||761,266 acres (3,081 sq. km)
| Governing Body
||National Park Service
| World Heritage Site
| Approx. Number of visitors each year
Origins of the Park
Yosemite National Park is a huge expanse of natural wilderness that contains forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and meadows and it provides a wide variety of wildlife with a range of habitats.
The park spans the eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, USA, and it covers an area of 761,266 acres (3,081 sq. kms), spanning across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Yosemite Valley was originally inhabited by native indians but the California gold rush of the 19th century brought an influx of people to the area. In 1860 logging and overgrazing by cattle were beginning to destroy the land and the Scottish born Naturalist John Muir had a long battle with loggers, cattlemen and the government to safeguard the area.
In 1864, Yosemite became California's first state park and in 1890 it was made a national park. It became America's third national park, only five days after the second one, Sequoia National Park in southern California, which John Muir was also instrumental in creating.
Today Yosemite National Park is in danger of becoming a victim of its own popularity. At one time several thousand visitors each day were walking along nature trails, but now numbers are strictly controlled to prevent the destruction of vegetation, erosion of soil and general damage to the natural beauty of the park.
Yosemite Valley is approximately 18 sq kms (7 sq. miles) and it is only 1% of the total park area, however this is where most of the park's visitors are concentrated.
Yosemite is renowned for its dramatic rock formations. El Captain is a prominent granite cliff that stands over the valley and it is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the world due to its diverse climbing routes and its year round accessibility. The park also features huge granite domes such as Sentinel Rock and Half Dome, and the highest point in the park is Mount Lyell which stands at 4,000 m (13,123 ft).
In the high country of Yosemite, beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows and the Clark Range are situated.
The Tuolumne and the Merced River systems both originate in Yosemite and through the ice ages glaciers have carved river canyons for them up to 1,200 m (3,937 ft) deep.
Yosemite is also famous for it high concentrations of waterfalls in a small area. The Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America and the upperfalls alone is among the twenty highest waterfalls in the world with a 436 m (1,430 ft) drop.
The glaciers in the park are all relatively small and they are situated in areas that are almost permanently in the shade. The largest of these is the Lyell Glacier.
Yosemite National Park has a Mediterranean type climate meaning it has long, hot summers and mild winters. Most precipitation falls during the winter months and snow falls in the high country from November to March.
Yosemite National Park contains five major vegetation zones; chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine, and within these is a diverse range of plant species.
California has around 7,000 species of plant with 20% of these existing with Yosemite and over 160 rare plant species have been documented within the park.
Giant Sequoias are a popular feature of the park and they stand in three separate groves; Mariposa Grove is the largest with 200 trees, the Tuolumne Grove has 25 trees and the Merced Grove has 20 trees. The oldest of these trees is known as the Grizzly Giant and it is thought to be 1,900 - 2,400 years old. It stands at 64 m (210 ft) tall, it is 9.1 m (30 ft) in diameter, it has a basal circumference of 28 m (92 ft) and a volume of 963 cubic metres
(34, 010 cubic feet).
The varied habitats of Yosemite National Park support over 250 species of vertebrates including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish.
The coniferous and oak forests found in the lower elevations of Yosemite have a mild climate and a high diversity of wildlife species. These include american black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, porcupines, mule deer, grey foxes, gilbert's skink, white-headed woodpeckers, brown creepers, a variety of bat species and spotted owls.
At higher elevations douglas squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels, chipmunks, fishers, steller's jays, hermit thrushes and northern goshawks can be found.
As the landscape rises further, trees become smaller and more sparse and areas of exposed granite can be found. The climate becomes more harsh and the growing season is short. Species that are adapted to these conditions include pikas, yellow-bellied marmots, white-tailed jackrabbits, big-horn sheep, clark's nutcracker and rosy finches.
Meadows can be found at a variety of elevations and they provide an important habitat for many species. The areas between meadows and forests are also favoured by many animals as it provides an open area for foraging but a covered area for protection. Species that favor a meadow habitat include willow flycatchers, mountain beavers, great grey owls and yosemite toads.
Yosemite is pronounced yo-sem-it-ee
Tuolumne is pronounced to-all-o-me
Yosemite National Park and Haungshan in China are sister parks.
Yosemite has an elevation range of 600 - 4,000 m (1,969 - 13,123 ft)
Approximately 95% of the park is designated wilderness.
Native indians used to call their land Yosemite which means "Grizzly Bear". Although the park was named after grizzly bears, they can no longer be found there.
There are a large amount of activities for visitors to the park. Yosemite Valley is open all year, but much of the remaining park closes in late autumn due to weather, and reopens in mid to late spring. Visitors can enjoy over 1,300 kms (800 miles) of hiking trails, over 19 kms (12 miles) of paved cycle paths, rafting, swimming, scenic driving (bicycles are also allowed on the roads), climbing, camping and winter activities such as skiing.