Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

"Administration of Yosemite National Park"

Handbook of Yosemite National Park (1921)
by W. B. Lewis

Next: Geology of YosemiteContentsPrevious: Ideals and Policy of the National Park Service

Administration of Yosemite National Park


By W. B. Lewis

Superintendent, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, which covers 1125 square miles, an area nearly as extensive as the State of Rhode Island, is a national reservation. It is completely subject to federal administration and is governed by rules and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior under authority of the law. The enforcement of the laws and regulations is entrusted to a Superintendent who resides and maintains headquarters in Yosemite Valley and who is directly responsible to the Director of the National Park Service, the chief administrative officer of the entire National Parks system.

The duties of the Superintendent are multifarious. He must supervise the many governmental activities, some of which are the task of building and maintaining roads and trails; the building of telephone and telegraph lines and the operation of telephone and telegraph service within the park, and to the connection of these lines with the outside commercial lines; the building of power transmission lines and the operation of the government-owned and -built 2000 kilowatt hydro-electric power plant; the building, maintenance, and operation of the park shops and barns; the construction and maintenance of living quarters for the employees of the government; the operation of construction camps for the working men; the installation, maintenance, and operation of water and sewage systems; the care of public grounds; the policing and maintenance of the public camping grounds, etc.; and the administration of the park ranger force. The duties of this last branch of the service include the general policing of the park for the protection of fish and game, the prevention and extinguishing of forest fires, the regulation of traffic, and the general preservation of order, the checking of automobiles, and the maintenance of an Information Bureau for the dissemination of accurate, reliable, and impartial information on all matters of interest to park visitors.

The Superintendent must also hear complaints, arbitrate differences between individuals or parties, supervise the activities of those individuals or corporations who operate hotels, camps, transportation services, etc., under government franchise, arid adjust differences between such individuals and corporations themselves or between them and the public.

The Superintendent further has supervision over the cutting of timber on private lands within the park and on government lands where, through exchanges with private owners to preserve privately owned timber of scenic importance, such cutting is permitted. He must also see that the government’s interests are not impaired under the operation of power and water supply projects where they are authorized by law as, for instance, in the case with the City and County of San Francisco in the development of its power and water supply project in Hetch Hetchy Valley.

With this diversity of governmental activities the administrative organization is divided into various departments, each with its supervising officer and each with clearly specified activities and duties. These various administrative and operative units together with their general duties are enumerated below.

Department of General Administration. The Assistant Superintendent is in charge of this department and the activities are as follows: general office management; purchase of supplies and equipment; disbursing of pay rolls and accounts; timekeeping; accounting; collections of revenues from sales, franchise fees, and fees from all other sources; appointments; employees’ compensation; preparation of contracts and vouchers; sales; and the numerous details of local routine matters.

Department of Maintenance and Operation. The activities of this department, which is administered by a Park Supervisor who is assisted by an Assistant Supervisor, are the most varied of any of the park administrative units. They consist principally of the maintenance of the 138 miles of park roads and 600 miles of trails, of some 200 government buildings, and of approximately 5 miles of water lines; the maintenance and repair of all buildings, fences, and bridges; the care and distribution of stock and transportation facilities; upkeep and repair of tools and equipment; care of public grounds and camps; disposal of garbage and waste; and the production of wood, ice, hay, etc.

Department of Engineering. A Resident Engineer has direct charge of this unit and his duties consist mainly of the advisory supervision of all outside maintenance work; the making of surveys for roads, trails, pipe lines, etc.; the preparation of plans, designs, and specifications for construction; and the inspection contract work.

Ranger Service. It is with this phase of the park administration that the public comes most in contact. The Ranger Service consists of a force of from ten to thirty rangers (depending upon the season of the year) under a Chief Ranger.

The park is divided into a number of districts and, during the summer months, in each is stationed a mounted ranger who is responsible for the proper patrol of his district. It is his duty to inform, assist, and instruct the park visitor, to prevent and extinguish forest fires, to protect fish and game in accordance with the park rules and regulations, to inspect camping grounds, and to enforce the rules and regulations, making arrests when necessary.

Traffic rangers, mounted on horses and motorcycles, are stationed on the floor of Yosemite Valley. While their principal duty is to regulate traffic, they must also be informative to the public, patrol for fire, police camping grounds, and, in general, preserve law and order around the village, camps, and hotels.

A specially qualified ranger is also in charge of the Information Bureau which is maintained at the Park Headquarters. Here information concerning roads and trails and all other matters of public interest concerning the park is given out; campers are registered; park publications and maps are distributed and sold; and bulletins concerning roads, trails, and general park conditions are prepared from time to time for distribution to newspapers, automobile clubs, and other organizations interested.

Checking or automobile rangers are stationed at all of the road entrances to the park, and at the top

National Park Service insignia

 1.—Director of National Parks (Gold Star)
      Assistant Director of National Parks (Silver Star)
 2.—Park Superintendent
 3.—Assistant Park Superintendent
 4.—Park Engineer
 5.—Assistant Park Engineer
 6.—Chief Park Ranger
 7.—Assistant Chief Park Ranger
 8.—Park Ranger
 9.—Temporary Park Ranger
10.—Ranger’s Badge
11.—Collar Insignia

and bottom of the steep grades entering Yosemite Valley. They issue permits, collect automobile fees, distribute park information, and collect and seal firearms. Records are kept of every automobile or other vehicle passing the stations, together with the number of persons carried and the exact time of leaving the stations. Checking rangers are also called upon to do their share towards the effective operation of the park by observing for fires, reporting violations of regulations, etc.

Electrical Department. Under this department falls the maintenance and operation of the park telephone, telegraph, power, and lighting systems. A Chief Electrician is in direct charge.

The telephone and telegraph system of the park consists of approximately 210 miles of telephone lines, to which are attached from 100 to 175 telephones. These lines radiate from Yosemite Valley to various parts of the park, and fifteen miles of telegraph line links Yosemite with El Portal where connection is made with the lines of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company.

A 150-line switchboard is operated continuously on a 24-hour basis throughout the year, and local and long distance service may be had from all hotels, camps, or ranger stations throughout the park. The main telegraph office is located at the Park Headquarters Building in Yosemite Village, but messages may be filed and received at all hotels and camps. A messenger service is also provided during the summer months but this is of necessity limited to Yosemite Valley.

The electrical system consists of a hydro-electric, power plant of 2000 kilowatt capacity, located on the Merced River a short distance below the western end of Yosemite Valley. This plant was completed in June, 1919, at a cost of $212,000.00 and serves seven miles of high power transmission line and approximately nine miles of distributing lines. The energy here developed is used for power, lighting, heating, and cooking purposes in the hotels and camps, and in the residences of park employees and other government buildings.

Department of Forests and Timber. Under the supervision of a Park Forester this unit of park administration is charged with the supervision of timber operations in the park and the immediate representation of the federal government on the Hetch Hetchy project in course of development by the City and County of San Francisco.

Special work having to do with the forests of the park is also assigned to this department.

Mechanical Department. This department is presided over by a Master Mechanic who has charge of the operation of the machine shop and the maintenance and upkeep of all motor-driven vehicles. To him is also assigned the task of advisory supervision of the upkeep and operation of all power-driven machinery and plants.

In addition to the more or less specific activities enumerated above, numerous problems of a special nature are from time to time taken up in connection with other bureaus or departments of the State and National governments. Control of the mosquito nuisance is carried on in co÷peration with and under the advice of the United States Public Health Service of the Treasury Department; the study of forest insects and application of the findings of the Bureau of Entomology of the Department of Agriculture in the elimination of insect depredations on the park forests are effected by the park force in co÷peration with that bureau; the planting of fish in the park waters is done in co÷peration with the California State Fish and Game Commission; methods for the extermination of rodents in Yosemite Valley are applied under the advice of the Biological Department of the Department of Agriculture; and in co÷peration with the Forest Service the problem of the preservation of timber along the roads leading to the park is being worked out.

Hence the administration of the park, in its position as a separate and independent nationally governed unit which compares with the District of Columbia so far as form and application of government is concerned, places, on the small scale, upon its administrative organization many of the same complex problems of administration and operation that confront the local government of that reservation—problems and difficulties that are, however, little realized by the casual visitor to the park whose soul and mind are occupied in absorbing scenery and with getting the fullest enjoyment out of his holiday.

Next: Geology of YosemiteContentsPrevious: Ideals and Policy of the National Park Service

Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management