Yosemite National Park History

I have really enjoyed learning some Yosemite National Park History over the years. Some of the first things I learned about Yosemite were about the Miwok Indians and John Muir. John Muir forged a campaign for Yosemite to become a National Park. Most of the trails that we hike today in Yosemite National Park, were walked and mapped out by John Muir himself.

Learn More About John Muir


The first people to live in Yosemite were Native Americans. It is estimated that they lived here 8,000 years ago. The Miwok Indians are probably the most recognized of the many tribes who lived here at one time or another and they were excellent at weaving baskets. At one time, there were 40 different Indian villages live in Yosemite. The Miwok's did not call this place Yosemite. They called it Ahwahnee. Ahwahnee means "Place of a Gaping Mouth". 

Redbud twigs and braken ferns were the most used materials to make these beautiful baskets. Some baskets even have beads woven into the bold and unique designs. In the early 1900's visitors to Yosemite National Park would often buy these fabulous baskets from the Miwok Indians as souvenirs.

Inside the Yosemite National Park History Museum of Miwok Indians

In Yosemite valley there is one very nice hotel. It is called the Ahwahnee Hotel. Actually, it a five star resort :) And, I go there and sit and write about Yosemite to add to this website every month. The hotel is decorated with a Native American theme and holds many of the Indian's beautiful artifacts.

When you're down in Yosemite valley I want you to make sure that you go to the Visitors Center. Because behind the Visitors Center there is a very nice Miwok village setup that you can walk through. In the summer months, Indians will be in the village to teach you about their history and ways of life. There is also an adjacent museum, a theater room and a store. All of this together will give you a great hands on history of the Miwok Indians and what their life style was like.

At the Yosemite Visitor Center, you'll learn that Yosemite Valley was carved out millions of years ago. The fires inside the belly of the earth heated up and the hot magma pushed the granite rocks that were underground to the surface. Over several millions of years, erosion exposed the beautiful granite rocks. Then water and ice

carved through the granite over time. What was left, was our beautiful Yosemite National Park. Now, Yosemite sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level.


The Native American Indians lived off of the land by hunting and fishing. The women of the tribe harvested acorns from Yosemite's black oak trees and ground them into flour for cooking.



It Happened in Yosemite National Park; Remarkable Events That Shaped History




The gold rush in the Sierra foothills of California brought miners to the nearby area. The Indians attacked those who came after the gold. In return, the western miners captured the Indians and took them out of Yosemite Valley. Eventually, the Indians returned to Yosemite Valley.

In 1855, tourists started coming to see Yosemite. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant which let Yosemite Valley and the local Mariposa Grove to become a public reserve. On October 1, 1890 Yosemite became a National Park.

Although Yosemite Valley is about seven square miles, the National Park covers more than 1200 square miles. That means that 95% of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness. (The whole area is about the size of Rhode Island) The National Park status covers more than just Yosemite Valley. It also covers the high mountainous country above the valley and Mariposa Grove. The nearby Mariposa Grove houses some of the largest trees in the world.




Yosemite has three entrances. The most photographed entrance is the Wawona tunnel entrance. The tunnel is a massive piece of granite that they drilled and blasted open to put a road through. They avoided scarring the outside rock while making the tunnel. This famous tunnel is 4,230 feet long, 28 feet wide and 19 fee high. The tunnel was completed back in 1933. Seeing Yosemite when coming out of the tunnel is nothing short of breathtaking :) Now, if you come at night...you'll miss the view. I will tell you, it is worth arriving before sundown.

Your view going into the Wawona tunnel....

Your view coming out of the Wawona Tunnel....

My interesting fact to share with you:The first tourists to Yosemite National Park came in by horseback and stagecoaches! That's right, they would come on the trails that the Indians made. Just a little bit of Yosemite National Park History.

Yosemite National Park history also includes the Rangers Club. I never knew about this club, until I found the video below. The Rangers Club is still standing today. This was a special building for the early park rangers to come and rest on their days off.




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