Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

210 × 148 × 20 mm
208 pages
110 illustrations, 70 in colour
01 Oct 2015
  • £20.00

  • This edition is currently unavailable

Yosemite Kate Nearpass Ogden

In 1851 a small militia trekking through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains discovered one of the world’s most spectacular natural sites; Yosemite Valley is now visited by millions of people each year. A comprehensive and unique scientific and cultural history of this remarkable area of natural beauty, Yosemite explores everything from the valley’s geological origins to its nineteenth-century discovery and the creation of the magnificent park that it is today.

The valley was known to its native Miwok inhabitants as Ahwahnee, translated as ‘place like a gaping mouth’. The name that stuck, however – the English ‘Yosemite’ – may be a corruption of the Miwok phrase johemite, which some writers translate as ‘some of them are killers’. Today the park plays host daily to an array of painters, photographers, hikers, mountain climbers, campers and tourists from across America and around the world, drawn to its unique rock formations, breathtaking vistas and spectacular waterfalls. Yosemite traces the park’s formation, exploration, exploitation and preservation, taking in both the natural forces that sculpted the valley itself and the colourful characters that shaped it socially and culturally, as well as many of the works of art it has inspired.

Rich in detail as well as intriguing anecdotes, this history of California’s ‘incomparable valley’ is beautifully illustrated with more than 100 striking images, from historical engravings and advertising graphics to works by renowned artists and photographers, including Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, Albert Bierstadt, Bruce Davidson and David Hockney.

‘Kate Nearpass Ogden takes in a lungful of classic America in Yosemite. Taking a accessible ramble through its history and geology, it places the park at the centre of the USAs cultural heartland and changing attitudes.’ — Wanderlust

‘the author looks at the scientific and cultural history of the area . . . the book features more than 100 images illustrating Nearpass Ogdens engaging text, together with sections on the geology, plants and wildlife found in and around Yosemite.’ — Outdoor Photography

‘Clear and intelligent writing . . . with instructive sections on geology, plants and animals, human history, art and literature, tourism, and more. Clearly this is the one book on Yosemite to read and reread. Ogden brings the perspectives of a thoughtful twenty-first-century cultural historian to bear on her subject. Her commentary is most helpful in the chapters that deal with religious and artistic responses to the valley. It is refreshing to have Yosemite placed within the broad context of American ideas and ideals.’ — David Robertson, author of West of Eden: A History of the Art and Literature of Yosemite

‘Ogden presents an engaging introduction to the natural history, discovery, and evolution of Yosemite in this concise, handsomely illustrated, octavo-sized volume . . . With its crisp prose, 100-plus illustrations (most in color), notes, and bibliography, the book helps readers to understand why the area was first protected in 1864 and why it became a national park in the fall of 1890, and remains among the country’s most popular national parks . . . Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘This slim volume offers a concise history of a national icon. Nearpass Ogden’s writing is crisp and clear, with little jargon. The endnotes, although spare, provide a serviceable list of primary and secondary sources on the park. Art historians, as well as historians of the environment or the American West, will find the volume useful . . . Fusing archive, museum, and internet, Yosemite’s unique source base provides a new methodological lens on a familiar subject.’ — Environmental History Journal

Show all

Kate Nearpass Ogden is Professor of Art History at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey. Her essays on the artists of Yosemite Valley have appeared in Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (2006) and Yosemite and Sequoia: A Century of California National Parks (1993).

One: Granite Plutons and ‘God’s Great Plow’

Two: Discovery: Weird Beauty and Terrible Grandeur

Three: Yosemite as Home

Four: American Eden

Five: Artists’ Mecca

Six: The Park Idea

Seven: Tourists, Tolls and Trains

Eight: Trouble in Paradise

Nine: A National Playground


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements