1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Yosemite
YOSEMITE, a famous valley on the W. slope of the Sierra Nevada of California, about 150 m. E . of San Francisco and 4000 ft. above the sea. It is 7 m. long, half a mile to a mile wide, and nearly a mile deep, eroded out of hard massive granite by glacial action. Its precipitous walls present a great variety of forms, and the bottom, a filled-up lake basin, is level and park-like. The most notable of the wall rocks are: El Capitan, 3300 ft. high, a sheer, plain mass of granite; the Three Brothers, North Dome, Glacier Point, the Sentinel, Cathedral, Sentinel Dome and Cloud's Rest, from 2800 to nearly 6000 ft. high; and Half Dome, the noblest of all, which rises at the head of the valley to the height of 4740 ft. These rocks illustrate on a grand scale the action of ice in mountain sculpture. For here five large glaciers united to form the grand trunk glacier that eroded the valley and occupied it as its channel. Its moraines, though mostly obscured by vegetation and weathering, may still be traced; while on the snowy peaks at the headwaters of the Merced a considerable number of small glaciers, once tributary to the main Yosemite glacier, still exist. The Bridal Veil Fall, 900 ft. high, is one of the most interesting features of the lower end of the valley. Towards the upper end the great Yosemite Fall pours from a height of 2600 ft. The valley divides at the head into three branches, the Tenaya, Merced and South Fork canyons. In the main (Merced) branch are the Vernal and Nevada Falls, 400 and 600 ft. high. The Nevada is usually ranked next to the Yosemite among the five main falls of the valley, and is the whitest of all the falls. The Vernal, about half a mile below the Nevada, is famous for its afternoon rainbows. At flood-time it is a nearly regular sheet about 80 ft. wide, changing as it descends from green to purplish-grey and white. In the S. branch, a mile from the head of the main valley, is the Ilhlouette Fall, 600 ft. high, one of the most beautiful of the Yosemite choir.
Considering the great height of the snowy mountains about the valley, the climate of the Yosemite is remarkably mild. The vegetation is rich and luxuriant. The tallest pines are over 200 ft. high; the trunks of some of the oaks are from 6 to 8 ft. in diameter; violets, lilies, golden-rods, ceanothus, manzanita, wild rose and azalea make broad beds and banks of bloom in the spring; and on the warmest parts of the walls flowers blossom in every month of the year.
The valley was discovered in 1851 by a military company in pursuit of marauding Indians; regular tourist travel began in 1856. The first permanent settler in the valley was Mr J. C. Lamon, who built a cabin in the upper end of it in 1860 and planted gardens and orchards. In 1864 the valley was granted to the state of California by act of Congress on condition that it should be held as a place of public use, resort and recreation inalienable for all time, was re-ceded to the United States by California on the 3rd of March 1905, and is now included in the Yosemite National Park.
In the number and height of its vertical falls and in the massive grandeur of El Capitan and Half Dome rocks Yosemite is unrivalled. But there are many other valleys of the same kind. The most noted of those in the Sierra, visited every summer by tourists, hunters and mountaineers, are the Hetch Hetchy Valley, a wonderful counterpart of Yosemite in the Tuolumne canyon; Tehipitee Valley, in the Middle Fork canyon of King's river; and the King's river Yosemite in the South Fork canyon, the latter being larger and deeper than the Merced Yosemite. All are similar in their trends, forms, sculpture and vegetation, and are plainly and harmoniously related to the ancient glaciers. The Romsdal and Nacrodal of Norway and Lauterbrunnen of the Alps are well characterized glacial valleys of the Yosemite type, and in S.E. Alaska many may be observed in process of formation.
See the Annual Reports (Washington, 1891 sqq.) of the Superintendent of the Park; the Guide to the Yosemite published by the California Geological Survey; John Muir, Our National Parks (Boston, 1901); and Bunnell's Discovery of the Yosemite (New York, 1893).}} (J. Mu.*)