A lot of Californians are heading to Yosemite for the Fourth of July weekend. It was 145 years ago today that the scenic valley became the first parkland set aside by the federal government. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation that designated the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove as parkland. The federal government gave the land to the state of California on condition that it be used for “public use, resort, and recreation.” But Yosemite was almost loved to death right from the start.
California, long before its current budget woes, couldn’t keep up with the wear and tear on the park from the steady stream of tourists. Yosemite became a national park in 1890. Thirteen years later, another president, Theodore Roosevelt, camped out in Yosemite with naturalist John Muir. Muir spent the three-day campout lobbying Roosevelt for federal management of the entire 1,200 square miles.
Today, Yosemite attracts more than 3 million visitors a year. Despite the crowds, almost all of Yosemite National Park is still considered wilderness.