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Thursday, August 25, 2016

August 25, 2016: The National Park Service Turns 100

A Mirror of Us: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

In August 2009 my beloved and I were vacationing in San Francisco when suddenly I was presented with an idea . . . almost as if it was an order being given. . . . “Go to Yosemite National Park,” it said. Being from New Jersey, and never having been to California or a national park before, I had no idea what we were in for.
Tom Caverly, “Unexpected Amazement,” Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories in Yosemite (Yosemite Conservancy, 2014)

“Unexpected Amazement”

At Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, 1911
California Historical Society
This is the final blog in our series “A Mirror of Us: CHS Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial.” We chose to title our series “A Mirror of Us” for its slight play on words. The series began and now ends with the above photo of early tourists in Yosemite having their photo taken at Mirror Lake, a spectacular setting with selfie-like appeal. 

Mirror Lake, Yosemite
California Historical Society

“A Mirror of Us” also sought to show how the national parks have been a mirror of the times, environmentally, socially, and politically. No park came into being easily, and many presaged social and environmental battles that continue today. No park has been immune to issues affecting mainstream society.

In 1864 Yosemite was the first place to be set aside and preserved by the federal government when, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant. Later efforts by John Muir and others led to the park earning full National Park status on October 1, 1890. It didn’t take long for tourists to discover Yosemite—and the pilgrimage was on.

The creation of the park did not come without controversy, however. From its earliest days of discovery by Americans in the early 1850s, Yosemite was emblematic of the often tragic course of westward expansion, when its original native people, the Ahwahneechee, were driven out of Yosemite Valley to make way for American settlement.

Charles C. Pierce, Paiute Indian Acorn Granary, Yosemite National Park, c. 1901
California Historical Society

During the 1910s Yosemite became the site of one of the greatest environmental battles of all time—one that remains controversial today: the flooding of the park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley by the City of San Francisco.

Isaiah West Taber, View across Hetch Hetchy Valley before the O’Shaughnessy Dam, c. 1900
Sierra Club Bulletin 6, no. 4 (January 1908)

Hetch Hetchy Valley, 2002
Courtesy of Daniel Mayer

And later, in 1970, as the streets of the nation were erupting in protest, Stoneman Meadow in Yosemite Valley was the site of an all-out riot between young “hippies” and park police who differed in their opinions about what constituted appropriate ways of enjoying the valley’s sublime scenery.

Confrontation between Rangers and Hippies, July 4 weekend, 1970
Still from CBS News Archive film; courtesy of Kerry Tremain

No National Park exists in a vacuum.

It is a simple fact, though, that people have treasured Yosemite National Park since long before it obtained National Park status. To celebrate Yosemite, and the National Park Service Centennial, we share images of Yosemite National Park and memories of people simply and joyously celebrating there.

Two Women in Yosemite National Park, date unknown
California Historical Society 
My license plate in Kentucky reads: YOSMTE. It is my happy, soul-satisfying refuge from the world.
Ann Jones, “Working on Five Generations,” Inspiring Generations

Bridalveil Falls, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

 As we approached the park, the landscape became more and more beautiful. I have never experienced anything quite like it. And once we entered the park I was blown away.
Tom Caverly, “Unexpected Amazement,” Inspiring Generations

 Panoramic View of Tourists, Yosemite National Park, c. 1917
California Historical Society

Half Dome, Evening, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

Half Dome is more a beloved friend than a granite monolith keeping watch over the Valley. One year I climbed up his back just to see from his point of view. Yosemite is a place more dear than Grandma’s house . . . . I simply need it to stay alive.
Rebecca Waddell, “The Day I Discovered Ashes,” from Inspiring Generations

Yosemite Visitors atop Glacier Point, date unknown
California Historical Society

Tuolumne River, Tuolumne Meadows, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

The air in the high mountains is so clean, and the trees, grass, birds and flowers are fascinating beyond description . . . . Beautiful flowers bloom in a stream of icy water. I feel only gratitude. I want to bring you and our friends here, and I will.
Chiura Obata to Haruko Obata, 1927, from Obata’s Yosemite

Yosemite Indian Squaw, 107 Years Old, date unknown
California Historical Society

 After a few months of living in Yosemite I decided I never wanted to leave. I met a Yosemite Indian woman, an Ahwahneechee who was a direct descendant of Chief Tenaya. We married and had two children. We all love Yosemite. It is a park of our culture, our ceremonies . . . . We are fighting to protect and preserve it for the future of humanity. Ah Ho. All my relations.
Tom Vasquez, “Yosemitebear,” Inspiring Generations

Bridal Couple, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

Group of Women at Camp Curry, Yosemite National Park, date unknown
California Historical Society

 I live in Yosemite . . . . It’s not that I am ashamed. No, quite the contrary—I am proud to call Yosemite my home. However, you drop the Y-bomb, and suddenly the pleasant vapidity of get-to-know-you banter veers down an ever-predictable and utterly confounding path.
“Wow.”  (The first word of response is always “wow.”) …”What’s that like?”
Amazing, drop-dead amazing.
Katie Wallace,Where Are You From?,” Inspiring Generations

Happy Tourist, 2014
Courtesy of Alison Moore

Alison Moore
Strategic Initiatives Liaison

Read more in the Mirror of Us: CHS Celebrates the National Park Service Centennial series:

Redwood National and State Parks


Learn more about the NPS Centennial Initiative

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