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In 1851 a small militia trekked through California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and discovered a site so spectacular that, over the succeeding century and a half, many millions followed in order to experience the splendour of Yosemite. October 2015 will see the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite, Kate Nearpass Ogden provides a comprehensive and unique scientific and cultural history of this remarkable area of natural beauty, exploring everything from its geological origins to its nineteenth-century discovery and the creation of the magnificent park that it is today.
Known for its unusual rock formations, breath-taking vistas and variety of waterfalls, Yosemite is visited by nearly 4 million people each year. The area was actually named due to a misunderstanding: although the valley was known to its native Miwok inhabitants as Ahwahnee ('place like a gaping mouth'), Anglo-American visitors mistook another Miwok phrase, yosemite ('there are killers among them'), to be the great valley's name. Its history features a cohort of colourful characters, including Scottish-born naturalist John Muir, early inn-keeper James Mason Hutchings and mountain man and park guardian Galen Rowell. Today, however, the valley most commonly hosts an array of painters, photographers, hikers, campers and tourists from across America and around the world.
Yosemite traces the park's formation, exploration, exploitation and preservation. Ranging through the natural and human forces that have sculpted the valley itself, Yosemite also takes in the art it has inspired. Rich in detail as well as intriguing anecdotes, Ogden's history of California's 'incomparable valley' is beautifully illustrated with more than 100 fine images, from nineteenth-century artworks and engravings to historical and modern colour photographs.
Kate Nearpass Ogden is Professor of Art History at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Her essays on the artists of Yosemite Valley have appeared in Yosemite: Art of an American Icon and Yosemite and Sequoia: A Century of California National Parks.