“The Mountains are calling and I must go”- John Muir
On October 1st 1890 the United States Congress established Yosemite as a National Park. Located in northern-California, the park has been under national protection since Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864.
According to the park service, the earliest evidence of humans in the area is approximately 10,000 years old. For centuries humans lived in the area but when the gold rush of the mid 19th century took over the area there began a growing concern for the impact that humans were having on the landscape. In the 1850’s, after a land war between white settlers and the native Ahwahneechee tribe, a growing number of tourists were coming west. They came to view the natural beauties of the land and they were drawn their by a growing number of businessmen who saw tourism as a great money maker. Hotels, stores, camp grounds, and roads were all established to provide for the new visitors. This new business took its tole on the natural beauty of the land. Trash became a real problem, so did the feeding of wildlife. Visitors would routinely carve their names into trees that were thousands of years old. A tunnel had been carved into a 2,300 year old tree. Something had to be done to protect the beauty of the area before it was lost forever.
The 1864 grant was the first instance of a park being set aside for preservation and public use but it was not sufficient to stop the damage. The act did not allow for the removal of homesteaders from the area. In 1872 the first national park was established in Yellowstone Wyoming and by 1889 the now famous naturalist John Muir had found his way to the Yosemite valley where he saw the devastating effects of tourism and extensive live stock grazing.
As he would do throughout much of his life throughout the country, Muir made it his mission to protect the natural beauty of northern-California. Working in tandem with Robert Underwood Johnson of Century Magazine, the two (and others) successfully lobbied members of the U.S. Congress to make Yosemite the third National Park.
Through this enactment the area eventually came under control of the US army who were able to instill the new laws governing the new park. Live stock grazing was ended. Those who carved their names into trees and wrote them in the rocks were tracked down (at the local hotel) and forced to return to the scene of the crime and remove their mark. Gradually, a greater respect for the land was instilled into the park visitors whether they wanted it or not.
The National Park Service was established in 1916 and they have since maintained the natural beauty of the park. Today you can visit the beautiful Yosemite valley and experience the beauty of the sequoias, the grandeur of the Sierra-Nevada mountain range, the granite cliffs, beautiful waterfalls and majestic cliffs because of an act signed 127 years ago today.
Visit the Yosemite National Park Website here.
Also, Check out the Ken Burns Documentary