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This Day in History: Yosemite named a national park

On this day in 1890, Yosemite National Park was named a national park by the National Park Service, which is within the U.S. department of the interior. Interestingly enough, the park is currently closed on it’s anniversary due to the government shutdown.

Yosemite National Park spans the eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera counties in the central eastern portion of California. The park covers 781,268 acres and spans across the western portion of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet.

The creation of Yosemite was central to the development of the idea of having National Parks. In the late 19th century Sen. John Conness began to lobby for the area known as the Yosemite valley to be protected from the expanding population and its needs. A bill passed through both houses of Congress and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant. This was the first time any land had been set aside specifically for preservation and public use and set the precedent for the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Galen Clark, a European who assisted Sen. Conness in lobbying for the bill was given the title of the park’s guardian, but he could not evict homesteaders (people moving cross country in order to obtain large unclaimed swaths of land) who began trying to live on the land that was set aside. This led to in 1872 the Supreme Court invalidating all homesteader land forcing them to move.

Yosemite began as a state park but because of the transcontinental railroad that was completed in 1869, Yosemite slowly became more and more popular. However, people were still dissuaded by the fact that they still had a long vigorous horseback ride to get to the park, so stagecoach roads were completed in the mid-1870s. John Muir, an immigrant from Scotland, began writing articles in an attempt to popularize the area and increase scientific interest in it. With these articles, Muir convinced some prominent people, such as Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of Century Magazine, that the area should be put under federal protection. With Johnson’s help, Muir was able to lobbied Congress into the creation of the act that created Yosemite National Park on Oct. 1, 1890, but the state of California retained control of it.

With Yosemite becoming a National Park, it fell under the jurisdiction of the Army, specifically the Troop I of the 4th Cavalry in 1891. By the late 1890s the overgrazing by wild sheep was no longer a problem and the army made many improvements to the park in their time there. The army also left another legacy, which was what we know now as the ranger hat. The iconic hat that is now worn by all park rangers was once the hat worn by the cavalry during campaigns. As time went on Muir continued to lobby for federal ownership of Yosemite. In 1903, he and Theodore Roosevelt camped near Glacier Point for three days. Because of that trip Roosevelt was convinced, and in 1906 Roosevelt signed a bill that finally returned it to the federal government.


Matt Bair is a junior studying history and political science and a columnist for The Post. Email him at

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