Our Parks Turn 150

SO MANY OF US HAVE FOND MEMORIES of visiting Yosemite National Park and the California State Parks. We have long enjoyed camping, hiking and swimming in the state parks, from D.L. Bliss State Park at Tahoe to South Yuba River State Park.

At Yosemite, we remember glancing up at Half Dome, hiking in Tuolumne Meadows and watching the “Firefall,” where burning embers were spilled from the top of Glacier Point to the valley 3,000 feet below, appearing like a glowing waterfall.

This year, the California State Parks and Yosemite National Park are celebrating their joint heritage: their 150th anniversary.

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation granting the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California to be “held for public use for all time.”

The Yosemite Grant Act represented not only the birth of California State Parks, but in essence, the birth of the national park idea.

The State of California owned and managed Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as state parks from 1864. Conservationist John Muir’s persuasive words to President Roosevelt and state authorities led to combining these two areas with Yosemite National Park in 1906 to preserve a larger park for the people.

After camping in Yosemite Park with Muir near Glacier Point for three days, Roosevelt exclaimed: “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Yosemite and the State Parks (278 of them with more than 14,000 campsites) will celebrate their sesquicentennial all summer. For information visit 150.parks.ca.gov and nps.gov/featurecontent/yose/anniversary/.

(Photos: Yosemite by Olof Carmel; Roosevelt and Muir by U.S. Library of Congress)

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