Yosemite Valley

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For the census-designated place, seeYosemite Valley, California.

U.S. National Register of Historic Places

California Historical Landmark790

Herbert MaierFrederick Law OlmstedGilbert Stanley UnderwoodDaniel Ray HullThomas Chalmers Vint

Yosemite Valley(/joʊsɛmɪtiː/yoh-SEM-i-tee) is aglacial valleyinYosemite National Parkin the westernSierra Nevadamountains ofCentral California. The valley is about 7.5 miles (12km) long and approximately 3000-3500 feet deep, surrounded by highgranitesummits such asHalf DomeandEl Capitan, and densely forested withpines. The valley is drained by theMerced River, and a multitude of streams and waterfalls flow into it, including Tenaya, Illilouette, Yosemite and Bridalveil Creeks. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, and is a big attraction especially in the spring when the water flow is at its peak. The valley is renowned for its natural environment, and is regarded as the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park, attracting visitors from around the world.

The Valley is the main attraction in the park for the majority of visitors, and a bustling hub of activity during tourist season in the summer months. Most visitors enter the valley from roads to the west and pass through the famousTunnel Viewentrance. Visitor facilities are located in the center of the valley. There are bothhiking trailloops that stay within the valley andtrailheadsthat lead to higher elevations, all of which afford glimpses of the parks many scenic wonders.

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Yosemite Valley is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, 150 miles (240km) due east ofSan Francisco. It stretches for 7.5 miles (12km) in a roughly east-west direction, with an average width of about 1 mile (1.6km).

Yosemite Valley represents only one percent of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. More than half a dozen creeks tumble fromhanging valleysat the top ofthat can rise 30003500 feet (9141067 m) above the valley floor, which itself is 4000ft (1219 m) abovesea level. These streams combine into theMerced River, which flows out from the western end of the valley, down the rest of itscanyonto theSan Joaquin Valley. The flat floor of Yosemite Valley holds both forest and large openmeadows, which have views of the surrounding crests andwaterfalls.

Below is a description of these features, looking first at the walls above, moving west to east as a visitor does when entering the valley, then visiting the waterfalls and other water features, returning east to west with the flow of water.

The first view of Yosemite Valley many visitors see is theTunnel View. So many paintings were made from a viewpoint nearby that the National Park Service named that viewpointArtist Point.

The view from the lower (western) end of the Valley contains the great graniteon the left, and Cathedral Rocks on the right withBridalveil Fall. Just past this spot the Valley suddenly widens with the Cathedral Spires, then the pointedobeliskof Sentinel Rock to the south. Across the Valley on the northern side are theThree Brothers, rising one above the other like gables built on the same angle the highest crest is Eagle Peak, with the two below known as the Middle and Lower Brothers.

To this point the Valley has been curving gently to the left (north). Now a grand curve back to the right begins, with Yosemite Falls on the north, followed by the Royal Arches, topped byNorth Dome. Opposite, to the south, isGlacier Point, 3,200 feet (975 m) above the Valley floor. At this point the Valley splits in two, one section slanting northeast, with the other curving from south to southeast. Between them, at the eastern end of the valley, isHalf Dome, the most famous and most recognizable natural feature in the Sierra Nevada. Above and to the northeast of Half Dome isClouds Rest; at 9926 feet (3025 m), the highest point around Yosemite Valley.

Snow melting in the Sierra forms creeks and lakes. In the surrounding region, these creeks flow to the edge of the Valley to form cataracts and waterfalls.

A fan of creeks and forks of the Merced River take drainage from the Sierra crest and combine at Merced Lake. The Merced then flows down to the end of its canyon (Little Yosemite Valley), where it begins what is often called theGiant Staircase. The first drop isNevada Fall, which drops 594 feet (181 m), bouncing off the granite slope below it. Below isVernal Fall, 317 feet (97 m) high, one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Valley. The Merced then descends rapids to meet Illilouette Creek, which drops from the valley rim to formIllilouette Fall. They combine at the base of the gorges that contain each stream, and then flow around the Happy Isles to meet Tenaya Creek at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley proper.

Tenaya Creek flows southwest fromTenaya Lakeand down Tenaya Canyon, finally flowing between Half Dome and North Dome before joining the Merced River. The following falls tumble from the Valley rim to join it at various points:

Yosemite FallsandHalf Domein the winter

Yosemite Falls2,425 feet (739m) Upper Yosemite Fall 1,430 feet (440m), the middle cascades 670 feet (200m), and Lower Yosemite Fall 320 feet (98m). (Yosemite Creek)

Snow Creek Falls2,140 feet (650m)

Sentinel Falls1,920 feet (590m)

Royal Arch Cascade1,250 feet (380m)

Lehamite Falls1,180 feet (360m)

Staircase Falls1,020 feet (310m)

Bridalveil Fall620 feet (190m). (Bridalveil Creek)

Silver Strand Falls574 feet (175m)

The Three Brothers formed from the El Capitan pluton

For regional information, seeGeology of the Yosemite area.

The features in Yosemite Valley are made ofgraniticrock emplaced asplutonsmiles deep during the lateCretaceous. Over time theSierra Nevadawas uplifted, exposing this rock toerosionat the surface.

The oldest of these granitic rocks, at 114 million years, occur along theMerced River Gorgewest of the valley. TheEl Capitanpluton intruded the valley, forming most of the granitic rock that makes up much of the central part of the valley, includingCathedral RocksThree Brothers, and El Capitan. The youngest Yosemite Valley pluton is the 87-million-year-oldHalf Domegranodiorite, which makes up most of the rock atGlacier Point, theRoyal Arches, and its namesake, Half Dome.

For the last 30 million years,glaciershave periodically filled much of the valley. The most currentglaciation, theWisconsinianwas not, however, the most severe.Ice agesprevious to the Wisconsinian were colder and lasted longer. Their glaciers were huge and covered nearly all the landmarks around Yosemite Valley except Half Dome,Eagle PeakSentinel Dome, and the top of El Capitan. Wisconsinian glaciers, however, only reachedBridalveil Fallin the valley. The glaciers widened the valley, but much of its width is in fact due to previous streamerosionandmass wastingalong verticaljointsin the valleys walls.

After the retreat of many of these glaciers, a stand ofAncient Lake Yosemitedeveloped. The valley floor owes its flatness to sediment deposited by these stands (the last glaciers in the valley were small and did not remove much old lake sediment). The last stand of Lake Yosemite was about 5.5 miles (8.9km) long and was impounded by a terminalmorainenear the base of El Capitan. It was later filled by sediment, becoming aswampymeadow.

The parallelTenaya CanyonandLittle Yosemite Canyonglaciers were, at their largest, 2,000 feet (600 m) deep where they flowed into the Yosemite Valley near the base of Half Dome. They also formedClouds Restbehind Half Dome as anarte.

NearGlacier Pointthere is 2,000 feet (600 m) of mostly glacial sediment with at least six separate sequences of Lake Yosemite sediments. Here, huge and highly erosive pre-Wisconsinian glaciers excavated the bedrock valley floor, and much smaller Wisconsinian glaciers deposited glacial debris.

The biological community on the floor of Yosemite Valley is a diverse one, with more than 400 species of grasses and wildflowers and thousands of species of insects having been identified there. At the most general level, the valley can be classified as a dryyellow pineforest with a number of large open meadows. Plant and animal species that make up a significant part of this natural community include:

Trees ponderosa pinelodgepole pinesugar pinewhite firincense-cedarCalifornia black oakinterior live oakcoast Douglas-firCalifornia laurelbigleaf mapleScoulers willowPacific dogwoodwhite alderwestern balsam poplar

Shrubs whiteleafmanzanita, mountain misery, westernazalea, Americandogwoodbuckbrush, deer brush, sierragooseberry

Wildflowers Indian pinksoap plantCalifornia poppyminers lettucepurple Chinese housespurple milkweedPacific starflowerwestern buttercuppineapple weed

Mammals California ground squirrelwestern gray squirrelchickareemule deerAmerican black bearbobcatcoyote

Birds dark-eyed juncomountain chickadeeblack-headed grosbeakwhite-headed woodpeckerStellers jayAmerican dippercommon raven

Reptiles Gilberts skinknorthern alligator lizardrattlesnake

Amphibians Sierra Nevada salamander

Yosemite National Parkhad a record number of 5 million visitors in 2016.[4]

Several trails lead out of the Valley, including

TheJohn Muir Trail— running 212 miles (341km) toMount Whitney

TheMist Trail— with views ofVernal FallandNevada Fall

TheFour Mile Trail— leading to Glacier Point.

TheYosemite Falls Trail— to the top of Yosemite Falls

Yosemite is now a worldrock climbingattraction. The massive big walls of granite have been climbed countless times since the 1950s and have pushed climbers abilities to new heights. While climbers traditionally take several days to climb themonolithsbivvyingon the rock faces, modern climbing techniques help climbers ascend the cliffs in mere hours. Many climbers stay atCamp 4before beginning big wall climbs.

Half Dome figures prominently on the reverse side of theCaliforniastate quarter. Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes from the valley, and very crowded. The park now requires permits to use the trail, and in 2011 the permits sold out very quickly after becoming available.[5]The park now uses a lottery system for hikers to apply for permits.

Main article:History of the Yosemite area

Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, California,Marguerite ZorachBrooklyn Museum)

Captain John, leader of theYosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes

Habitation of the Yosemite Valley proper can be traced to about 3,000 years ago, when vegetation and game in the region was similar to that present today; the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada had acorns, deer, and salmon, while the eastern Sierra had pinyon nuts andobsidian. The prehistory of the area is divided into three cultural phases on archaeological grounds, the Crane Flat phase, (1000BCE to 500CE) is marked by hunting with theatl atland the use ofgrinding stones., the Tarmarack phase (500 to 1200 CE), marked by a shift to using smaller rock points, indicating development and use of thebow and arrow, and the Mariposa, from 1200 until European contact in the mid-19th century.[6]

In the 19th century, it was inhabited by aMiwokband who called the Valley Ah-wah-nee and themselves theAhwahnechee.[7]This group had trading and family ties tofrom the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. They annually burned the vegetation on the Valley floor, which promoted theblack oakand kept the meadows and forests open. This protected the supply of their principal food,acorns, and reduced the chance of ambush. At the time of first European contact, this band was led byChief Tenaya(Teneiya), who was raised by his mother among theMono Lake Paiutes.

The first non-natives to see Yosemite Valley were probably members of the 1833Joseph WalkerParty, which was the first to cross the Sierra Nevada from east to west.[8]The first descriptions of Yosemite, however, came nearly 20 years later. The 1849California Gold Rushled to conflicts between miners and natives,[9]and the state formed the volunteer Mariposa Battalion as apunitive expeditionagainst natives in the Yosemite area. In 1851, the Battalion was led by MajorJim Savage, whose trading post on the Merced River the Awaneechee had raided.[10]This and other missions resulted in Chief Teneiya and the Awaneechee spending months on a reservation in the San Joaquin Valley. The band returned the next year to the Valley, but took refuge among the Mono Paiutes after further conflicts with miners. Most of the Awaneechee (along with Teneiya) were chased back to the Valley and killed by the Paiutes after violating hospitality by stealing horses.

While the members of that first expedition of theMariposa Battalionhad heard rumours of what could be found up the Merced River, none were prepared for what they saw March 27, 1851 from what is now called Old Inspiration Point (close to the better visited Tunnel View). fayette Bunnelllater wrote:

The grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley — light as gossamer — and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion.

Camping that night on the Valley floor, the group agreed with the suggestion of Dr. Bunnell to call it Yo-sem-i-ty, mistakenly believing that was the native name.[12]Bunnell was also the first of many to underestimate the height of the Valley walls. A San Francisco newspaper demanded that he cut his estimate of the rim heightat 1500 feet (450 m), already under by halfin half again before they would publish it.[citation needed]

James Hutchingswho organized the first tourist party to the Valley in 1855and artist Thomas Ayers generated much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, creating articles and entire magazine issues about the Valley.[13]Ayres highly detailed angularly exaggerated artwork and his written accounts were distributed nationally and an art exhibition of his drawings was held in New York City.

Two of Hutchings first group of tourists, Milton and Houston Mann, built the first toll route into the valley, with development of the first hotels in the area and other trails quickly following. Orchards were planted and livestock grazed in Valley meadows, with damage to native ecosystems as the result.[citation needed]

The work of Ayres gave easterners an appreciation for Yosemite Valley and started a movement to preserve it.[14]Influential figures such asGalen Clark, clergymanThomas Starr Kingand leading landscape architectFrederick Law Olmstedwere among those who urged Senator John Conness of California to try to preserve Yosemite.[15]

PresidentAbraham Lincolnsigned a bill on June 30, 1864 granting Yosemite Valley and theMariposa Groveofgiant sequoiasto the State of California for public use, resort and recreation, the two tracts shall be inalienable for all time.[16]This was the first time in history that a federal government had set aside scenic lands simply to protect them and to allow for their enjoyment by all people.

Simply designating an area a park isnt sufficient to protect it. California did not set up an administration for the park until 1866, when the state appointedGalen Clarkas the parks guardian. An 11-year struggle followed to resolve homesteading claims in the valley. The challenge of increasing tourism, with the need to first build stagecoach roads, then theYosemite Valley Railroad, along with hotels and other facilities in and around the Valley was met during the rest of the 19th century. But much environmental damage was caused to the valley itself at that time. The problems that Yosemite Park had under state control was one of the factors in establishingYellowstone National Parkas the first completely national park in 1872.

Due to the difficulty of traveling there, early visitors to the valley came for several weeks to a couple of months, often as entire families with many possessions. Earlyhotelswere therefore set up for extended stays and catered primarily to wealthy patrons who could spend extended periods away from home. One of these hotelstheWawona Hotel, built in the 1880sstill operates.

After the Valley became a park, the surrounding territory was still subject to logging, mining, and grazing.John Muirpublicized the damage to thesubalpine meadowsthat surround the Valley and in 1890, the government created a national park that included a much larger territoryenclosing Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove.

As with Yellowstone, the new federal park was under U.S. Army jurisdiction until 1914. In 1906, the state ceded the Valley and Mariposa Grove to the federal government. TheNational Park Service, on its creation in 1916, took over Yosemite.[17]

Yosemite Valley is listed as aNational Historic Districtand as aCalifornia Historical Landmark.[1][2]After the creation of the Park Service, many separate hotel owners held separate concession contracts. The Yosemite Park Company had built the Yosemite Lodge and Yosemite Village had its own group of merchants. Fire had destroyed a number of the original valley hotels and concession owners came and went until Park Service forced the two largest companies to merge in order that one single concession contract could be given. In 1925 the two family-run companies became the Yosemite Park and Curry Company and went on to build and run theAhwahnee Hotelas the company headquarters for years, introducing a number of traditions, including theBracebridge dinner.

Curry Villagewas the site from where villagers and visitors watched the famousYosemite Firefall. This fall was large batches of red hot embers dropped from Glacier Point. The Park Service stopped this practice in 1969 as part of their long process of de-emphasizing artificial park attractions.

On July 6, 1996 a massiverock slide, weighing an estimated 60,00080,000 tons, crashed 1800 feet (550 m) into the valley from the east side of Glacier Point, travelling at over 160mph (260km/h). Dust blanketed that part of the valley for days, and the wind speed in front of the slide is estimated to have been 300mph (480km/h). One person was killed in the slide.

In 1987 Congress designated 122 miles of the Merced as aWild and Scenic River. Yosemite National Park contains 81 of these miles, and the valley contains 8 of those miles. This designation will … preserve the Merced River in free-flowing condition and to protect the water quality and the outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) that make the river worthy of designation.[18]

In March 2014, the park system released theMerced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan/EISto address the preservation of the river, safety, and to improve the visitor experience in the park. The plan will restore meadows and river bank areas and remove non-essential roads. Camping capacity will increase 37%, and recreational services will be expanded. The plan calls for an 8% increase in parking for day use visitors to Yosemite Valley, including a new 300-car parking lot. The plan will allow the valley to accommodate a peak of 20,100 visitors per day.[19]

The plan has been criticized for prioritizing park visitors over the preservation of the river and the valley. Some believe there should be further limitations to the number of cars and parking lots in the valley, and more focus on public transportation.[20]On busy summer days there can be long delays and traffic gridlock at the entrance to Yosemite.[21]

Panorama of Yosemite Valley including Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point

National Park Service(2009-03-13).National Register Information System.

National Register of Historic Places

Yosemite Valley. Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks

Half Dome: Everything you need to know about Yosemites most demanding day hike.

Wuerthner, George (1994). Yosemite: A Visitors Companion. Stackpole Books, p. 13

Harris, Tuttle & Tuttle 1997, p.326.

National Park Service Museum Centennial

. Archived fromthe originalon January 1, 1970

Merced River Final Plan and EIS – Yosemite National Park (U.S. National Park Service).

. Archived fromthe originalon December 28, 2014

Yosemite National Park National Parks Traveler.

CSERC: Yosemite overcrowded – Problems and Solutions.

. UC Press.ISBN0-520-06922-6.

(3rd ed.). New York: F.H. Revell Company.ISBN0-8369-5621-4.

Harris, Ann G.; Tuttle, Esther; Tuttle, Sherwood D. (1997).

(5th ed.). Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.ISBN0-7872-5353-7.

. Stackpole Books.ISBN0-8117-2598-7.

Yosemite National Park: A Natural History Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails

. Berkeley: Wilderness Press.ISBN0-89997-244-6.

Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber

. The Mountaineers.ISBN0-89886-587-5.

Clarke, W. A. (August 1902).Automobiling In The Yosemite Valley.

Overland Monthly, and Out West Magazine

Wikimedia Commons has media related to

The Geologic Story of Yosemite Valley by N. King Huber(USGS, 1987) authoritative and up-to-date summary of Yosemites geology

Origin of Yosemite Valley, Chapter 4, Glaciers of California, by Bill Guyton

Historic Yosemite Indian Chiefs with photos

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U.S. National Register of Historic Places

History of the National Register of Historic Places

Valleys of Mariposa County, California

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Historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in California

National Register of Historic Places in Mariposa County, California

Climbing areas of the United States

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This page was last edited on 30 April 2018, at 13:10.

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