Interesting facts about Yosemite

September 5, 2010 | In: Geography Facts

Yosemite is considered the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada, a California mountain range dubbed the Range of Light by naturalist John Muir soon after first viewing it in 1869.

By his writings, Muir singlehandedly lobbied the American people and government to appreciate and preserve Yosemite, after a ten-year exploration of these mountains.

Long the home of the Ahwahneechee Indians, Yosemite found a protected home when Congress voted it a national park in 1890. The park’s name is taken from “U-zu-ma-ti,” the name of a tribe that lived in the valley, and might mean “grizzly bear,” which used to roam California.

Not a chain of individual mountains, the Sierra Nevada is a single block of granite that is 50 to 80 miles wide. Out of this hard mass, glaciers and strong running rivers scooped out and smoothed down rock to form Yosemite Valley and its surrounding 4,000-foot cliffs.

The polished and glistening surfaces of these immense granite walls make the seven-mile-long Yosemite Valley a mecca for the world’s best and most adventurous rock-climbers. Hulking summits with names like El Capitan and Half Dome, not only offer climbing challenges, but their pale surfaces reflect the sun’s light and make for breathtaking sunrise and sunset colorings of pinks, mauves, and golds. At such moments, a person can really understand what Muir was talking about in his Range of Light description.

Yosemite Park covers 758,659 acres and is famous for the waterfalls found in its valley. Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America, and the second largest in the world. Its 2,425-foot drop equals the height of 13 Niagara Falls and is made up of two linked drops; Upper Fall is 1,430 feet and Lower Fall is 320.

In most parks, Yosemite Falls would be a singular attraction. But in this park, it is joined by 1,612-foot Ribbon Fall, 620-foot Bridalveil Fall, 594-foot Nevada Fall, and 317-foot Vernal Fall. All these falls are within walking distance of each other.

The falls and peaks aren’t the only tall things in Yosemite. The park is host to groves of giant Sequoia trees, which are relatives of the redwoods. The tallest, the Grizzly Giant, stands 209 feet and is more than 34 feet in diameter at its base.

While one of the most popular national parks with today’s tourists, Yosemite is still able to provide pockets of solitude for those who seek them out. Debates are presently being waged between environmentalists, developers, and the government on how best to manage Yosemite. All involved realize what a precious treasure is had in Yosemite, while still trying to make her available to the public.

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