Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in eastern California in the United States in the central area of Sierra Nevada, extending to the western slopes of the range. The park holds 761,268 acres of protected land. The area became very popular after Thomas Ayres, the artist who was responsible for much of the publicity of the area, and an entrepreneur named James Mason Hutchings visited in 1855. Early tourists that visited Yosemite before it was a national park could enjoy passing over the Wawona Tree, a store, and a bakery. By the 1860’s, however, many citizens felt that commercial growth within the area could damage the pristine environment. Senator John Conness, Galen Clark, and other well known citizens pushed for protection and conservation for the area. This prompted a bill to be passed in Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. This bill created the Yosemite Grant, America’s first effort to designate federally protected land specifically for the preservation of nature. The area was established as a national park in 1890, but it was not until 1906 that the park fell under federal jurisdiction.

Yosemite National Park encompasses thousands of ponds and lakes, including the Merced River and the Tuolumne River, which are both federally protected even outside of the park. These rivers, among many other water systems, helped to form the landforms in Yosemite, like the Clark and Cathedral Ranges. The meadows and valleys that occur in the park are dependent upon the rivers and streams to support riparian and wetland habitats. The park is home to many waterfalls, including the largest in North America known as Yosemite Falls, which reaches 2,425 feet in height.

The climate of Yosemite National Park is known as a Mediterranean climate, where moisture typically occurs in the wintertime and in small amounts, while other seasons are typically dry. The amount of moisture in the park increases as the elevation increases, with an average of fifty inches at 8,600 feet and thirty-six inches at 4,000 feet. The average daily temperature at Tuolumne Meadows, located at an elevation of 8,600 feet, ranged between 25°F to 53 °F, while daily temperatures at Yosemite Valley, located at 3,966 feet, ranged between 46°F to 90 °F.

Yosemite National Park holds 225,510 acres of old growth forests and other habitats that have not felt the effects of humans, unlike surrounding areas that have been impacted by logging. These habitats support many plant species, like coniferous forests and giant sequoia trees, and over 250 vertebrate species including mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds. Mammals found in the park include bobcats, cougars, American black bears, gray foxes, mule deer, pikas, white-tailed jackrabbits, many species of bats, and mountain beavers. Bird species include spotted owls, northern goshawks, black rosy finches, and great gray owls. Although these habitats are not endangered and are able to support a variety of wildlife, the brown bear, least Bell’s vireo, and the California condor were not able to survive in them. Thirty-seven other species that reside in the park are endangered either state wide or nationally.

Yosemite National Park receives over 3.5 million visitors each year and is easily accessed by automobile. The park charges a fee of twenty dollars per automobile and holds 350 miles of paved roads. Visitors can partake in many activities throughout the park including hiking, rock climbing, bicycling, rafting, and winter sports like cross-country skiing. Visitors can take bus tours, view natural and history museums, and view landmarks like the Ahwahnee Hotel. The park is open throughout the year, but many roads must be closed during the winter season due to heavy snows.

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Image Caption: Yosemite National Park. Credit: Mark J. Miller/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)