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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, millions of others would follow to gaze upon its splendor: Yosemite. Publishing in time for the 125th anniversary of Yosemite National Park, Kate Nearpass Ogden’s Yosemite offers a comprehensive look at both the scientific and cultural history of this remarkable place, exploring everything from its geological origins to the political will it took to preserve it.
Known for its unusual and dramatic rock formations, breathtaking vistas, and treasure trove of waterfalls, Yosemite receives nearly four million visitors a year. Scanning over these crowds, Ogden soon leaves them to walk through Yosemite’s history, back to its original name, “Ahwahnee”—given by its Miwok inhabitants—and the tragic irony behind what we call it now, which early Anglo-American visitors mistook as the Miwok appellation, but which some scholars now suggest in fact means “there are killers among them.” Visiting with famed stewards such as John Muir, and lesser-known ones such as James Mason Hutchings and Galen Rowell, she recounts the valley’s discovery by westerners, exploration, exploitation, and its eventual preservation as one of the first National Parks. Ogden also looks at the many artworks it has inspired and the larger hold it has had on the imagination and our dreams of the unspoiled American west.
Rich in detail and beautifully illustrated with everything from landscape photography to paintings inspired by its beauties, this book is a must read for anyone who has ever stepped into this incomparable valley—or anyone who has wanted to.
About the Author
Kate Nearpass Ogden is professor of art history at Stockton University in Galloway, 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.
“Ogden presents an engaging introduction to the natural history, discovery, and evolution of Yosemite in this concise, handsomely illustrated, octavo-sized volume. . . . With its crisp prose, 100-plus illustrations (most in color), notes, and bibliography, the book helps readers to understand why the area was first protected in 1864 and why it became a national park in the fall of 1890, and remains among the country's most popular national parks. . . . Highly recommended.”
“Ogden takes in a lungful of classic America in Yosemite. Taking an accessible ramble through its history and geology, it places the park at the centre of the USA’s cultural heartland and changing attitudes.”
“The author looks at the scientific and cultural history of the area. . . . the book features more than 100 images illustrating Nearpass Ogden’s engaging text, together with sections on the geology, plants, and wildlife found in and around Yosemite.”
— Outdoor Photography
"This slim volume offers a concise history of a national icon. Nearpass Ogden’s writing is crisp and clear, with little jargon. The endnotes, although spare, provide a serviceable list of primary and secondary sources on the park. Art historians, as well as historians of the environment or the American West, will find the volume useful. . . . Fusing archive, museum, and internet, Yosemite’s unique source base provides a new methodological lens on a familiar subject."
— Guy McClellan, University of New Mexico
“Clear and intelligent writing . . . with instructive sections on geology, plants, and animals, human history, art and literature, tourism, and more. Clearly this is the one book on Yosemite to read and reread. Ogden brings the perspectives of a thoughtful twenty-first-century cultural historian to bear on her subject. Her commentary is most helpful in the chapters that deal with religious and artistic responses to the valley. It is refreshing to have Yosemite placed within the broad context of American ideas and ideals.”
— David Robertson, author of "West of Eden: A History of the Art and Literature of Yosemite"