Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is located in the United States in the southern area of the Sierra Nevada. The park contains 404,063 acres of protected land that was once inhabited by the Western Mono Native American tribe. The best evidence of Native American inhabitants are the pictographs found on Potwisha and Hospital Rock and bedrock mortars, tools that were sued to crush acorns.

When European explorers and settlers entered the area, smallpox had already decimated the Native American inhabitants. The first settler of European descent to build a home in the area was Hale Tharp. His home can still be seen today and was built out of a fallen and hollow sequoia log that originated in the nearby Giant Forest. Although Tharp allowed his cattle to graze in what is now known as Log Meadow, he actively fought against early logging efforts in the area and received visits from naturalist John Muir. Tharp’s efforts to conserve the forest were largely unsuccessful due an increase in logging efforts. One of these efforts occurred in the 1880’s when settlers endeavored to create a utopia in the Kaweah Colony, which was economically supported by trading sequoia logs. However, the logs were not a good source of income due to their tendency to splinter. Unfortunately, thousands of sequoia trees were cute down for logging purposes before it was found that the logs could not support the colony. In 1890, the National Park Service merged Giant forest into Sequoia National Park at the time of its establishment, which stopped all logging efforts in the area.

Sequoia National Park is well known for its trees, but it also holds a large portion of the Sierra Nevada, the contiguous United States’ longest mountain range. America’s tallest mountain, Mt. Whitney, is located in the park and reaches an elevation of 14,505 feet above sea level. The park holds the Great Western Divide, a mountain range that holds peaks that reach a height of over 12,000 feet. Most of the mountains in both the Great Western Divide and Sierra Nevada ranges are made of some form of granite rock.

Most visitors access Sequoia National Park through its southern entrance, which is located in the park’s front country near the small town Three Rivers. This entrance is located at Ash Mountain, which holds a California foothills ecosystem. This area holds river valleys with many types of vegetation including grasslands, blue oak woodlands, and yucca plants. This area, which is located at a low elevation, supports a variety of animal wildlife including mule deer, foxes, mountain lions, and bobcats. The front country of the park also contains a high elevation ecosystem that can be found at an elevation between 5,500 and 9,000 feet. This area holds a montane forest habitat with many types of vegetation include the giant sequoia trees, ponderosa pine trees, and meadows. This area supports many animal species including American black bears and mule deer.

The back country area of Sequoia National Park is not easily accessible because there no reads leading through it. This area holds many attractions including Mt. Whitney, which can be accessed by the High 35-mile Sierra Trail that originates in the Giant Forest.  A smaller trail leads off this trail and leads through ten miles of montane forest to the Bearpaw Meadow, which holds a resort. This area of the park holds many canyons including Kern Canyon, where many travelers go after long hikes to rest in the Kern Canyon hot spring. The John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail begin in this area, and the Pacific Crest Trail leads into Kings Canyon National Park in the north.

Sequoia National Park offers many attractions to visitors including camping, backpacking, hiking, and fishing. The park holds other attractions like Tunnel Log, a tunnel that has been cut out from a fallen sequoia tree, which fell across a main road in 1937. Visitors can hike through Crescent Meadow in the Giant Forest and visit the Giant Forest Museum, which was built in 1928.

Image Caption: General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park: Largest living organism in the world. Credit: Jim Bahn/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)