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Wonderful Falls and Fabulous Trees
 

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California's natural assets included not merely her gold fields, but also the great beauty of her environment.  President Lincoln himself was apparently fascinated by accounts of California's wealth of natural splendor.  An 1865 newspaper article quoted him as declaring, "California…about those Arcadian valleys of yours, those wonderful falls and fabulous trees, we can never hear enough."

In particular, many considered Yosemite Valley and the giant sequoia trees of the Big Tree Grove as national treasures worthy of protection.  To that end, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Park Act, arguably his most lasting contribution to California. 

Passed by Congress in 1864, this bill granted Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California.  The act mandated that the land "be held for public use, resort, and recreation," in essence protecting Yosemite from private land claims and preserving the park for future generations.  Although Lincoln signed this law eight years before the establishment of the first national park, it can be said that California in general and Yosemite in particular was the birthplace of the idea of a national park.


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California Governor Frederick Low signed this proclamation in 1864, appointing several individuals as commissioners to oversee Yosemite Valley.  Among the commissioners was famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of New York City's Central Park.  Governor’s Proclamation, Governor's Office Records, California State Archives.

California Governor Frederick Low signed this proclamation in 1864, appointing several individuals as commissioners to oversee Yosemite Valley. Among the commissioners was famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of New York City's Central Park.

Governor’s Proclamation, Governor's Office Records, California State Archives.


This photograph, taken circa 1890, shows the famous giant sequoia commonly known as the Wawona Tree.  In 1881, a tunnel was cut in the base of the tree's trunk.  Visitors traveled through the tunnel to the Yosemite Valley, courtesy of the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company.  Roger Larson Collection, California State Archives.

This photograph, taken circa 1890, shows the famous giant sequoia commonly known as the Wawona Tree. In 1881, a tunnel was cut in the base of the tree's trunk. Visitors traveled through the tunnel to the Yosemite Valley, courtesy of the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company.

Roger Larson Collection, California State Archives


Postcard, Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point, Mariposa Road. Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives.

Postcard, Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point, Mariposa Road.   

Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives


Postcard, Half Dome and Clouds's Rest, the Yosemite Valley. Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives.

Postcard, Half Dome and Clouds's Rest, the Yosemite Valley.

Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives


Postcard, View from Glacier Point, the Yosemite Valley.  Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives.

Postcard, View from Glacier Point, the Yosemite Valley.

Sandra Harold Collection, California State Archives


Falling Waters or Waters of Yosemite, Sheet Music Cover by J. L. Truax. Ephemera Collection, California State Archives.

Falling Waters or Waters of Yosemite, Sheet Music Cover by J. L. Truax.

Ephemera Collection, California State Archives



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