The Gates of Yosemite Valley

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


Traveling southwest from last week’s visit to Yellowstone National Park, we reach the Sierra Nevada Mountains just east of Sacramento for a visit to Yosemite National Park.


This Linen Era postcard published by the Western Publishing and Novelty Company of Los Angeles, Ca., shows the Gates of Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Valley stretches some eight miles in the park along the Merced River on El Portal Road. The view on the postcard features three of Yosemite’s most popular attractions, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, the Three Graces and Clouds Rest. Not visible in this particular postcard but still a prominent feature of the park are the giant Sequoia trees that grace the park’s lower elevations.


The over 1,100-square-mile park was officially designated by the Department of Interior as a National Park on October 1, 1890, almost 25 years after its lands were officially protected.


Two of the park’s most popular features, at least among the more daring and adventurous are of course, El Capitan and Half Dome, a pair of sheer granite-faced outcroppings bookending the east and west end of the Yosemite Valley.


Half Dome rises 8,846 ft. above sea level on the eastern end of Yosemite Valley with an almost 1,200 ft. elevation above the valley floor below. Its first ascension was recorded in 1875 by George Anderson, who drilled holes along his route to the top. Those holes and that route is popular today as the cable route to the top of the dome.


More daring is El Capitan on the western end of the valley. “El Cap,” as it’s known in climbers’ parlance, rises roughly 7,600 ft. above sea level and over 3,000 ft. above the valley floor below. Since 1905, some 30 people have fallen to their deaths attempting to ascend the peak. Only three people have successfully free-climbed El Cap up what’s known as the Golden Gate route. “Free climbing” is a term used to describe climbers who attempt the climb without ropes or safety equipment. This heights challenged News Dog would call it something else, but that’s another story. Both climbs require permits from Park Rangers before attempting to climb.


During a normal year, Yosemite averages over four million visitors, but during the 2020 pandemic, those numbers were cut by almost half to 2.2 million. The number one visited National Park in 2020 was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee which recorded over 12.1 million visitors.

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