s tunnels were cut through two trees in the Mariposa Grove. Conversely, good intentions created another problem, protection from fire has resulted in adverse effects.
Sequoias are wonderfully adapted to fire. The wood and bark are fire-resistant. Black scars on a number of large trees that are still prospering indicate they have survived many scorching fires. Sequoia reproduction also depends on fire. The tiny seeds require minimal soil for germination, and seedlings need sunlight. Historically, frequent natural fires opened the forest, thinned out competing plant species, and left rich mineral soil behind. But years of fire suppression have allowed debris, such as fallen branches, to accumulate, stifling reproduction and allowing shade-tolerant trees to encroach. Prescribed fires, intended to simulate natural fires and improve the health of the forest, are now set by the National Park Service.
As you look at these trees, keep in mind that they have been here since the beginning of history in the western world. The Mariposa Grove's Grizzly Giant is 2,700 years old and is thought to be the oldest of all Sequoias.
Yosemite Valley - "The Incomparable Valley", it has been called, is probably the world's best known example of a glacier-carved canyon. Its leaping waterfalls, towering cliffs, rounded domes, and massive monoliths make it a preeminent natural marvel. These attributes have inspired poets, painters, photographers, and millions of visitors beginning with John Muir for more than one hundred years. Nowhere in Yosemite is the sense of scale so dramatic.
Yosemite Valley is characterized by sheer walls and a flat floor. Its evolution began when alpine glaciers lumbered through the canyon of the Merced River. The ice carved through weaker sections of granite plucking and scouring rock but leaving harder, more solid portions—such as El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks—intact and greatly enlarging the canyon that the Merced River had carved through successive uplifts of the Sierra. Finally the glacier began to melt and the terminal moraine left by the last glacial advance into the valley dammed the melting water to form ancient Lake Yosemite, which sat in the newly carved U-shaped valley. Sediment eventually filled in the lake, forming the flat valley floor you see today. This same process is now filling Mirror Lake at the base of Half Dome.
In contrast to the valley's sheer walls, the Merced Canyon along California 140 outside the park is a typical river-cut, V-shaped canyon, for the glaciers did not extend this far. Back from the rim of the valley itself, forested slopes show some glacial polish. But for the most part these areas also were not glaciated.
The valley is a mosaic of open meadows sprinkled with wildflowers and flowering shrubs, oak woodlands, and mixed-conifer forests of ponderosa pine, incense-cedar, and Douglas-fir. Wildlife from monarch butterflies to mule deer and black boars flourishes in these communities. Around the valley's perimeter, waterfalls, which reach their maximum flow in May and June, crash to the floor. Yosemite, Bridalveil, Vernal, Nevada, and Illilouette are the most prominent of these falls, some of which have little or no water from mid-August through early fall.

Yosemite's Wildlife

Yosemite National Park is home to 300 - 500 American black bears, Ursus americanus. Although usually referred to as the black bear, very few are black, and they are more likely to be found in a variety of colors ranging from black to brown, blond, or cinnamon.
Black bears are omnivores and will eat almost anything. They spend most of their days foraging for grasses, seeds, berries, acorns, and insects and occasionally feed on carrion. Bears tear open rotten logs or old stumps in search of insect larvae. Meadows also furnish a wide variety of food, such as grass, clover, lily, wild onion, and brodiaea bulbs. Research in Yosemite shows that plants, including acorns, comprise 75% of the diet of Yosemite bears. Bears are also fond of fruit, particularly manzanita, service berry, elderberry, and wild cherry. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, marmot, pocket gophers, and mice are also a part of their diet. In the fall, bears are often seen beneath oak trees searching for acorns. Unfortunately, many Yosemite bears have also perfected the skill of obtaining food from humans.
Bears are also opportunists which means that they can easily adapt to new foraging habitats, from meadows to manzanita bushes, from cars to picnic coolers. Opportunism is often seen as an indication of intelligence in animals and most researchers agree that bears are highly intelligent. Anyone who has lost food to a bear learns that a bear's strength and intelligence should never be underestimated. This enterprising nature of the black bear can be linked to the fact that cubs stay with their mothers for well over a year after birth. This allows mother bears time to teach cubs survival techniques that directly relate to opportunism. It is this characteristic which allows cubs to learn from their mothers how to break into cars for food.
The biggest threat to the survival of the black bear in Yosemite is the availability of human food; in cars, campgrounds, picnic areas, and the wilderness. Once a bear is rewarded by obtaining human food, it will often continue to seek it out and some may even resort to intimidating humans in order to get more. As their natural fear of people fades, they may become more aggressive. When they become too aggressive and human safety is threatened, bears are sometimes killed by park rangers.
Obtaining human food alters the natural foraging habits, population dynamics, biology, and behavior of bears. It is the ultimate goal of wildlife managers is to have all bears in Yosemite eating their natural diet, avoiding humans and our food altogether. It is your responsibility to store food properly when visiting Yosemite. Your actions can affect the lives of bears!
Bear biology
Black bears reach sexual maturity at the age of three. Males and females stay together for only a few days when mating occurs in June or July. Although black bears have a gestation period of seven months, females do not show signs of pregnancy until shortly before birth because they have a reproductive adaptation called delayed implantation. The fertilized egg does not attach to the females' uterine wall until autumn. If food is scarce and a female is unable to put on sufficient weight before hibernation, the fertilized egg will, as a result, spontaneously abort.
A black bear litter consists of one to three cubs weighing as little as half a pound each. The cubs immediately begin to nurse on the female's high fat milk and emerge from the den in early spring weighing as much as five pounds. The average adult bear stands three feet at the shoulder, measures five feet in length, and weighs between 200 and 300 pounds. However, some of Yosemite's bears have tipped the scales at over 650 pounds!
During winter months when food sources are scarce, Yosemite's black bears den in boulder caves and occasionally in the cavities of large trees. By metabolizing the body fat stored throughout the previous summer and fall they keep themselves warm. Black bears in the Sierra Nevada do not truly hibernate, since their body temperature and respiratory rate drop only slightly. Studies show that black bears, in general, have the ability to sleep for over five months without eating or eliminating waste.
The rising temperatures of spring and summer make it necessary for bears to concentrate on keeping themselves cool rather than warm. To stay cool, bears construct day beds or nests, usually in shady thickets or boulder piles. Much like dogs, they push aside leaves and twigs as they dig down to cool mineral soil. Black bears are most active during the crepuscular hours of the day, that is, dawn and dusk. During the warmest summer months, few bears are active during the day, becoming more and more nocturnal as summer temperatures rise. Many bears have found this cool, quiet time period to be the easiest opportunity in which to forage for natural foods, and search for human food because less people are present.
Perhaps no more than five bears co-existed within the granite walls of Yosemite Valley prior to the settlement of non-native people. But after more settlers and visitors began to live in and visit Yosemite, it was common to see as many as 60 bears at a time rummaging through garbage at a popular spot called Bear Hill. Back then, Yosemite bears were fed by rangers. The visitors who photographed them saw the bears as being synonymous with the park, and the bears themselves were quick to learn that human contact meant food.
In the 1920s and 1930s, human-conditioned bears were beginning to wreak havoc, injuring tourists and raiding restaurants nightly. In 1925, the National Park Service began luring bears away from restaurants and campsites with a trail of food scraps leading to open pit garbage dumps. This bear feeding program also attracted tourists who wanted to view bears close up. Responding to visitor demand, the National Park Service then designated a parking area and constructed bleacher seating at the dump in Yosemite Valley. Bear related injuries increased as people made attempts to get too close.
During the 1950s and 1960s, most of the open dumps in the Valley were closed due to the increased aggression by bears, which resulted in numerous visitor injuries. In 1971, the last dumps in the park were permanently closed. Bears learned quickly that they could get food from visitors staying in campgrounds, tent cabins, and the wilderness. In 1975, the National Park Service began a more comprehensive bear management program including research, public education, better methods of storing trash, and controlling problem bears. Many conditioned bears were killed by the National Park Service during the first years of this management program. Killing bears that had become conditioned to human food was the only way to decrease dangerous bear incidents. They could not be shipped off to zoos--which were more interested in exotic species, nor relocated outside the park, because surrounding U.S. Forest Service land managers and private owners did not want to deal with Yosemite's conditioned bears.
Unfortunately, many park visitors fail to understand the connection between leaving food for bears, in cars, unattended in campsites, in backpacks, and killing them. Widespread noncompliance with food storage regulations causes bears to become conditioned to human food, and to become a threat to human safety. Currently, food-conditioned bears are captured, tagged, and relocated to more remote bear habitat within the park. Most of these bears find their way back, usually within one week. Bears that continue to return and exhibit aggressive behavior must often be euthanized. A new strategy has been to release the bears where they were captured while subjecting them to a very negative experience. The hope is that the bear will associate that area with the negative experience and avoid it.
The goal of wildlife managers is to provide the park's black bears a home where they can thrive in a natural condition, dine on native plants and animals, and reach a normal life expectancy. To achieve this, one thing must happen in Yosemite: all human food, scented items, and garbage must be properly stored where bears cannot get them. This goal has been made possible with the help of the Yosemite Fund, which over the past 10 years, has donated food storage lockers for every park campsite, trailhead, parking lot, and rental tent camp. In 1998, the Yosemite Association launched a backcountry food storage program, and provided food canisters for hikers at a nominal rental fee. This program was expanded in 1999 when the Yosemite Association and Yosemite Concession Services combined efforts. Now, every backpacker who leaves from a Yosemite trailhead will have access to a canister for a $5.00 per trip rental fee. Also in 1999, Yosemite National Park received a budget increase of $500,000 to increase visitor education, enforcement of food storage regulations, cleanup of trash, and additional wildlife management staff to work with bears. Since 1999, incidences of bears obtaining human food have plummeted, in large part because of increased cooperation of park visitors in storing their food and trash properly.
As for the future of black bears in Yosemite, some look forward to a day when seeing bears in developed areas is a rare occurrence. So, just as some people marvel that one could see bears at dumps in the park, perhaps some day people will marvel that bears used to walk through campgrounds and parking lots. Instead, those same visitors will hopefully see wild bears in their natural settings.

California Bighorn Sheep
When pioneers came to this scenic area more than 100 years ago, many hundreds of bighorns roamed these mountains. Soon after, however, the California bighorn sheep were forced to extinction in Yosemite National Park by hunting, diseases, and the competition for food by domestic sheep. Today, through the efforts of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the Yosemite Association, the bighorns are once again part of Yosemite's wildlife population. Found along the eastern edge of the park, the bighorns are sometimes seen beside Highway 120 beyond Tuolumne Meadows.
Golden Eagle
The population of Golden Eagles, Aquila chrysaetos, within the boundaries of Yosemite is doing well. Golden eagles are not commonly seen in Yosemite Valley. They are superb fliers and hunters. Look for their golden crown of feathers. Young birds have white areas on wings and tails.
Great Gray Owl
Yosemite is home of the rare and endangered Great Gray Owl, Strix nebulosa. A current study is underway documenting the status, distribution, numbers, habits and health of the park population of this large, noble species. In some areas of the park you may hear their distinctive, deeply-toned hoot."
This silver-grey member of the canine family is seen year round. At night you may hear them singing in a chorus of howls, barks and yodels. Coyotes, Canis latrans, are primarily predators of field mice and squirrels, though they have learned to beg from people. Please do not feed them, as human food is harmful to them, they may bite and conditioning them to seek food from people makes them vulnerable to being hit by passing cars.
Mule Deer
All the deer in Yosemite are mule deer. Often seen in or near meadows browsing or grazing, the naturally timid mule deer have grown accustomed to seeing people. More attacks on humans occur by deer than by bears. Though they appear to be tame and may even approach you, the California mule deer is a wild animal and will charge if cornered or threatened. Its hooves and antlers are sharp. Always leave the deer a wide area to walk away and, like all other animals in the park, never tempt them with food.
A variety of tree and ground squirrels can be found throughout Yosemite. One of the traditional favorites is the western gray squirrel, Sciurus griseus. During mating season (twice a year) they become animated, chasing one another, fighting and making noise. Look for the impressive gray, bushy tail.
Steller's Jay
This comic, bright blue bird with pointed gray-black crest has been dubbed the "camp robber" for the sly way in which it steals a bit of food from a camp table. The distinctive caw-like screech of the Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, is often an alert to others that food has been found.
Peregrine Falcon
An endangered species, the Peregrine Falcon has returned to Yosemite Valley. Efforts by the National Park Service, Yosemite Association and Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group and other organizations have augmented the population that reappeared in the park in the late 1970's. The Peregrines, nesting in Yosemite, are carefully watched and protected by the Park Service.

Yosemite Trees
Of the 27 varieties of trees in the park, these four are easy to identify, due to their impressive size and distinctive characteristics:
California black oak is abundant in Yosemite Valley. These large deciduous trees, with yellow-green leaves and dark trunks, produce acorns which the Miwok Indians ground into nutritious flour.
The incense-cedar has a feathery reddish bark which is often confused with the giant sequoia. Incense-cedars grow abundantly throughout the Sierra, while sequoias grow only in limited numbers of groves.
The giant sequoias are the largest trees on earth. Three groves of them are located in the park: the Mariposa Grove near the southern entrance (Highway 41); the Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat on the Tioga Road; and the Merced Grove, off the Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the Big Oak Flat Entrance. The giant sequoia often lives from 1,000 to 3,000 years. A few of these big trees were planted by settlers in Yosemite Valley, though they are not native to the Valley.
The ponderosa pine can be identified by its bark made up of irregularly shaped plates separated by dark furrows. Mature trees are considerably wide at the base with a straight trunk rising many feet before reaching the branches.

Giant Sequoias
The Big Tree is Nature's forest masterpiece and so far as I know, the greatest of living things.
John Muir
Although not the oldest living things, a distinction held by the bristlecone pine, giant sequoias are the largest in total volume. Outstanding trees are 2,500 to 3,000 years old, measure up to 35 ft (11 m) in diameter, and tower to heights of 250 to 300 ft (76 m to 91 m) above the ground. Single sequoia limbs may be larger than record-size trees of other species. There seem to be no limits on the trees' growth. Sequoias typically do not die of old age: they usually die by toppling.
Is a sequoia a redwood?
What is the difference between sequoias and redwoods? The giant sequoia, a member of the redwood family, has a column-like trunk, huge stout branches, and cinnamon-colored bark. Its scientific name is Sequoiadendron giganteum. It is sometimes called the Sierra redwood. The taller more slender coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, has the kind of profile and branch structure associated with most conifers. It is named for the color of its heartwood, not its brownish bark. A third species, the dawn redwood, is native to China.
Giant sequoias occur only in about 75 groves scattered between 4,500 and 7,000 ft (1,372 and 2,133 m) in elevation on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. Some groves containa few trees, others several thousand. The sequoias are not isolated from other trees, but grow in association with white fir, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, and incense-cedar. What makes them stand out from the others is their tremendous size.
Fire: rebirth and renewal
Near the bases of these giants, the bark may be 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) thick; however the bark on the limbs is very thin. This soft, fibrous bark is fire resistant and protects the growth layer from periodic fires ignited by lightening. Intense heat generated by the debris accumulated at the tree's base, along with the effect of repeated fires, can breach the bark. However, the tree's water-based sap also enhances the tree's heat tolerance. Burn scars and the blackened, hollow trunks of some older, yet healthy, trees attest to the many fires that have burned through the groves over the centuries.
Fire prepares the seed bed by burning off the duff (decomposing bark, needles, and other vegetation) that accumulates on the forest floor. Burning off the duff exposes bare mineral soil, which giant sequoia seedlings need in order to germinate. The park routinely conducts prescribed burns in the sequoia groves in order to mimic the natural cycle of fire. Fires not only bare the soil but also brun off competing smaller species, such as the shade tolerant white fir and incense-cedar.
From seeds to saplings
Giant sequoias sprout only from seeds--seeds so small and light they resemble flakes of oatmeal. A 1 ounce (30 grams) package would contain about 57,000 seeds. The delicate seeds are procuded in cones that take two years to develop. Although the size of a chicken's egg, each cone contains 200 to 300 seeds.
Giant sequoias often retain the green cones alive on the tree for up to 20 or more years. Outside forces, such as fire, insect larvae, and Douglas squirrels, are required to help the tree disperse its seeds.
Contact with the ground does not assure the seeds will germinate. Seeds contain little energy, producing a tap root that is not more than one inch (2.5 cm) long. If this tiny root fails to reach mineral soil, it will be unable to transport the nutrients and water necessary to keep the sequoia sprout alive.
The maturing sequoia
Sequoia saplings grow to their maximum height within several hundred years. At this time, they are conical, like an upside-down ice cream cone. The limbs often grow along the entire length of the trunk. After reaching their maximum height, the trunks begin to grow outward more quickly. The bark thickens, the lower limbs fall off, and the trunk expands to form the shape of a huge column. In addition, the crown of the tree rounds and the large limbs become craggy in appearance as this forest monarch comes of age.
Sequoia groves
The largest groves and biggest individual sequoias are found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, in the southern Sierra Nevada. Many mature sequoias also live exist in Yosemite National Park in three groves: the Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove, and Merced Grove. The Mariposa Grove, the largest of the three groves, is well known for the Grizzly Giant (once thought to be the oldest living sequoia) and the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree. The Wawona Tunnel Tree became world-famous when an opening was cut through the tree in 1881. For the next 88 years, people came, first in stages and then in automobiles, to ride through this tree. As a result of wet snow, soggy soil, high winds, and perhaps combined with the weakening of the tree from the tunnel, the tree toppled in the winter of 1968/1969. You can still visit this fallen tree, as well as still walk through the California Tunnel Tree (carved out in 1895), near the Grizzly Giant.


The longest part of El Capitan's face is in the middle, around "The Nose." It rises over 3000 feet from the valley floor, which is around 3500 feet elevation. In the above shot, you can see Half Dome just to the right of El Cap's lower right shoulder. The right side of El Cap is shorter; it ranges from the full 3000 to only about 1000 feet. This is made up for by steepness, it's overhanging from the ground to the top. BASE jumpers love it, even though their game is illegal -- but, that is a different story. The extreme steepness of the right side is due to the North America shaped areas of more friable Dioritic rock. In contrast, the left side is longer, generally around vertical with iron hard Granitic rock.
There are over 70 different routes up this face, although, their difficulties vary dramatically. Most of them require both Aid and Free Climbing, in some combination. "Aid Climbing" is used when the rock is too shear and steep to climb using only the climber's body, so the rope and gear must also be climbed. "Free Climbing," on the other hand, is a game where climbers try not to use the gear and rope for any thing other than a safety net, in case they fall. Free Climbing, when possible, is quicker, but physically demanding. Aid is technically demanding, but sure and steady. Hard Aid is just plain scary.
Frequently asked questions:
How long does it take?
The average ascent of El Cap takes about 4 days, although, it has been done as fast as 4 1/2 hours -- That's the record on the nose route, the easiest route up the middle. On the other extreme, it has taken as much as 40 days, and can easily take 7-9 days. The length of an ascent depends on plenty: the weather, the length and difficulty of the route, the experience of the team, the time of year (the length of the days), the number of times that the route has been previously climbed, and more...
What do you eat?
It doesn't help to bring freeze dried food, because we would just have to bring up the water too. We bring whatever we like, but on the shorter routes and summer routes we don't bring a stove. As you might imagine, breads/bagels, canned food (canned fruit is a tremendous hit up there), cheese, fruit, that sort of thing.
How do you sleep?
Sometimes we sleep on natural ledges on the cliff, but sometimes we have to bring Portaledges. A portaledge is a metal frame with a hammock strung tight within it, which folds up when not in use. The bed then attaches to a secure point on the rock, that we rig, by adjustable straps on the corners. There's also a rain-fly that goes over this contraption in bad weather. Natural ledges can be comfortable, but there is no changing them, so they can also be very uncomfortable. After all of the work of the day, fatigue makes it easy to sleep. No matter what, we are tied in to the cliff at all times, even while sleeping.
How much do you bring?
A 2 man team that plans to spend 6 days might start out with over 200 pounds of gear, which is hauled up, from anchor to anchor, in a big haul bag on the end of a rope. We use a hauling system with a pulley and a cam, to stop the rope from pulling back out. This is an approximate break down:
7-8 gallons of H2O, 60 lbs
food, 35 lbs
clothes and personals, 40 lbs
2 sleeping bags and 2 pads, 20 lbs
2 portaledges with rain flys, 35 lbs
On top of these things are the ropes (2-3 @ 8 lbs each) and hardware. If pitons are required then the pins, carabiners, wedges of metal called stoppers, camming devices, and other hardware weigh 30 - 60 lbs. If no pins are required then "the racks" check in at 15 - 30 lbs. Of course, as you climb the food and water weight disappears. Even so, there is usually a fair bit to carry down.
How do you get down?
There are a number of options for the descent. There are a couple of long trails -- about 10 miles each. The most popular method, however, down the east shoulder, the East Ledges Descent. It starts with a 1/4 mile hike, but steep and treacherous, to a point where you can rappel 3 rope lengths past a steep section. From there, you continue scrambling down a steep, loose, dirty, climber's trail to the valley floor. With big packs this journey can take all day.
There is more big wall information at the John Middendorff web site. John started A5 Adventures where he designed and manufactured quality wall climbing gear for many years. A5 is now a part of The North Face.

Yosemite National Park covers a huge area of the western Sierra Nevada mountains in central California and has innumerable lakes,meadows, forests and rocky summits with endless unspoilt Alpine scenery. At the centre is Yosemite Valley, a half-mile deep depression carved by glaciers during the last ice age, which now has soaring 3,000 foot high granite domes and many powerful waterfalls, includingthe third and seventh highest in the world. The area received National Park status in 1880, as a result of the efforts of the pioneering Scottish naturalist John Muir, and has grown in popularity ever since.

The Merced River runs through the valley, and is followed either side by two scenic drives. Unfortunately this area is the preferred destination of three million visitors each year, most of whom do little more than drive around the congested roads and stop at neighbouring viewpoints.
Parts of the valley have become spoilt by badly-planned developments, overcrowding and commercialism; however in January 1997 severe flooding destroyed half the campsites and one third of the buildings. It was decided that many would not be rebuilt, and instead the land is to be returned to nature. Other improvement measures include a reduction in the number of roads available to private cars and increased use of shuttle buses, as is the case, for example, with Zion Canyon in Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Still, even in the heart of Yosemite Valley, perfect solitude is only a 30 minute walk away along one of the many trails leading into the wilderness, and despite the overcrowding, the scenic drive is a must for any visitor to California. Highlights include the various waterfalls that tumble into the valley, and Glacier Point, an elevated overlook with arguably the best easily-reached view in the whole of the Sierra Nevada range.

Yosemite is 200 miles east of San Francisco; three state roads (CA 120, CA 140 and CA 41) approach from the west and converge on the lower end of the valley. CA 120 continues east across the Sierras via the Tioga Pass, a route that is often closed by snow until July. South of here there are no through roads across the mountains for 140 miles. At the western end of the valley where the mountains at either side come close together, the roads become narrow, cut precariously into the cliffsides, and pass through several tunnels - these open to reveal an astonishing vista of vertical cliffs and green woodland, fading into the hazy distance; this is Yosemite Valley, central attraction of the park.


Yosemite is home to variety of birds. The most commonly seen birds include the Stellar's jay, American robin, Brewer's blackbird, acorn woodpecker, raven, and black-headed grosbeak. In spring, listen for the splendid glissade of the red-wing blackbrid (most often seen in meadows) or watch the American dipper dart in and out of creek and river rapids.
Some of the more sought-after birds to see in Yosemite include the great gray owl, Peregrine falcon, pileated woodpecker, and northern goshawk.
In general quiet forests away from developed areas and meadows (particularly in the mornings) are the best places to see some of the less common birds.

Bring along or buy a plant key or book about trees or wildflowers. Then wander the meadows and forests trying to identify the various plants and trees. It can be a rewarding, educational, and fun experience!
Wildflowers typically begin appearing in spring at the lower elevations (around El Portal, just outside the park along Highway 140). Flowers become showy above Yosemite Valley sometime in June (Pacific dogwoods start blooming in May), and at Tuolumne Meadows in July.

The Valley
Yosemite Valley is world famous for its impressive waterfalls, cliffs, and unusual rock formations. It is open year-round and is reached via Highway 41 from Fresno, Highway 140 from Merced, Highway 120 from Manteca, and in later spring through late fall via Highway 120 from Lee Vining (the Tioga Road. Many activities and services are available in Yosemite Valley. A few of its most famous attractions are described below.

Bridalveil Fall
The Yosemite Indians (Ahwahneechee) called this place "Pohono" or spirit of the puffing wind. The wind swirls about this place, often lifting Bridalveil Fall and blowing it sideways.

El Capitan
This massive monolith is the largest single granite rock on earth, standing nearly 4,000 feet from base to summit. Rock climbers from around the world come to challenge their abilities on the face of El Capitan. From the turnout along El Capitan meadow, spring to fall, you can spot them inching their way up the sheer walls. But, please do not walk into this meadow or picnic upon it, as it and most other meadows in the national park are easily damaged.

Four Mile and Panorama Trails
These trails travel along spectacular routes from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. The Four-Mile Trail is a strenuous 3 to 4 hour climb to Glacier Point, beginning on Southside Drive at road marker V 18. The more moderate route is along the Panorama Trail, 8.5 miles, and taking 4 to 6 hours one way. It begins at Happy Isles. A hiker's bus can be taken from yosemite Valley to Glacier Point.

Gates of the Valley
Along Northside Drive, past El Capitan Meadow, you will find a turnout which looks back toward El Capitan. It is a serene spot beside the Merced River. Here you'll find one of the best Valley-level views of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and the Valley.

Glacier Point
Walk to the edge and catch your breath along with one of the most spectacular overlooks on earth. From this perch on the rim of Yosemite Valley, you'll look down 3,214 feet to the Valley floor and have an eagle's view, an overlook, with a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the High Sierra. It is located 30 miles (one hour) from Yosemite Valley. Take Highway 41 for fourteen miles to the Chinquapin junction, then turn left onto Glacier Point Road. The road ends at Glacier Point. In winter, the road is plowed as far as the Badger Pass Ski area and Glacier Point can be reached via skis or snowshoes only.

Half Dome
Yosemite's most distinctive feature, Half Dome, dominates the valley view. Half Dome rises 4,733 feet from the valley floor and at 87 million years old, it is the youngest plutonic rock in the valley. A hike to the top of Half Dome provides the physically fit with a strenuous walk, intimidating climb and rewarding view. This trek is not to be undertaken without care and preparation.

Happy Isles
No one can leave this place unhappy, or so the saying goes. The Merced River rushes around two little islands near Shuttle Bus Stop #16. Bridges connect foot paths to the islands. Bring a picnic lunch or get a snack at the snack stand. The trails that lead to Vernal and Nevada Falls begin here.

Hetch Hetchy
Hetch Hetchy, similar in character to Yosemite Valley, is located near the Highway 120 West (Big Oak Flat) entrance. The name "Hetch Hetchy" is derived from a Miwok Indian word for a grass with edible seeds which grew abundantly there. In 1913, after a lengthy legal battle, famed Sierra conservationist John Muir lost his fight to save the valley from being dammed. Today a large hydroelectric dam on the site holds water for the City of San Francisco. Studies are now being made as to whether it is feasible to remove the dam and restore Hetch Hetchy to its former wilderness state.

Indian Village of Ahwahnee
Located behind the Yosemite Museum and always open. Sometimes there is the opportunity to join Indian Cultural Program staff for demonstrations or programs about Ahwahneechee skills and culture.

Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, located at the southernmost end of Yosemite, is the largest stand of giant sequoias in the park. Allow 1.25 hours driving time from Yosemite Valley. Cars are prohibited beyond the parking area, however many giant sequoias can be seen from there. The access road to the Grove may close for extended periods due to heavy snowfall. Call 209-372-0200 for current road and weather information. If the access road is closed, add an extra half-hour walking time from the South Entrance of the park to the Grove.

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is a moderately easy 1-mile walk from Shuttle Bus Stop #17. Here you will find impressive views and mirror reflections of Tenaya Canyon during spring and early summer. The lake is evolving into a meadow, drying up by summer's end... a natural process. A 3-mile trail loops the lake. If you're bicycling, park your bike at the base of the Mirror Lake hill and walk to the lake; riding back down on the hill is dangerous.

Mono Lake
On the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada is Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America. The lake has high concentrations of salt and alkali. A significant migratory bird resting area, Mono Lake provides the nesting grounds for 90% of the California Gull population. Along the shores of Mono Lake are starkly-shaped calcium formations called "Tufa Towers."

Museum Gallery
Hours of operation vary. Check door of Gallery for current schedule. Exhibits may include historic paintings from the Yosemite Museum collection (through 15 February), and Yosemite Renaissance XII, contemporary works of art selected from juried competition (opens 28 February).

Pioneer Yosemite History Center
See horse drawn wagons, walk across a covered bridge, and visit historic buildings out of Yosemite's past. Take a 30-minute, self-guided tour through the Pioneer Yosemite History Center and learn about people and events of Yosemite. The Center is always open, and explanatory signs and brochures are available. Located adjacent to the Wawona General Store, across the Covered Bridge.

Sentinel Dome
There are several fine hikes long the Glacier Point road. One is the 2.2 mile round-trip out to Sentinel Dome from the Sentinel Dome-Taft Point trail head along the Glacier Point Road. The hike to the top is a small price to pay for the 360 degree view.
The Miwok in Yosemite is a short loop trail that winds through a reconstructed Miwok-Paiute Village in the Indian Village of Ahwahnee. It introduces Southern Miwok life, history, and language. The trail begins behind the Yosemite Museum building.

Tunnel View
Located just below "Inspiration Point," the turnout at the eastern end of the Wawona tunnel on Highway 41 has one of the most photographed vistas on earth. It provides the classic view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Fall.

Tuolumne Grove of Big Trees
This grove of giant sequoia stands near the junction of Highway 120 and Tioga Pass (at Crane Flat). The grove is a one mile hike from the parking lot at Crane Flat on Tioga Road. To avoid the one-way trip, park your car and walk the short distance into the grove.

Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass
Tioga Pass (Highway 120 East), at 9,941 feet is the highest vehicle pass in California. A number of scenic pullouts and parking areas are located along the way. A wonderful stop is found at Tenaya Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra. Farther on, Tuolumne Meadows is the largest subalpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. California bighorn sheep can sometimes be seen grazing along the Tioga Road beyond the eastern boundary of the park. Closed in winter.

Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and the Mist Trail
Among the most popular hikes in Yosemite Valley is the Mist Trail. This hike starts at Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) and climbs beside the scenic Merced River to Vernal Fall (317-ft drop) and Nevada Fall (594-ft. drop). The first mile is moderately difficult. Beyond the Vernal Fall view footbridge, the Mist Trail is a strenuous climb. However, you are rewarded by seeing rainbows in the mist of the falls when the light is at the right angle, and Nevada Fall is awesome. Carry a poncho or rain jacket in springtime.

Yosemite Cemetery
This historic cemetery is located across the street and just west of the Yosemite Museum. People buried here include Native Americans, casual park visitors, and people who played important roles in the development of what is now Yosemite National Park. A Guide to the Yosemite Cemetery is available at the Valley Visitor Center.

Yosemite Falls
The base of Yosemite Falls is an easy walk from Shuttle Bus Stop #7 near the Yosemite Lodge. Impressive views are seen on the path to the falls. The upper and lower falls, connected by the intermediate cascades, drop 2,425 feet, making them the highest in all of North America and fifth tallest in the world.

Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees
Travel to the southern end of the park on Highway 41. At Wawona, you'll find a lovely Victorian hotel of the 1800's and the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Six miles farther south is the magnificent Mariposa grove of giant sequoias.


The Miwok Indians who lived in Yosemite were called the Ahwaneechee (Ah-wah-nee-chee). The Ahwaneechee tribe has populated Yosemite for nearly 4,000 years. At one time the Ahwanee tribe was struck with a fatal sickness that caused many to die and the survivors to flee from the Valley and join other tribes. For many years afterwards, the Valley was unpopulated. Finally Tenaya, who claimed to be descended from an Ahwaneechee chief, left the Monos, where he had been born and raised. He gathered some of his father's old tribe around him, visited the Valley and claimed it as the birth right of his people.
The Eastern Miwok Indians first saw white people when Spanish explorers arrived in the late 1700's. The white people, especially the white people looking for gold, began to take over the Indian land. Soon the two groups started fighting, so the government sent Major Savage and his men to kill or remove the Indians from Yosemite. It was during this campaign that Major Savage and his men discovered the Yosemite Valley. The Yosemite Indians were moved to a reservation near Fresno. Although they had plenty of food and a place to live, they became very homesick. Chief Tenaya especially missed the mountains of Yosemite. Tenaya and his family were finally allowed to return. Soon after he returned to Yosemite they were attacked by the Mono's, a tribe from the Eastern side of the Sierra's and Chief Tenaya was killed. In 1855 all the Indians on the reservation were allowed to return to their original homes. Since that time, they have lived more or less at peace with the ! white settlers.

One of the main foods the Miwok ate was acorns. The acorns were mainly from Black Oak trees. Acorns were a vital food source for the people. The women would crack and shell the acorns, then dry them. After drying, they would remove the spoiled meats and pound the kernels into a fine yellow meal. Then, they would leach the acorns. Leaching would remove the bitter tasting tannin from the meal. To leach the acorns they would pour water over the acorns while the acorns were in a basin of sand. Acorns made mainly three things depending on the fineness of the meal. The fine meal was used for gruel or thin soup. The middle product was used for mush and the coarser materials made small patties cooked on hot flat rocks. Acorns were kept and stored in a chuck-ah. A chuck-ah is a small building made of intertwined tree branches and bushes. One chuck-ah could hold almost a winter's worth of acorns. Acorns were taken as needed from a hole in the side of the chuck-ah.

Another main source of food for the Miwoks was from hunting and fishing. They ate deer that they killed using spears and arrows made with obsidian points. They also ate squirrels,Quail, rabbits and bird meat. The favorite of fish was Rainbow Trout. The Miwok usually cooked the fish or dried them for winter use.
The Miwok also ate mushrooms, berries, bulbs, insects and at least 37 different plants.Some of the bulbs they ate were Soaproots, Corn Lily and Swamp Onions. Some of the berries were Green Manzanita Berries, White Leaf Manzanita Berries, Gooseberries, Currants, Wild Strawberries and Elderberries.
Like most Native American Tribes, the Miwok depended a great deal on ritual and wild plants for curing sickness and disease.
§ Yarrow: bad colds, influenza, leaves and flowers were soaked and drunk or applied externally. Mashed leaves were bound to wounds to stop pain.
§ Milkweed: milkweed milk applied to warts.
§ Monkey Flower: diarrhea, root used to make tea.
§ Wild Rose: leaves and berries soaked and drunk to relieve pain.
§ Nettle: root used in bath to relieve rheumatism.
§ White Leaf Manzanita: tea brewed from bark to relieve diarrhea.
§ Horsetail Equisitism: tea to relieve fever and skin irritations and a general medicine; boil the cleaned shoots for five minutes.
§ Mountain Misery: a tea was made of this to relieve rheumatism, treat acne, venereal diseases, measles and chicken pox. The leaves were soaked in hot water and drunk hot. A medicine man or shaman would never treat skin eruption diseases.
§ Snow Plant: Indians dried and made a powder of this for use as a wash for ulcers and sore mouth and toothache. Pharmacopeia says the plant is poisonous; however, the Indians probably never swallowed it.
This is only a small list of the plants that the Miwoks used. If we compare the Miwok medicine to that of the white man's medical practice 150 years ago, we find that the Natives were not the lazy and ignorant people some historians have made them to be.

Have you ever thought about how lucky you are to have a nice house with electricity and and modern appliances? How about your TV, you probably couldn't live without your TV now could you? Well, Miwok kids were not half as lucky as us. Just think a Miwok child, maybe your age, lived in a bark slab u-ma-cha house, where a"modern" appliance was the acorn granary outside where their mom ground acorns for dinner. The u-ma-cha was made of bark slab sometimes with an inner layer of pine needles.An outer layer of dirt and mud was piled against the lower reaches. It was usually eight to fifteen feet in diameter. For the door a smaller slab of bark was used. An u-ma-cha could house six people at one time. Can you imagine being stuck in an u-ma-cha with all of your brothers and sisters? Well, you would be able to if you were a Miwok.
Instead of taking a bath you would get in a sweat house get all hot and sweaty then run out and jump into a nearby stream. And then you wouldn't smell so bad anymore. At night you would sleep on a deerskin and if you were well-to-do you slept on a willow frame that would just barely lift you off the ground. If you were the chief you slept on a bearskin. The fire was in the center of the u-ma-cha and it was used for cooking; depending on the food and weather.
The ceremonial house was a very large structure in the center of the village. The roof was carefully laid in a certain fashion. The first layer had willow brush laid sideways on top of the horizontal roof timbers. Over it was placed at a right angle a second layer of willow brush.After it a layer of thick shrub then a layer of earth.And after it was all finished it must measure 5inches thick. The structure was built over a large pit. Center poles and beams supported the roof.Miwok shelters were simple yet they never had to move, because they had such a plentiful food source in Yosemite Valley.

Tools and Weapons
The Yosemite Indians used bone and deer antlers to make a variety of tools and implements. Limb bones of the jack rabbit and grouse became whistles used for ceremonial dances. The great obsidian quarries near Mono Lake supplied material Piqutes brought chunks of the obsidian up to the large trading sites in the Sierra where the Yosemites met them. The Yosemites bartered acorns and other goods for the obsidian they needed. They hammered off pieces of suitable size for tools and arrowheads from the larger chunks, and then carried these "blanks" back to their villages in deerskin sacks. Small pieces of obsidian were roughly shaped with an antler tool and finished with a smaller antler implement. The Yosemites grasped the obsidian in the palm of the hand, protected by a buckskin pad, and exerted pressure on it with the end of an antler tool.
Before The Hunt
To cleanse the body until it was free of odors that might frighten the prey and to loosen up their muscles for the chase, the Miwok's would go through a thorough course of sweating and cleansing. A fire was built inside a sweat house that produced heat and not steam. After they got very hot and sweaty the hunters would jump into the icy stream. Sometimes this process was repeated from before dawn of the day of the hunt until they felt free of bodily odor. They also rubbed their bodies and clothing, top to bottom, with Mugwort, a minty smelling plant.
Hunting Deer
The deer was the Miwok's most important source of meat. Deer were obtained in five ways: (1) stretching a net over a deer trail during winter and spring migrations; (2) V-shaped brush fence with traps set in openings at the angle of the V and hunters would drive the deer into the V; (3) by driving the animals over a cliff; (4) by sitting close enough to shoot them with a bow and arrow or (5) by running down an animal. Some hunters wore a false deer head and were able to get closer to the deer.
Hunting Other Mammals
The rabbit was the Miwoks next most important food animal after the deer. They were caught with nets and snares. Beavers and squirrels were hunted down by bow and arrow. The quail, the most important food bird of the Miwok, were taken by means of human hair snares set in small openings along a brush fence.
Fish were caught by means of a net, spear, or by hand. When the water was low in late spring or summer the Yosemites stupefied fish with pulverized soaproot mixed with soil and water. For the fish, it was a form of strangulation, causing them to rise to the surface where they could be easily captured by Indians with scoop baskets. The Indians were lucky to live in a place where food was easy to get to.


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