Yosemite National Park - Art

Yosemite National Park is a national park spanning portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in Northern California. The park, managed by the U.S. National Park Service, covers an area of more than 1 million square miles and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In 2016 more than 5 million people visited Yosemite and most spend the majority of their time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and biological diversity. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. Yosemite was central to the development of the national park idea. First, Galen Clark and others lobbied to protect Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln's signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864. Later, John Muir led a successful movement to establish a larger national park encompassing not just the valley, but surrounding mountains and forests as well—paving the way for the United States’ national park system. Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane forest, upper montane forest, subalpine zone, and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy. The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About one million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today. Yosemite Valley is the glacial valley in Yosemite National Park on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and stretches for 8 miles in a roughly east-west direction, with an average depth and width of about 1 mile and represents only one percent of the park area. It is surrounded by high granite summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and densely forested with pines. The valley is drained by the Merced River and a multitude of streams and waterfalls including Tenaya, Illilouette, Yosemite and Bridalveil Creeks. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, and is a big attraction especially in the spring when the water flow is at its peak; it is widely regarded as the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park. More than half a dozen creeks tumble from hanging valleys at the top of granite cliffs that can rise 3000–4000 feet above the valley floor, which itself is 4000 feet above sea level. These streams combine into the Merced River, which flows out from the western end of the valley, down the rest of its canyon to the San Joaquin Valley. The features in Yosemite Valley are made of granitic rock emplaced as plutons miles deep during the late Cretaceous. Over time the Sierra Nevada was uplifted, exposing this rock to erosion at the surface.

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