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Yosemite National Park

Giant Sequoia Trees
The oldest Sequoia trees are believed to be about 3000 years old.
Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada of California and lies 150 miles east of San Francisco and only a six hour drive from Los Angeles. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and biological diversity. The 750,000-acre, 1,200 square-mile park contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 1600 miles of streams, 800 miles of hiking trails, and 350 miles of roads. Two federally designated wild and scenic rivers, the Merced and Tuolumne, begin within Yosemite's borders and flow west into California's Central Valley. Annual park visitation exceeds 3.5 million, with most visitor use concentrated in the seven square mile area of Yosemite Valley.

Vernal Falls
Vernal Falls with a drop of 317 feet.
The geology of Yosemite is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.

Meadow of Flowers
Meadow of Wildflowers.
Yosemite is one of the largest and least-fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and it supports a diversity of plants and wildlife. The park has an elevation range from 2,000 to 13,123 feet and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat or documented records for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.

Giant Sequoia Trees
Steller's Jay.
Yosemite has more than 300 species of vertebrate animals, and 85 of these are native mammals. Black bears are abundant in the park, and are often involved in conflicts with humans that result in property damage and, occasionally, injuries to humans. Visitor education and bear management efforts have reduced the bear-human incidents and property damage by 90% in the past few years. Ungulates include large numbers of mule deer. Bighorn sheep formerly populated the Sierra crest, but have been reduced to several remnant populations. There are 17 species of bats, 9 of which are either Federal or California Species of Special Concern. Over 150 species of birds regularly occur in the parks. Great gray owls are of special interest in Yosemite because here they reach the furthest southern extent of their global range, and they are isolated by hundreds of miles from the next closest population in far northern California.

(Much of the information in this section was adapted from resources provided by Yosemite National Park.)

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