Known (at least to rock climbers, which I would describe myself as in an instant) for the namesake valley that houses Half Dome, El Cap and many other granite features, Yosemite has much more to offer than most know. The National Park is made up of 1,169 square miles of forest and is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California. The majority of the park is designated wilderness, which protects the landscape permanently. In addition, it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. Yosemite is home to many different flora and fauna, and boasts many different landscapes, ranging from chaparral to alpine.
Yosemite National Park was created in 1890 as the first National Park. John Muir was one of the main influences in the creation of the park. Muir was a Scottish naturalist and conservationist. He worked to convince Teddy Roosevelt to create the National Park Service and in 1906, Yosemite National Park came under federal government control. Not only was Muir vital to the creation of Yosemite National Park, he was also instrumental in the creation of the Sierra Club, one of the worlds largest nonprofit environmental organizations. The Sierra Club advocates the preservation of public lands and many other environmental issues. The Sierra Club was an important supporter for the creation of Yosemite National Park.
One of the most important issues surrounding Yosemite today is access. As one of the most visited national parks in the United States, the mass amounts of visitors impact the landscape and wildlife. Light and sound pollution affect the natural sounds from the water flow and wildlife. The light pollution that comes from Yosemite village, cars and campsites throughout the valley can affect nocturnal animals and the view of the night sky. In addition, the sheer number of visitors takes a toll of the landscape and increase erosion. Invasive species, which can take over an ecosystem completely, are a threat to Yosemite’s ecosystems and with the multitude of visitors are very common. The most visited part of the park is the valley where many visitors come for the day and stop to see the major sights and then leave. The park is very accessible to the public, which also makes it less appealing to those who want to enjoy the solidarity and silence of nature.
One of the most recent news stories surrounding Yosemite is the accession of the Dawn Wall. Two professional rock climbers, Kevin Jorgensen and Tommy Caldwell, made the first free ascent (only using one’s hands and feet to climb, without the aid of gear) of what could be deemed the hardest rock climb in the world. The Dawn Wall located on Yosemite’s El Capitan that stands at about 3,000 feet.
This story brought awareness not only to the sport of rock climbing, but also to the Yosemite itself. People were able to watch a live feed of the climbers while they made their nineteen-day ascent. This is a reminder of the beauty and grandeur of nature and also a note on the progress that society has made—only 40 years ago no one even considered the possibility of El Capitan being free climbed due to the size and difficulty.
John Muir described Yosemite as “[…] by far the grandest of all special temples of nature [he] was ever permitted to enter.” And from the pictures of seen and the research I have done, Yosemite is definitely at the top of my list of places to visit.