The Yosemite Valley Assorted page details many of the famous Rock Features in the Valley,
including Half Dome, El Capitan, Royal Arches, Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock and more.
There are also images taken in the Tioga Pass, at the Ahwahnee Village, and shots of two
historic hotels, a historic locomotive, and several assorted scenic images from the valley.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

Yosemite Section Index

Yosemite Select

Yosemite Valley
Valley Views
Yosemite Assorted
Mirror Lake
Rivers and Creeks

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Rim
Glacier Point and Washburn Point
Taft Point

Yosemite Wildlife
Deer and Birds
Squirrel and Marmot

Yosemite Plant Life
Mariposa Grove
Sequoia National Park
Assorted Plant Life

Bodie Ghost Town
Mono Lake

A 75 image Overview of the Yosemite Portfolio

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Discovery View (Wawona Tunnel View) and Valley View
El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, and other Scenery
The exquisitely beautiful Mirror Lake in Tenaya Canyon
The Merced River, Tenaya Creek, Yosemite Creek and more

Bridalveil, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and selected images of Yosemite Falls
Detail shots, vignettes and scenic images of Yosemite’s signature waterfall

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Yosemite National Park’s two most famous rim views
Taft Point Fissures and spectacular views from 3000’ over Yosemite Valley

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Mule Deer in the Valley meadows, Hummingbirds, Steller’s Jays, etc.
Golden-Mantled Squirrels, Ground Squirrels and a Tioga Pass Marmot

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Images from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Images from nearby Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks
Lupines, Dogwood, Snow Plants, Thistle, Forest Moss and Lichen

50 images of the gold mining boom town north of Mono Lake
A highly saline lake in the Eastern Sierras with otherworldly scenery
A Cigar Store Indian, a Thunderbird Totem, and antique Farm Machinery


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Three Brothers 1724
(514 KB)

The Three Brothers from the north end of Leidig Meadow. In the center of the frame is Middle Brother, the site of an enormous rockfall in 1987. A huge slab of rock peeled off the cliff face, releasing 1.8 million tons of rock down the light area in the center below the peak. Rock covered Northside Drive 12 feet deep and sent debris and a monumental cloud of dust into Leidig Meadow. The 1987 Middle Brother Rockfall was the largest in the recorded history of Yosemite Valley.


Cathedral Rocks 2353
(443 KB)

Cathedral Rocks and Cathedral Spires (on the far left), from El Capitan Meadow. On the other side of Cathedral Rocks is the hanging valley through which Bridalveil Creek flows to erupt into the valley in the magnificent Bridalveil Fall. In the center is Middle Cathedral Rock, at right is Lower Cathedral Rock. Cathedral Rocks are a popular climbing location in Yosemite, although they are overshadowed by El Capitan, across the valley on the other side of the meadow.


Cathedral Rocks 2085
(567 KB)

Middle Cathedral Rock and Lower Cathedral Rock in the morning light from El Capitan Meadow.


Cathedral Rocks Valley View 2476
(579 KB)

Cathedral Rocks (Poosenachucka, or Large Acorn Cache) from Valley View in March.
Bridalveil Fall can be seen erupting from a hanging valley to the west of Cathedral Rocks.
Valley View (also called Gates of the Valley) is on Northside Drive near the Pohono Bridge.


Cathedral Rocks Valley View 2475
(619 KB)

Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Fall and the Merced River from a higher angle at Gates of the Valley (Valley View) in March.


Cathedral Rocks Autumn Reflection X6408
(552 KB)

Cathedral Rocks and Autumn foliage reflected in the waters of the Merced River. Bridalveil Fall is a mere trickle in October.


Cathedral Rocks Autumn X6404
(534 KB)

Cathedral Rocks and Autumn foliage beside the banks of the Merced River in October.
This image was taken a few hundred yards east of Valley View (Gates of the Valley).

Bridalveil Fall is one of the few waterfalls in Yosemite which flows year-round due to the
large basin above with lakes, marshes and meadows which retain groundwater all summer.
Images of Bridalveil Fall in its full glory in the Spring are on the Yosemite Waterfalls page.


Yosemite Valley Chapel 1729
(648 KB)

The historic Yosemite Chapel in Sentinel Meadow, with Sentinel Rock visible in the background.

The Yosemite Chapel, built in 1879, is the only remaining structure of the Old Yosemite Village and the oldest building in continuous use in Yosemite Valley. Designed in a New England style by Charles Geddes, it originally had a single room (26 feet by 50 feet) and seated 250 people. An addition was later added to the rear of the church. The Chapel was originally located in the Lower Village by the Four Mile Trailhead to Glacier Point. It was moved to the Old Village in 1901 when the Lower Village had nearly disappeared. The Old Village, between the edges of El Capitan and Sentinel Meadows and Sentinel Bridge, was demolished as an eyesore in the 1950s and 1960s (the historic buildings were moved to the Wawona Pioneer History Center).


Sentinel Rock Sunset 2295
(624 KB)


Sentinel Rock Sunset 2546
(457 KB)

The North Face of Sentinel Rock from Leidig Meadow, taken on two days just before and at sunset in March.
Sentinel Rock is directly opposite Yosemite Falls, on the South side of the valley, halfway between El Capitan
and Half Dome. It was used a lookout point by the Ahwahneechee, who called it Loyema (Long Water Basket).
The North Face of Sentinel Rock is a popular climbing spot and contains the notorious Steck-Salathe Route.


Sentinel Rock 4687
(447 KB)


Sentinel Rock 4690
(468 KB)

The western face of Sentinel Rock, across the valley from Yosemite Falls, shot at 300mm from El Capitan Meadow.
Named by Josiah D. Whitney’s Geological Survey party in 1866 for the tower-like position it occupies over the valley,
Sentinel Rock was used as a lookout rock by the Ahwahneechee, the Yosemite Mono Paiutes who lived in the valley.
These images detail the 2000 foot obelisk at the top of Sentinel Rock, which stands 3270 feet over the valley floor.


Sentinel Dome 4691
(589 KB)

Sentinel Dome near Taft Point on the South rim of the valley was originally called South Dome, but it was renamed by the Whitney Survey. It can be reached from the Taft Point Trail.


Merced River Half Dome First Light X0364
(504 KB)

The Merced River and Half Dome at first light in May from Sentinel Bridge. Mist hugs the waters of the Merced River and passes in front of Half Dome where it reflects the rising sun.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Half Dome Sunrise Silhouette 2598
(223 KB)

Sunrise over the shoulder of Half Dome, from the Ahwahnee Meadow on a chilly morning in March.


Half Dome Sentinel Bridge 2185
(575 KB)

Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge in mid-afternoon in March. This is a superb place to shoot Half Dome at sunset.


Half Dome at Sunset Ahwahnee Meadow 2925
(383 KB)

Half Dome at sunset from the Ahwahnee Meadow in May.

Half Dome is the most familar rock feature in Yosemite National Park.
Rising 4700 feet above the valley floor at the junction of Yosemite Valley
and Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome is an enormous granodiorite formation
which is primarily unjointed, except for the flat northwest face which is
the boundary of the joint that had set the course of Tenaya Canyon.


Half Dome at Sunset Ahwahnee Meadow 2918
(586 KB)

Half Dome just before sunset from the Ahwahnee Meadow in May.

Half Dome is a classic exfoliation dome. The flat face was formed by expansion and fracture
of sheet joints (exfoliation joints) by differential stresses and physical and chemical weathering.


Half Dome Exfoliation Joints 6314c
(detail crop  —  no linked image)

This is a resized detail crop of an image taken from Glacier Point so you can see the face of
Half Dome with its layers of exfoliation joints (the uncropped image is on the Glacier Point page).

When fractures in the rock occur parallel to the surface, they are called exfoliation joints or sheet joints.
The process which creates these fractures is not yet agreed upon by experts, but the most likely theory
is that compressive stress can create tensile mode fractures in rock parallel to the stress. When water
flows through these cracks, it can loosen the bond holding the rock (the process of weathering). If the
water in the joint freezes, it expands and loosens the rock further (frost wedging). The combination
of weathering and frost wedging on the exfoliation joints causes enormous slabs of rock to shear
off from the face. Numerous rockfalls like this occur each year (over 900 in the last 150 years).


Half Dome at Sunset Sentinel Bridge 2307
(519 KB)


Half Dome at Sunset Sentinel Bridge 2565
(568 KB)

Half Dome at sunset in March from Sentinel Bridge. These two images were taken on successive days
at nearly the same time, but the lack of clouds over the rim to the west caused the light to be different. In
the image on the left, you can see the beginning of the formation of a cloud over the face which occurs
when the temperature drops below the dew point near sunset (such as in the image shown below).


Half Dome Sunset Cloud 2589
(488 KB)

A cloud settles over the shoulder of Half Dome at sunset in March.

Half Dome (Tis-sa’ack, Cleft Rock), is the name of a woman that Mono Paiute legend states
was turned into stone for bringing anger into the Valley, and also the name of the fair-skinned
woman in the legend of Tis-sa’ack and Totock’anula (El Capitan). It is the most familiar rock
feature in Yosemite National Park. It rises over 4,700 feet above the valley floor, and was
formed by exfoliation (as described earlier on this page). It overlooks Tenaya Canyon.

Declared unclimbable prior to the 1870s, Half Dome was first climbed in 1875 by
George Anderson, a local guide who climbed the face with pitch-covered sacks
on his feet, drilling holes in the rock in which he inserted iron eye-bolts. He put
rope through the eye-bolts and stood on them, climbing the 975 foot face.
Cables installed in 1919 followed Anderson’s route on the East face.

Images of Half Dome from the rim are on the Glacier Point page.


Half Dome at Sunset Sentinel Bridge 2573
(481 KB)

A shadow over the shoulder of Half Dome at sunset in March.


Half Dome at Sunset Sentinel Bridge 3691
(490 KB)

A shadow over the shoulder of Half Dome near sunset in May.


Half Dome

If you look carefully at the center of Half Dome and use your imagination a bit, you can see the face of a woman in profile, facing left towards the dark streaks.

This is the Rock Spirit figure of Tis-sa’ack, who in a Yosemite Mono Paiute legend was turned into stone, becoming the rock feature Tis-sa’ack (aka Half Dome). The figure is not visible when seen up close, but it is visible at a distance or when seen in a small image such as the one shown at left.

The Yosemite Mono Paiute legend of Tis-sa’ack is as follows (paraphrased):

Many generations ago, long before the Creator had completed fashioning the magnificent cliffs in the Valley of Ahwahnee, there dwelt in the arid desert around Mono Lake a young couple. Learning from other Indians of the beautiful and fertile Valley of Ahwahnee, they decided to go there and make it their home. They began their journey towards the valley, he carrying deer skins and she holding a baby cradle in her arms and a basket on her back.

When the couple reached the current site of Mirror Lake, they began to argue. She wanted to go back to Mono Lake, but he refused, saying that no trees grew there. He would not listen to her when she said that she would plant seeds. In despair, the girl began to cry and ran toward her homeland at Mono Lake. Her husband grew angry and ran after her. To escape, she threw the basket at him, and it became Basket Dome. She continued running and threw the baby cradle at him. It became Royal Arches.

Because they had brought anger into the Valley, the Creator became upset at the couple and turned them into stone. He became North Dome and she became South Dome (now called Half Dome). The girl regretted the quarrel, and the rock wall she became began to cry. Her tears became Mirror Lake.

Her Paiute name was T'ssiyakka, or Tis-sa'ack. In Mono Paiute, T'ssiyakka means “crying girl”.


Half Dome Sunset Cloud 2312
(683 KB)

A predatory cloud claws the northwest face of Half Dome near sunset in March.
Clouds like this form when the temperature drops below the dew point at sunset.


Half Dome Sunset Cloud 2324
(534 KB)

A cloud settles over the shoulder of Half Dome near sunset in March.


Half Dome Cloud Formation at Sunset 2307, 2312, 2316, 2324
(585 KB)

A sequence showing the formation of a cloud over the face of Half Dome,
caused by the temperature falling below the dew point near sunset in March.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Royal Arches Half Dome 2202
(529 KB)

Royal Arches and Half Dome stand guard over the entrance to Tenaya Canyon (Stoneman Meadow beyond North Pines).


Royal Arches Washington Column 2199
(483 KB)

Royal Arches, North Dome and Washington Column from Stoneman Meadow beyond North Pines in March.


Royal Arches Washington Column 2205
(700 KB)

Royal Arches, Washington Column and North Dome, vignetted by trees at the edge of the North Pines.


Royal Arches Washington Column 2990
(915 KB)

Royal Arches, North Dome and Washington Column from Stoneman Meadow in May.

Royal Arches (Choko’ni, or Shade of the Baby Basket) is below North Dome (Tocoya, The Basket).
Washington Column is the protruding shaft of rock at the eastern end of the Royal Arches formation.

Royal Arches is an enormous set of concentric exfoliation arches in the 1400 foot cliff. Royal Arches
shows a cross section of sheet joints in Half Dome granodiorite with sheets as much as 200 feet thick.
Royal Arches is considered to be one of the all-time classic climbing features in Yosemite National Park.


Ephemeral Fall Ice Cone 4604
(540 KB)

An ephemeral fall at the edge of El Capitan Meadow, just west of Sentinel Rock in March.
Note the ice cone below. Mist from the fall freezes overnight from winter through early spring.
Ice cones can also be seen at Yosemite Falls and Ribbon Fall during winter and early spring.


El Capitan Meadow Sentinel Rock Taft Point 2485
(693 KB)

El Capitan Meadow, with Sentinel Rock on the left and Taft Point on the rim at center.
The ephemeral fall shown in the previous image is on the rim wall to the right of center.


El Capitan 2479
(564 KB)


El Capitan 2827
(633 KB)

El Capitan with nearly identical cloud formations overhead, taken 50 minutes
apart in March (the light was softer and warmer at 6PM when 2827 was taken).


El Capitan Texas Flake 2477c
(496 KB)

In this detail crop, on the left you can see the enormous granite flake
which is peeling (slowly) off of the wall on the Nose. This flake is called
the Texas Flake by climbers. There is a small flake directly above it called
the “Boot Flake” which is barely attached and really “flaky” (sorry about that).

If you look at the shadow thrown on the face by El Capitan’s Prow, you can
see why climbers call this section “The Nose”. The shadow looks like a
nose, mouth and a very prominent squared-off chin. Just to the left of
the shadow of the nose you can see the Rock Spirit Totock’anula
marching towards the Texas Flake (shown in better light below).


Climbers El Capitan 2352
(714 KB)

Climbers on El Capitan, shot with a 300 mm lens from far below in El Capitan Meadow.

This 3000 foot granite monolith standing on the north side of the valley is
one of the world’s most popular climbing challenges. It was named El Capitan
by the members of the Mariposa Battalion when they entered the valley in 1851.
The original name had been Crane Mountain because of the Sandhill Cranes that
entered Yosemite Valley over the monolith, but Dr. Bunnell did not approve of this.

The Ahwahneechee name for El Capitan was Totock’anula (which referred both to
the Chieftain Totock’anula, and to the To-tau’kon (Cranes) which made nests there).


El Capitan 2836
(528 KB)

The enormous 3000 foot granite monolith of El Capitan on the north side of Yosemite Valley
is the largest granite monolith in the world and one of the world’s favorite climbing challenges.
This shot was taken just before sunset in March (use the Land Rover below the prow for scale).


El Capitan Vignette 1666
(595 KB)

El Capitan in vignette, from the Merced River in summer.


El Capitan Autumn Dawn
(477 KB)

El Capitan and the Merced River at dawn in October.


El Capitan Totock’anula 2644
(659 KB)

El Capitan, with the eastern face fully lit just after noon in March, shows the Rock Spirit
Totock’anula below the arched joint in the center of the image, east of the prow (detail below).

Paraphrased from the Yosemite Mono Paiute Indian legend of Tis-sa’ack and Totock’anula:

A young son of the chieftain of the Ahwahneechee grew to become a wise chieftain, and was also a rain wizard who brought timely rains to the crops. As his character developed, he was named Choo’too-se-ka (the Supreme Good). His o’chum (bark house) was built below the great rock called Totock’anula (El Capitan), which was named for the great Totau’kons (Cranes) that made their nests at its summit. After a time, Choo’too-se-ka built a great palace o’chum on the summit, after which his name was changed to Totock’anula because he had built his o’chum on the summit and taken the place of the Totau’kons.

One day, while standing atop the great dome south of the valley (Sentinel Dome), he saw some fair-skinned people with clothing different thanhis people approaching with heavy burdens. He asked who they were and where they had come from. A woman answered: “I am Tis-sa’ack, and these are some of my people. We have come from far south. I have heard of your great wisdom and goodness, and have come to see you and your people. We have brought you many gifts. When we have rested and seen your people and your fair valley, we will return to our home.” Totock’anula was pleased with the fair visitors and built them a large o’chum on the summit of the great dome at the east end of the valley (Half Dome), which still bears her name.

Tis-sa’ack taught the Ahwahneechee how to make beautiful baskets, and Totock’anula visited her every day. He wanted her to become his wife, but she denied him saying she had to return to her people. When he persisted, she disappeared into the night. Totock’anula was devastated and went in search of her. He was never seen again, but many moons afterwards the figure of a man in a great flowing robe appeared on the face of the great rock Totock’anula, with one hand extended to the west in the direction he appeared to be traveling. This figure was interpreted to be a picture of the great lost chieftain.


El Capitan Totock’anula 2646t M
(1500 x 1535, 954 KB)

The Rock Spirit Totock’anula marching across the face of El Capitan towards the West (see inset).


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Sugar Pine Railroad Shay 10 X0226
(672 KB)

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad Locomotive Shay #10 was built by the
Lima Locomotive Works in 1928 for Pickering Lumber Corp.’s West Side Lumber Co.
operating in Tuolome. The largest of the narrow-guage Shay-geared Lima Locomotives,
it is one of the last narrow-guage Shay oil-burning steam locomotives ever constructed.
It is a 3 cylinder, 3 truck Shay-geared C-3, 70 ton class locomotive weighing 81.6 tons.
It was bought from West Side Lumber in 1967 and moved to the Sugar Pine track.

The Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad is a narrow-guage (3 foot) railway using
a section of the grade that was originally carved into the mountain above
 Oakhurst near Fish Camp by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company
in the early 20th century. Due to the onset of the Great Depression and
the lack of trees caused by Madera's clear-cutting policy, the logging
operation closed in 1931. YSPRR was started in 1961, utilizing the
historic track as a tourist line. Shay #10 was their frst locomotive.

The Shay Locomotive was designed by Ephraim Shay and patented in 1881. He came up with the idea of an engine on a flat car with pivoting trucks, and later designed geared trucks (the originals were belt drive), which he patented in 1901. The Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio reluctantly took on the idea, building the prototype in 1880. In 1884 they built the first 3 cylinder Shay, and in 1885 they delivered the first 3-truck Class C Shay. The success of the Shay led to a major expansion of the Lima Works. In 1903, the Lima Company delivered the “heaviest locomotive on drivers in the world”, the first 4-truck (class D) Shay (20 of the 4-truck locomotives were built). All of the wheels on Shay locomotives are driven for more traction.


Sugar Pine Railroad Shay 10 X0230 (with labels)
(569 KB)

A detail crop of Shay #10 (without the tender), labeled to show primary locomotive parts for railroad buffs.

The Radley & Hunter baffled smokestack was intended to reduce cinders and sparks in areas of use that
were susceptible to fire, and were primarily used on wood and coal-burning locomotives. Shay #10 is an
oil-burning locomotive, but apparently there was enough worry about fire in the forests it was to be used in
that they used the baffled smokestack even though it reduced airflow through the boiler and heat efficiency.

The truck driveshaft (line shaft) had beveled gears which drove beveled gears on the outside of the wheels.
The cylinders are tilted inward towards the boiler to fit the crankshaft position required by the narrow guage.
The boiler is offset to the left of the frame to counterbalance the weight of the cylinders and their housing.
The cylinders connect to the crankshaft via the valve rods, and the crankshaft is connected through the
two universal joints on a sliding coupler (square shafts) to the line shafts which drove the truck gears.


Yosemite Valley Dawn Mist 2633
(342 KB)


Yosemite Valley Dawn Mist 4668
(462 KB)

Mist enshrouds the forest on the Yosemite Valley rim at dawn in March.


Wawona Stagecoach Bridge 2783
(922 KB)

This is the remains of the stagecoach bridge near the Wawona Hotel.
The first bridge over the South Fork of the Merced was built in 1856 by
Galen Clark, who discovered the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia and settled
the Wawona area, creating a way station for tourists and simple lodgings.

Wawona was originally called Pallahchun (a good place to stop) by the local Miwok Indians because it was a logical midway stop between the foothills and valley. With its meadows and nearby river attracting game, it became a regular camp. In 1855, Galen Clark (who became the first superintendent of the Yosemite Grant) passed through the area on the way to the valley with a party of tourists, and was so enthralled with the area that he came back the following year and built a log cabin near a spring off the trail. Since his cabin was next to the main trail, it was a natural place for folks to stop.

As people were typically out of provisions on the way out, they stopped at Galen Clark’s Cabin for meals and this became the start of Clark’s Station, which later evolved into Big Tree Station after Galen Clark found the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in 1857. Clark’s Station became an inn, which was later taken over by the Washburn Brothers in 1875 after Clark failed to raise enough capital to build a road to the valley and erase his debt.

The Washburns built the Wawona Hotel in 1879, and it became a regular stop for their stages which brought people up to the valley. In 1882, Henry Washburn’s wife Jean Bruce suggested the Indian word Wawona (which is translated in different sources as Big Tree, Hoot of the Owl, and as an Indian name for the Evening Primrose) as a more fitting name than Big Tree Station. The Yosemite Paiute name for Big Pine Tree is wocoba, so it is possible a mistake was made. The Yosemite Paiutes called the area near Wawona wah-wah-naa’h (the land of the Wah-Wah men). Wah Wah was a Paiute term for strangers, and it referred to the Miwoks and some Yokuts who had allied themselves with the white men. It is possible that this is where the name originated.


Wawona Hotel X6823
(623 KB)


Wawona Hotel Rock Fountain X6819
(494 KB)

The original two story Main Wawona Hotel (built in 1879) and the rock fountain in the pond on the circular drive.
This historic fountain was first remodeled in 1918 and has recently been restored by the National Park Service.
The existing rock fountain, made from river cobbles, replaced the original fountain which was built in the 1890s.

The Main Building of the Wawona Hotel was built on a stone foundation with wooden piers. A two-story veranda encircles the building, with a railing decorated with geometric rectangles. The lobby, dining room, lounge and sitting room date from 1917-18, when the interior was remodelled, and retains the 1917 light fixtures. The rooms all have period furniture and are quite quaint.

The Wawona Hotel offers a more relaxing environment than hotels in the valley due to its location in the forest, but it is 45 minutes away from the valley during off-peak hours. There are no telephones or televisions in the rooms, and the rooms are furnished with antique furniture and accents. Deer wander around the local meadows (along with other wildlife) and you can even play golf on their 9 hole course, the oldest golf course in the Sierra Nevada (1918) and one of very few in a National Park.


Ahwahnee Hotel Dawn X6387
(719 KB)


Ahwahnee Hotel Dawn X6392
(647 KB)

The historic Ahwahnee Hotel at dawn in May. The Ahwahnee Hotel was built on the site of the
Kenneyville Stable complex, which had itself been built at the site of the Ahwahnee Village which
was the home of the Ahwahneechee, the Yosemite Mono Paiute Indians who lived in the valley.
The site is in Ahwahnee meadow near Royal Arches at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley.

The word Ahwahnee means large (gaping) mouth as translated by Chief Tenaya, because
the valley resembles a gaping bear’s mouth. Tenaya tried to explain the meaning via sign
language to the Mariposa Battalion in 1851. He spread his hands to sign “large”, then he
plucked some grass and held it in front of Major Savage. Savage mistakenly interpreted it
to mean deep grassy valley instead of deep mouth, and this is still occasionally used today.
Ahwahnee originally referred to a powerful village on the largest level tract of land in the valley.

The Ahwahnee Hotel, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1925, is the premiere example of National Park Service Rustic architecture, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It was the most complex trucking endeavor of its time, requiring the hauling of millions of pounds of materials over the narrow and treacherous mountain roads. The wood-like facade is actually concrete poured into rough-hewn wooden forms and stained, to reduce the possibility of fire. The hotel opened in July 1927 after numerous cost overruns, and proved its worth as it drew many influential people to Yosemite, who later helped to acquire the funding the fledgling National Park Service needed to further its causes.


Ahwahnee Hotel X0739
(900 KB)

The Ahwahnee Hotel at mid-morning in May. The Ahwahnee has 99 rooms and suites and 24 cottages.
It blends Art Deco, Native American and Arts & Crafts design principles into the National Parks Rustic style.
This style was intended to allow the buildings to blend into the scenery. The weathered granite was set in the walls
with only the weathered side exposed. The exposed concrete was poured in rough-hewn wooden molds and
stained to resemble wood. The interior has painted decorations in Indian patterns, and the floor mosaics,
sawn wood reliefs on the elevator doors, murals and the stained glass windows all use Indian designs.


Chief Lemee Yosemite Museum 1868 M
(1015 x 1600, 396 KB)

The Yosemite Museum, founded in 1926, is next to the Yosemite Visitor’s Center
and has displays which focus on the heritage and culture of the native Ahwahneechee.
They have a number of displays of clothing, baskets and tools, plus other historic exhibits.

The display above is a representation of “Chief Lemee”. Chris Brown (1896-1956) was a Native American dancer and costume maker who was born in Yosemite Valley. He built a replica of a Miwok village next to the Yosemite Museum (the version recreated in 1970 by Yosemite Ethnologist Craig Bates is shown below), and from the 1920s through the 1950s he performed dances, made costumes and demonstrated survival skills for tourists in the valley. In the early years he incorporated a Sioux vest and a Plains Indian war-bonnet in his costumes, and would mix Plains and California Indian elements to give the audiences the sort of regalia they expected, but from the 1930s he started using costume elements more traditional among the Miwok and other California tribes, many of which he made himself.

Chris Brown was the primary entertainer of tourists in Yosemite Valley, and gave himself the name of “Chief Lemee”. He became quite famous as a dancer and storyteller, although one of his cousins stated that he made up many of the Miwok tales. He was never a chief of the Miwoks, though, and in the 1950s when the park superintendent took his money, gave it to other Indians in the Park, and told him that he had to share his money with them, he became resentful and soon stopped entertaining.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Bark House Ahwahnee Village 1856
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A Bark House (umuucha, umacha or o’chum) in the Ahwahnee Village exhibit behind the Yosemite Museum.

Made in a conical form with poles about 10 feet long, placed on a 10-12 foot base, and covered with bark from the Incense Cedar to make it watertight. An opening on the eastern side created the entrance which was closed with a removable door. At the top an opening was left for the smoke. This style of hut would hold 4-6 people, their property, and possibly a dog or two. They were more easily heated than any other form of single-room dwelling known. The floor was usually covered with skins of bear, deer, or elk and topped with skins from smaller animals such as rabbits. These skins also doubled as fur robes for traveling in cold weather. In the warm season the umacha of o’chum was used as a storage room.

The “Miwok Village” is patterned after the 1870 large-format photos of Eadweard Muybridge in Yosemite, which showed a Yosemite Mono Paiute village on the banks of the Merced. The Yosemite Paiutes were the enemies of the Miwoks, who helped lead the Mariposa Battalion into the valley in 1851 to rid themselves of their ancient enemy, and the fact that the Park Service promotes this as a Miwok Village truly annoys the modern Paiute tribe members.


Bark House Ahwahnee Village 1861
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Bark House Ahwahnee Village 1865
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Traditional Paiute Incense Cedar Bark Houses (umuucha, umacha or o’chum depending on the source).
These houses are display exhibits at the “Miwok Village of Ahwahnee” adjacent to the Yosemite Museum.

Originally built in the 1920s by Chris Brown (Chief Lemee), Ahwahnee Village was recreated in 1970 by Yosemite Ethnologist Craig D. Bates, who based his recreation on the 1870 photos of Eadweard Muybridge, a famous British photographer who recorded a visit to a Yosemite Paiute village in the valley. Since the middle 1800s, when the Miwoks allied with the white men and led them to Yosemite Valley, the fact that Yosemite Mono Paiutes were occupying the valley has often been obscured by stories of the Yosemite Miwoks living in the Valley of Ahwahnee. Even though the Muybridge photos were all labeled with etched captions stating that they were “Piute”, the National Park Service continued to state that the inhabitants were Miwok. Part of this may have been a desire to maintain a continuity of story lines, but part may have been because Craig Bates’ wife was a Miwok. Regardless of the reason, the continuation of the falsehood has been a huge thorn in the side of Paiute tribespeople for years.


Ceremonial Roundhouse Ahwahnee Village 1857
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Ceremonial Roundhouse Ahwahnee Village 1859
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The Ceremonial Roundhouse (hangngi’) was the center of religious activity and the focal point
of village life. They were also often used as assembly and dance houses. The style of the floor
plan is similar to the early pit house and Kivas (see the Anasazi and Chaco Culture sections).
A description of the construction method is below the following image (compare with a Kiva).


Ceremonial Roundhouse Ahwahnee Village 1860
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The Ceremonial Roundhouse of the Ahwahnee Village exhibit behind the Yosemite Museum.

A pit was excavated with a radius of four men (four men laid head-to-foot and the distance
was marked, then doubled, and a circular pit was dug). Then, four large central posts were
erected in a square, with each side being the distance a man could reach with both arms.
Lintels were tied onto the top of these posts. At the same distance out from these posts,
an octagonal structure of smaller posts was erected, with stringers tied atop the posts.
Then radial beams were laid sloping to the sides of the pit, supported by the stringers.
These radial beams were covered by numerous closely-laid cross-sticks which were
covered first with a layer of willow brush laid at a right angle to the sticks, then with
another layer of willow brush placed at a right angle to the first layer, then a layer
of a shrub with numerous close, parallel twigs to provide a barrier to the thatch,
and then a pine-straw thatch. In early days, this thatch was covered with earth.
Later, the thatch was covered with Incense Cedar Bark (easier to maintain).

These Ceremonial Roundhouses were rebuilt every 15-20 years. This one
was built in 1992 to replace the one which Craig D. Bates built in 1973.


Miwok Cabin Ahwahnee Village 1863
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Cabins like these were adopted after the Indians encountered thewhite men. They were built directly on the ground, and often had a central fire pit and smoke hole in the roof, blending the traditional designs with their newly adopted architecture.


Sweathouse Ahwahnee Village 1866
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The first sweathouse on this site was built in the 1930s by Chris Brown as part of the 1920s Indian Village. The deer hunter would sweat for three hours, bathe in a stream, then rub himself down with aromatic plants to remove his scent.


Manzanita Ahwahnee Village 1855
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Manzanita is the hardest wood in the Sierra Nevada. It was used for fires to heat stones for
cooking acorn mush and to heat underground ovens. The leaves were sometimes sucked to
stimulate saliva production and quench thirst. A Manzanita Cider was made by drying berries
picked in the late summer, pounding the dried berries into a coarse meal, and pouring water
over the meal, catching the cider in a watertight basket or oak bowl. This was a special treat.
The seeds were made into a flour and baked into cakes. The flowers were steeped for tea.
Leaves were used as toothbrushes, made into a poultice for cuts and burns, used as an
infusion for an anti-diarrheal and for poison oak rash. Roasted leaves were smoked.

Manzanita was a very useful plant to the Native Americans in the Yosemite Valley.


Clouds Rest Olmsted Point Tioga Pass 3137
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Clouds Rest, above Half Dome in Upper Tenaya Canyon, from Olmsted Point on the Tioga Road.


Marmot Tioga Pass 3155
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A Yellow-Bellied Marmot encountered at Olmsted Point. For more images, see the Yosemite Wildlife: Squirrels page.

Cloud’s Rest is a 9930 foot arete (a knife-like ridge of rock) that separated
the two glaciers which carved out Tenaya Canyon and Little Yosemite Valley.
It was named Cloud’s Rest by the Mariposa Battalion in 1851, which avoided a
snowstorm in Little Yosemite Valley after seeing clouds rapidly settling on its ridge.
Cloud’s Rest and Half Dome from Glacier Point are on the Glacier Point page.


Half Dome Upper Tenaya Canyon Tioga Pass 3173
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Half Dome, Upper Tenaya Canyon, and the Quarter Domes below Clouds Rest from Olmsted Point.


Half Dome Olmsted Point Tioga Pass 3171
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Half Dome from Olmsted Point on the Tioga Road. Olmsted Point, named for the landscape
architect Frederick Law Olmsted, overlooks Tenaya Canyon from the Tioga Road at 8400 feet.

Olmsted designed public parks such as Central Park in New York City, the grounds of the US Capitol,
private grounds such as the Biltmore Estate, the master plans for UC Berkeley and Stanford University,
and as the first head of the Commission appointed to manage the Yosemite Grant he was responsible
for the early work done to preserve Yosemite. He was the founder of American landscape architecture.


Tenaya Lake Tioga Pass 3187
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Tenaya Lake and the shoulder of Tenaya Peak in the Tioga Pass.  Tenaya Lake is the source of Tenaya Creek.


Tenaya Lake Tioga Pass FE 3184
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An extreme wide angle of Tenaya Lake and Tenaya Peak in the Tioga Pass, taken with a fisheye lens.

Tenaya Lake is an alpine lake at an altitude of 8150 feet in the Tioga Pass above Yosemite.
Named for Chief Tenaya, who met the Mariposa Battalion near its shore, the Indian name was
Pywiack (Lake of the Shining Rocks) referring to the glacially polished rocks in the lake area.


Tioga Pass Summit 3191
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Tioga Pass Summit at almost 10,000 feet, taken in May at mid-morning.

The Tioga Pass is the route across the Sierra Nevada to Mono Lake, Bishop, and the Mammoth Lakes area. The original road which was built in 1883 was the Great Sierra Mining Road, built to take equipment to and silver ore from the Tioga Mine. The old road continued to be used even after the mine went bust, for travel by wagon across the Sierra Nevada and by the Cavalry patrolling Yosemite. Early lodge owners along the road paid for its upkeep until Stephen Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, raised money to build a modern Tioga Road and contributed the balance out of his own pocket in the hope that creating a road which would allow automotive traffic would bring people to Yosemite (the NPS at the time received funds based upon the number of visitors at National Parks).


Tioga Pass Summit 3192
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Detail of the Tioga Pass Summit, with Tenaya Peak in the background center.

The building of the first modern road in 1915 was instrumental in bringing large numbers of people to Yosemite. By 1922, it became obvious that significant work needed to be done in both realignment and reconstruction to offset severe storm damage. Every year, opening the road after the winter required major work, and it still had grades up to 20% and speed limits of 20 mph on straights and 8-12 mph on curves. The road was not paved until 1937, and it was not until 1957 that grading, realignment and reconstruction of the road was undertaken at a very high cost (7 million 1960 dollars), and opened in June 1961. Today the road is one of the most scenic in California and the highest road crossing the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, part of this work required the dynamiting of a beautiful three mile stretch of glacially polished granite between Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Valley Views page


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Mirror Lake page


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Rivers and Creeks page


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Select page