Before it was a national park, before it was given the name that we now know it by, Yosemite National Park was far from uninhabited. People have been living in the lush, rugged area for tens of thousands of years, starting with the Ahwahneechee tribe, who lived there for generations before Europeans arrived in 1851. From around 1855 to 1865, only 650 people managed to travel through the untamed terrain and reach what those that lived there were calling “The Incomparable Valley”.
Some people came for the beauty–artists, photographers, writers. Their work told the rest of the world about Yosemite’s splendor. Others were not so respectful of their new home, and began to exploit the landscape. After conservationists called out to stop this exploitation, in 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that granted Yosemite Valley to the state of California, and it was declared a national park in 1890.
Today, Yosemite National Park is visited by three and a half million people per year. Despite Europeans’ attempts to rid Yosemite Valley of them, the Native Americans who first lived there have endured—today seven tribes count themselves as descendents of the original Yosemite Valley natives. Programs dedicated to preserving the rich cultural history of the valley include excavating settlement sites and displaying over four million artifact items in the Yosemite museum. The museum also boasts a library about Yosemite that contains over ten thousand books, many of which are becoming available in digital format in the National Park Association’s online library.
Throughout Yosemite’s years as a national park, the National Park Agency has been diligent in preserving the natural beauty of the area. The buildings are maintained the way that they were originally constructed, in the National Park Service Rustic Style, to uphold the philosophy that architecture should blend in with their natural surroundings. Unrestricted camping is now prohibited in the park in order to protect the environment; campers may use one of the dozens of campsites instead. Thanks to the continued efforts of the National Park Agency, Yosemite National Park will surely continue to delight visitors for many years to come.