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Yosemite Nature Notes 1-47 (1922-1985)

Yosemite Nature Notes 1925-1927 masthead with the Sentinel Dome Jeffrey Pine (which died in 1977 during a drought and fell in 2003)
1925-1927 Masthead with the Sentinel Dome Jeffrey Pine

Yosemite Nature Notes (YNN) is the former monthly journal of the Yosemite Natural History Association. See also YNN’s successor, Yosemite (1986-2010).

[Selected Special Issues, 1922-1936 index, 1922 (v. 1), 1923 (v. 2), 1924 (v. 3), 1925 (v. 4), 1926 (v. 5), 1927 (v. 6), 1928 (v. 7), 1929 (v. 8), 1930 (v. 9), 1931 (v. 10), 1932 (v. 11), 1933 (v. 12), 1934 (v. 13), 1935 (v. 14), 1936 (v. 15), 1937 (v. 16), 1938 (v. 17), 1939 (v. 18), 1940 (v. 19), 1941 (v. 20), 1942 (v. 21), 1943 (v. 22), 1944 (v. 23), 1945 (v. 24), 1946 (v. 25), 1947 (v. 26), 1948 (v. 27), 1949 (v. 28), 1950 (v. 29), 1951 (v. 30), 1952 (v. 31), 1953 (v. 32), 1954 (v. 33), 1955 (v. 34), 1956 (v. 35), 1957 (v. 36), 1958 (v. 37), 1959 (v. 38), 1960 (v. 39), 1961-1962 (v. 40), 1970-1971 (v. 41), 1972 (v. 42), 1973 (v. 43), 1974-1975 (v. 44), 1976 (v. 45), 1977 (v. 46), 1978-1985 (v. 47), 1986-2010 (v. 48-)]

Yosemite Nature Notes, selected “Special Issues.” Only the latest Special Issue for selected topics are listed here.
Cover, a Guide to the Giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Nature Notes, 28(6) (June 1949)
June 1949

The Fall and Revival of Yosemite Nature Notes

Dan Anderson, March 2007 (updated May 2021)

Yosemite (formerly Yosemite Nature Notes) ceased publication in 1962 with the “Final Issue” of volume 40, number 6 [PDF]. YNN was originally established to publicize the Yosemite Nature Guide Service, an innovative interpretation program that continues with Ranger Naturalists in all National Parks today. Little hint is given in the final issue to halt publication—just this notice in the front matter that was signed by “The Editor”:

It is with a deep feeling of sadness that we announce the demise of Yosemite — a victim of rising costs, diminishing manpower, and the changing times. . . . The passing of Yosemite marks the end of an era. Yosemite was the last, and first, of its kind, outlasting similar publications produced in other National Parks.

A hint about “changing times” is given in a 2000 article by Paul Schullery and Lee Whittlesey1, The authors tried, but failed, to find out why a sister publication, Yellowstone Nature Notes, ceased publication in 1958. The closest they came was this speculation:

[Former Yellowstone Park Historian] Aubrey [Haines (1914-2000)] suggested that someone may just have decided that [Yellowstone] Nature Notes had become “superfluous.” Changing attitudes about interpretive style or the perhaps old-fashioned tone of the publication may have been factors. In the late 1950s, traditional observational “natural history” was falling out of favor perhaps even more than it had been in previous decades, replaced by more rigorous scientific techniques. For many years, park service naturalists had been jokingly referred to as “Sunday supplement scientists” for their simple nature lessons, and perhaps the criticisms were part of the reason for the end of Nature Notes. On the other hand, perhaps it was just practical needs, or bureaucratic whim, that one day led to a decision (either in the National Park Service or in each park individually) to invest limited staff resources in other things.

The most concrete reason given is financial. Steve Medley, in a 2003 Yosemite article2, gives the following reason YNN ceased publication, and how the journal revived in the 1970s:

Despite efforts to adapt to social and other changes in Yosemite, YNHA [Yosemite Natural History Association] seemed to lose momentum during the 1960s. Crippled by a dwindling subscription base and ebbing financial support, Yosemite Nature Notes ceased publication in 1961 after 40 years. Some believe that park naturalists, already burdened with oversized workloads in their regular NPS jobs, were unable to devote adequate time to the auxiliary organization. All YNHA programming suffered as a result.

About 1970, things began to turn around a bit for the organization. Several civilian employees were hired to handle the affairs of YNHA, and a series of Business Managers (including Jack Gyer, who would later became the park’s museum curator) began to make needed improvements and changes to the operation. In 1970, YNHA began to issue a newsletter (in place of the discontinued Yosemite Nature Notes), and the revival gained strength.

When Henry Berrey was hired as Managing Editor of the association in 1971, YNHA blossomed. Able to devote himself full-time to the job, Berrey demonstrated the administrative energy and leadership that was needed by the organization. . . . and the publications program expanded and matured.

In 1985 Steve Medley was hired as president of the Yosemite Natural History Association. An attorney, and former Yosemite Librarian and Park Ranger, Medley’s leadership fully revived the renamed Yosemite Association, with an emphasis on fundraising, publishing, and program support. He revived the sporadic YNN in 1986 as a high-quality quarterly publication, Yosemite. Medley’s death in a car accident October 5, 2006 was a huge loss to the association and to Yosemite. Shortly after Medley’s death, publication of Yosemite halted with the merger of the Yosemite Assocation with the Yosemite Conservancy.

1 Paul Schullery and Lee Whittlesey, “Yellowstone Nature Notes: a Neglected Documentary Resource,” Yellowstone Science 8(1):2-5 (Winter 2000) [PDF]
2 Steven P. Medley, “The Yosemite Association: 80 Years of Support for Yosemite,” Yosemite 65(3):9-16 (Summer 2003) [PDF]

Bibliographical Information

Yosemite Nature Notes (volumes 1-47) (Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Natural History Association, 1922-1985). Renamed Yosemite for volume 40 (1961-1962). In July 1985 it was again renamed Yosemite. Mimeographed, 28 cm. (1922-1924, volumes 1-3). Printed, 25 cm. Ill. (1925-, volumes 4-) LCCN 54040211. Library of Congress call number QH1.Y6. U. S. Government Document Call Number: I 29.119.

Yosemite Nature Notes was a joint publication of the Yosemite Naturalist Division of Yosemite National Park, USNPS, and the Yosemite Natural History Association. YNN first appeared 1922 in mimeograph form as Nature Notes to publicize the activities of the Yosemite Nature Guide Service. It adopted Charles M. Goethe’s motto “Learn to Read the Trail-side as a Book.” Nature Notes was renamed Yosemite Nature Notes in 1924 and was first printed in 1925. Originally YNN appeared weekly from June to August or September, and monthly for the rest of the year. From 1926 YNN appeared monthly.

A General Index to Yosemite Nature Notes, 1922-1936 (Berkeley: USNPS, 1937). “Compiled under the direction of Hazel Hunt Voth by workers provided by Works Progress Administration.” Indexes volumes 1-15 of Yosemite nature notes. 61 mimeographed pages and an errata slip. Reference copies at Stanford, UC Berkeley (Bioscience and Bancroft), CAS, UCLA, CSULA, and San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco Public Libraries.

Digitized by Dan Anderson, 2007.
    —Dan Anderson, www.yosemite.ca.us

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

If you have questions or comments, please send a message to Dan Anderson.