Yosemite National Park in California is one of the great natural wonders of the western United States. It is home to giant sequoia trees, grand waterfalls, majestic granite mountains, and picturesque meadows. Each year it welcomes more than 3 million visitors, though more than 5 million visited during 2016 alone! Below are fun facts for kids about Yosemite National Park.
Fun Facts for Kids about the Yosemite National Park
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1. Granite Cliffs
Yosemite is known for its massive rock formations and towering cliffs. Much of the park’s landscape was carved out of granite hundreds of thousands of years ago by glaciers.
2. “Some of Them Are Killers”
Miwok and Paiute peoples lived in what is now Yosemite National Park for thousands of years before the arrival of whites in the mid-19th century. The name “Yosemite” comes from a Miwok word that means “some of them are killers.” This was how Miwok who lived elsewhere referred to those who lived in the Yosemite area. Encounters with white settlers proved devastating, with violence continuing against American Indians for many years. Today, there are attempts to heal this relationship, as park rangers learn from traditional native forestry practices.
3. Protected Land
In 1864, during the US Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, deeding the area to the people of California. This was before the US National Park system was created, and it marked the first time in US history that land was successfully set aside for protection. Yosemite National Park was created in 1890. It was expanded to its current size in 1906 after President Teddy Roosevelt took a fateful camping trip to Yosemite with influential (though flawed) naturalist John Muir.
4. Buffalo Soldiers
The original park rangers of Yosemite and other US national parks were African American soldiers, nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers.” In 1904, some of these troops set up the first marked nature trail in the National Park System, near the Merced River in Yosemite. One of the giant sequoias in Yosemite (see #8) is named in honor of Captain Charles Young.
5. UNESCO Heritage Site
Yosemite National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its exceptional natural beauty and ecological value.
6. Artistic Inspiration
Many artists have been drawn to the beauty of Yosemite. Among these was Ansel Adams, whose photographs of Yosemite are among the most famous ever taken.
7. Sister Park in China
Yosemite has a sister park in eastern China. Like Yosemite National Park, Huangshan Park is known for its granite cliffs and beautiful waterfalls.
8. Ancient Giants
Yosemite is home to groves of giant sequoia trees, which often live for more than 2,000 years. Sequoias and redwoods are the largest living things on the planet. Sequoias are only found naturally in California. Although redwoods are often taller, sequoias are the world’s largest trees for the sheer volume of wood. Just one can weigh as much as 46 adult male elephants!
9. Famous Falls
Yosemite is known for its gorgeous waterfalls. One of these, Yosemite Falls, is the tallest waterfall in North America and the fifth tallest in the world. The waterfalls are best seen during late spring when they are filled with runoff from melting snow.
10. Smart Bears
Yosemite is home to many animal species, including marmots, bats, coyotes, and mountain lions. The most famous by far are the black bears. Approximately 300-500 live in the park. They are so skilled at breaking into cars to get at food that they have been called the smartest bears in the world. Bear-proof lockers are located throughout the park, as food or any scented products (such as cosmetics) will attract the bears’ attention and cause break-ins.Sources: My Yosemite: A Guide for Young Adventurers, National Park Service
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