One Hundred Hikes in Yosemite

Humans in Yosemite—Yosemite Under the Fourth Cavalry

What the Yosemite Act failed to stipulate was how the newly formed Yosemite National Park should be administered. Hence it was, like Yellowstone National Park before it, put under Army jurisdiction. Troops of the Fourth Cavalry, led by Captain Abram Wood, arrived in the new park on May 19, 1891, and set up camp in Wawona, not in Yosemite Valley, for that part of the Park still lay under state jurisdiction. Troops were allowed into the Valley, but they had to camp at its west end, in Bridalveil Meadow.

One of several major problems confronting Captain Wood and his men was the problem of sheep grazing. Each year about 100,000 sheep had been led up into Yosemite's high meadows, but now this practice was illegal. Wood lacked the legal authority to arrest the trespassing sheepmen, but he devised a technique that discouraged them: His men would escort these herders "to another part of the Park for ejectment, this march consuming four or five days; and after they are ejected it takes as long to go back to their herds. In the meantime the sheep are alone, and the forest animals are liable to destroy or scatter many of them. When the owner awakens to this fact, he takes more interest in the doings of his herders and gives them orders not to enter the Park under any circumstances." The herders, however, grew more wary and took their sheep into more remote parts of Yosemite. The sheep problem, therefore, did not come under control until the late 1890s, and at least one herder drove sheep into Yosemite until the 1920s.

To aid in their pursuit of herders, the troops established a network of trails. Because these trails were faint and obscure, they were made easier to follow by blazing trailside conifers with a conspicuous T, or trail mark. None of the original Ts remain today, but the symbol stuck, so that even in recent decades trees along Yosemite's trails were T-blazed.

At the end of 1896, an aging Galen Clark, who had earlier been reappointed Yosemite guardian, resigned, and was replaced by an inept guardian. Yosemite Valley began to have increased problems, and the Army, whose jurisdiction lay outside the Valley, could do nothing about them. John Muir had earlier seen the need to incorporate the Valley into the Park, in 1892 had organized the Sierra Club, and had become its first president. With 181 other charter members he pressed for this goal and others, and in 1906, after much lobbying, saw the ceding of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the Federal Government. However, a price was paid: The area of Yosemite National Park was substantially reduced. (Today, however, more lands are protected than in the 1890 Act, due to the creation of three buffer areas around the Park: the Ansel Adams, Hoover, and Emigrant wildernesses.)

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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