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Yosemite Valley (No. 790 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
The forest floor frames Half Dome. – Candice N. Heinz

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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Abraham Lincoln’s declaration on June 30, 1864 for Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to “be set aside for public use, resort and recreation for all time” was the beginning of an idea that America could preserve its majestic spaces. Many years later, this notion led to the creation of America’s National and State Parks. Yosemite Valley did not stay a California State Park for long. In 1906, California returned ownership of Yosemite to the federal government and it became Yosemite National Park.

The Mormon Batallion was the first group of white men to discover Yosemite Valley. In 1851 they went searching for Native American tribal leaders responsible for burning and pillaging local trading posts. Within a few years, the beauty of the Valley attracted the attention of businessmen interested in attracting tourists to the area. In later years as loggers arrived in the Valley, the drive to preserve its pristine beauty and sensitive native habitat began.

In the summer of 1869, John Muir walked into Yosemite Valley, first as a shepherd and then taking various odd jobs to sustain his life in the mountains. The mountains called to him and Yosemite became one of his most cherished places on earth. Muir was a naturalist, botanist, author of ten books and hundreds of articles. As a result of skilful observations, he presented scientific evidence to prove that glaciers carved Yosemite Valley. Muir is considered the father of America’s National Parks and founder of the American conservation movement. He also established and was first president of the Sierra Club to advocate for Yosemite’s protection. Later in life, Muir traveled extensively around the world, addressing the issues of forest and wilderness conservation.

Muir believed that, “wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

The California Historic Landmark No. 790 is mounted on the entrance wall of the auditorium building at the Yosemite National Park Visitor Center.

Mariposa County

The wonders of the Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs lie in eastern Mariposa County. The small settlements in the western foothills of the county sprang up during the Gold Rush. The people in these early mining towns made many decisions affecting statewide mining law.

Time Period Represented



$20 entrance fee into the park. Campground fees extra

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