Yosemite Becomes A National Park

September 27, 2021

October 1, 1890

"… the spirit of America itself …"
On this day 131 years ago, Yosemite became America's third national park.

Yosemite History

  • Early 1800s: Named after the local Native American tribe. The Gold Rush led to conflicts between settlers and Native American tribes who had lived in the area for generations.
  • 1864: During the height of the Civil War, Pres. Lincoln granted Yosemite Valley to CA, with orders to preserve it for future generations.
  • 1865: Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed NYC’s Central Park, filed a report on Yosemite Valley and the nearby “Big Tree Grove” of ancient sequoia trees, raising concerns about how visitors impact the area.
"… it is full of charming company, full of God's thoughts … a new song, a place of beginnings abounding in first lessons on life, mountain-building, eternal invincible, unbreakable order; with sermons in stones, storms, trees, flowers, and animals brimful of humanity."

Author and famous naturalist John Muir on the beauty of Yosemite. In the 1870s and 1880s, concerns grew about the land’s future preservation. Muir believed the land would be better protected if it was turned into a national park, and lobbied for its preservation.

"There's something sacred about this place. And I suppose that's why the walls of this valley were referred to as cathedral walls, because here at Yosemite we connect not just with our own spirit, but with something greater. It's almost like the spirit of America itself is right here."

President Barack Obama reflected during his Father’s Day trip to the park in 2016. That year, more than five million people visited the park – more than double the visitors who came last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Yosemite was made a national park by an act of Congress in 1890, the surrounding Yosemite Valley remained state land until 1906 and was eventually returned to federal government control for further preservation.

Check out our source page to learn more.

Yosemite, Through John Muir’s Words

Yosemite National Park Statistics

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Yosemite National Park

Click HERE to learn more about Yosemite Valley

Click HERE for Obama’s full speech from his Father’s Day visit to Yosemite

by Jenna Lee,