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The Yosemite Valley (1910) by Galen Clark

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YOSEMITE VALLEY is nearly in the center of the State of California, and about midway between the western base and the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The floor of the Valley, which is four thousand feet above the sea, is nearly a level area about seven miles in length and with an average width of one mile. This floor is nearly a mile in perpendicular depth below the general level of the adjacent region.

The top rim of the surrounding walls is irregular, culminating in craggy peaks, domes and pinnacles, between which it is carved into many fantastic forms of interesting and gigantic proportions, while Nature has been at work for thousands of years adorning and beautifying the great barren walls with trees and shrubbery, flowering plants and ferns, wherever a root-hold could be obtained on every projecting ledge or open crevice containing a little moisture.

The floor of the Valley presents a scene of surpassing beauty, with its great variety of forest trees, flowering shrubbery, green meadows, wild flowers and ferns.

The Merced River flows its winding way from side to side through the length of the Valley. The Illilouette and Teneiya Creeks join the Merced at the extreme upper end, and the Yosemite, Bridal Veil and many other smaller streams from both sides, join the river lower down, all of them forming waterfalls and cascades of charming beauty in the early part of the season, when at their full volume, and many of them lasting throughout the summer.

Prof. J. A Whitney, in his report as State Geologist, says, "The peculiar features of the Valley are, first, the near

El Capitan, by George Fiske
3,300 feet
[Photo by George Fiske]
approach to verticality of its walls; next, their great height, not only absolutely, but as compared with the width of the Valley itself, and, finally, the very small amount of talus at the bottom of the gigantic cliffs."

The late Samuel Bowles of the Springfield, Massachusetts, Republican, who was an early visitor to Yosemite on horseback by the way of old Inspiration Point, in writing home to his paper, says of the Valley:

"As well try to interpret God in thirty-nine articles as portray to you by word of mouth or pen, as well reproduce castle or cathedral. by a stolen frieze or broken column, as this assemblage of national wonder and beauty by photograph or painting.

"The overpowering sense of the sublime, of awful desolation, of transcending marvelousness and unexpectedness, that swept over us as we reined our horses sharply out of green forests and stood upon the high jutting rock that overlooked this rolling, up-heaving sea of granite mountains, holding far down its rough top this vale of beauty of meadow and grove and river! Such tide of feeling, such stoppage of ordinary emotions, comes at rare intervals in any life.

"It was the confrontal of God face to face as in great danger, in solemn, sudden death. It was Niagara magnified. All that was mortal shrunk back, all that was immortal swept to the front and bent down in awe.

"Niagara alone divides honors with it. in America. Only the whole of Switzerland can surpass it."

View from Artist’s Point, by George Fiske
[Photo by George Fiske]

Next: Discovery and HistoryContentsPrevious: Introduction

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management