Yosemite History

Explore Yosemite history. And in the Yosemite region, mining ghost towns, California’s Gold Country, and historic sites await your exploration.

John Muir in Yosemite

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

Of course, much of this book is devoted to Muir’s political activism and time he spent living in and exploring the Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which he called “The Range of Light.” As critics have pointed out, this book is quite relevant to 21st-century readers Read More...

Ansel Adams photo of Yosemite

Ansel Adams & Local Artists

Get better acquainted with artistic legacy during your Yosemite vacation by visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery and galleries of basket making and painting. Read More...

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Buffalo Soldiers in the Sierra Nevada

The soldiers who were assigned to protect these new parks became Yosemite’s first park rangers. Many of the cavalrymen chosen to serve in the West’s new national park lands were buffalo soldiers. Read More...

Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel at Night. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Building Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel

Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, who decided that what Yosemite needed was a first-class hotel to attract wealthy, politically powerful, and celebrity clientele to the park. Read More...

Glacier Point

Early Visitors to Yosemite Park

Early tourists made the long journey overland to see its natural wonders, from the to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and the views from Glacier Point. Read More...

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Explore History & Culture

Yosemite is the wild, wild West. From its earliest Native American inhabitants, to the mid-19th-century California Gold Rush, and the later arrival of ranchers, loggers, and hoteliers, the land surrounding Yosemite National Park is amazingly rich in historical sites. Read More...

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Favorite Books by John Muir

Naturalist and conservationist John Muir wrote prolifically about his experiences in the Sierra Nevada, including time spent living in Yosemite Valley Read More...

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Historic Sites

Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the many historic sites in the area, is an emotionally moving place to visit. Read More...

Clothespin Tree in the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia. Photo by Peter Flanigan

How Yosemite Became a National Park

Abraham Lincoln’s and John Muir’s passion for preserving and protecting the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove ecosystem lead to the creation of Yosemite National Park. Read More...

John Muir in Yosemite

John Muir Geotourism Center

The John Muir Geotourism Center’s mission is to enrich the natural and rural communities by inspiring people to explore, learn, share and preserve the values of the John Muir Legacy through innovative and creative programs. Read More...

John Muir

John Muir Reenactments

Every summer in Yosemite Valley, Lee Stetson’s live performances are riveting, bringing John Muir back to life through his historical reenactments. Read More...

John Muir

John Muir’s Life: A Short Biography

In 1860, Muir started taking classes at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, but he never graduated. His wild enthusiasm for what he learned in his botany, geology, and other natural science classes led him to leave school and wander across North America. In 1869, Muir spent his first summer in the Yosemite Valley, earning money by herding sheep. Read More...

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Living History: Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers

You haven’t heard of the Buffalo Soldiers? Yosemite ranger Shelton Johnson aims to change that, while also inspiring more people to experience national parks. Read More...

Gullgraver 1850 California by L. C. McClurevia via Wikimedia Commons.

Miners and the Mariposa Battalion

As tens of thousands of miners flooded the foothills, some became the first outsiders to make contact with the Sierra Nevada’s indigenous peoples since Spanish explorers trooped through at the beginning of the 19th century. Read More...

California Morteros by Philkon Phil Konstantin [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Native American Rock Art and Writing

In the Sierra Nevada, most of the archaeological evidence of indigenous peoples in the Yosemite consists of grinding holes made in rocks. Read More...

Yosemite Half Dome. Photo by Todd Reich

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite

“Off the Wall” recounts the various ways that visitors have met unfortunate ends in Yosemite, one of America’s most seductively beautiful outdoor destinations. Read More...

Horse-drawn wagon emerging from the covered bridge at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Pioneer Yosemite History Center at Wawona

At the History Center you can ride horse-drawn wagons, walk across a covered bridge, and visit historic buildings out of Yosemite’s past. Read More...

Mammoth Mountain

Renaming Mammoth Peak after Jessie Benton Fremont

Yosemite National Park’s Mammoth Peak may be renamed in honor of 19th century female preservationist Jessie Benton Fremont. The measure would be a tribute to a woman who worked doggedly to preserve the land that would become Yosemite in 1890. Read More...

Tenaya Lake view from Olmsted Point. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Shelton Johnson’s Gloryland

If you’ve seen Ken Burns’ film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea then you’re already acquainted with the work of Shelton Johnson, author of this groundbreaking work of historical fiction. Read More...

Ansel Adams with his camera

The Lost Negatives of Ansel Adams

An antiques collector uncovers a box of glass negatives that may, or may not, have been taken by Ansel Adams himself. Read More...

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Yosemite Historical Sites

The Sierra Nevada region abounds in historical sites. Read More...

Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad 10 Curve

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

All aboard for an exciting four-mile scenic excursion through the Sierra National Forest on the restored railroad used for the Madera Sugar Pine’s logging trains. Read More...

Galen Clark, First White Man in Yosemite

Yosemite Park’s First Guardian, Galen Clark

Clark was famous for his hospitality, at first running a stagecoach rest stop called Clark’s Station, where tourists could get meals, stay overnight, and water and feed their horses. Even when his business failed, Clark remained active in Yosemite, guiding visitors and serving as its guardian until 1897. Read More...

Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel at Night. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Yosemite’s Place Names

Take a minute to find out what some of Yosemite’s famous place names mean, and you’ll uncover valuable nuggets of the park’s history Read More...