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Yosemite Valley from Artists' Point, California, photograph by William Henry Jackson, ca. 1898

Photographer William Henry Jackson documented the majestic beauty of the West for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Detroit Publishing Company. His images of its natural wonders helped win congressional and popular support for land preservation.


Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Yosemite Valley from Artists' Point, California

Yosemite National Park

The development of the West attracted a growing population. As settlement impacted natural resources, conservationists urged Congress to preserve some of the West’s most scenic and fragile environments. In 1864 Senator John Conness of California introduced a bill making Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias the first parklands set aside by the federal government. Congress initially granted them to California, but in 1890 designated them a National Park. Congress protected Yosemite from encroachment and made it part of the National Park Service established in 1916.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.

John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912