The Ahwahneechee, a group of Miwok and Paiute peoples, lived in the Yosemite area of California for 4000 years before the first explorations into the region by American settlers. The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century dramatically increased travel in the area, and before long white pioneers had discovered the beautiful valley with its thunderous waterfalls and towering stone monoliths.
In 1855, San Francisco entrepreneur James Hutchings organized the first tourist party to Yosemite Valley. It wasn’t long before roads and inns began springing up. Alarmed by this development, naturalists successfully petitioned Congress to protect the area. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which eventually ceded Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to California as a state park.
This landmark decision, the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use, paved the way for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park. Yosemite National Park was created on October 1, 1890, but the State of California retained control of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt met with conservation activist John Muir who introduced him to the natural wonders of Yosemite. On that excursion, Muir convinced Roosevelt to recede the state grant and make the Valley and the Mariposa Grove part of Yosemite National Park. This joining together of the 1864 state grant lands with the 1890 national park land occurred in 1906.
The administration of Yosemite National Park was transferred to the newly formed National Park Service in 1916. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, and Giant Sequoia groves. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. Learn more about Yosemite and its history at the following links:
P.S. The National Park Service webpages are not operating at the time I’m posting this, due to the federal government shutdown, but I included the link for future reference.