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GIFT OF




THE WRITINGS OF JOHN MUIR



VOLUME VI





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OUR NATIONAL PARKS



BY

JOHN MUIR




BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

MDCCCCXVI



COPYRIGHT, IQOI, BV JOHN MUIR
COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



EDITION LIMITED TO SEVEN
HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES
THIS IS NUMBER






TO

CHARLES SPRAGUE SARGENT

STEADFAST LOVER AND DEFENDER

OF OUR COUNTRY S FORESTS

THIS LITTLE BOOK

IS AFFECTIONATELY- DEDICATED



355340



PREFACE

IN this book, made up of sketches first pub
lished in the Atlantic Monthly, I have done the
best I could to show forth the beauty, gran
deur, and all-embracing usefulness of our wild
mountain forest reservations and parks, with a
view to inciting the people to come and enjoy
them, and get them into their hearts, that so at
length their preservation and right use might
be made sure.

MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA
September, 1901



CONTENTS

I. THE WILD PARKS AND FOREST RESERVA
TIONS OF THE WEST 3

II. THE YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK . . 42

III. THE YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK ... 84

IV. THE FORESTS OF THE YOSEMITE PARK . 108
V. THE WILD GARDENS OF THE YOSEMITE PARK 151

VI. AMONG THE ANIMALS OF THE YOSEMITE . 188
VII. AMONG THE BIRDS OF THE YOSEMITE . . 232

VIII. THE FOUNTAINS AND STREAMS OF THE YO
SEMITE NATIONAL PARK 262

IX. THE SEQUOIA AND GENERAL GRANT NA
TIONAL PARKS 290

X. THE AMERICAN FORESTS 357

INDEX . 395



ILLUSTRATIONS

MOUNT HOFFMAN Frontispiece

A view from Lake May, a little mountain tarn
on the eastern slope of Mount Hoffman, about
two thousand feet below the summit.

From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

A PATH IN Mum WOODS 16

Muir Woods, on the slope of Mount Tamalpais,
California, was set apart as a national monument
and named in honor of John Muir on Jan. 9,
1908. The trees are fine specimens of the Sequoia
sempervirens, or redwood.

From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott

MOUNT RAINIER, FROM PINNACLE PEAK ... 34
Pinnacle Peak is a summit of the Tatoosh Range,
south of Mount Rainier, about seven thousand
feet in altitude. The view overlooks Paradise
Park and shows practically the entire length of
the Nisqually Glacier.

From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason

PULPIT TERRACE, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 46
One of many remarkable limestone formations
caused by hot springs.

From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott

THE YOSEMITE VALLEY, FROM BRIDAL VEIL

MEADOWS 262

On the right are the Cathedral Rocks, and on the
left is El Capitan, both having been eroded from
the same mountain ridge by the great Yosemite
Glacier when the valley was in process of forma-



ILLUSTRATIONS

tion. The Bridal Veil Fall is seen on the right. In
the distance, in the center of the picture, is
Cloud s Rest, reaching an elevation of 9924 feet,
its top covered with snow.

From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott

REDWOOD (Sequoia sempervirens) 376

This tree, known as the "Emerson," is one of the
largest specimens of its kind and grows in the
Muir Woods on Mount Tamalpais, California.
From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott

MAP OF THE NATIONAL PARKS AND FOREST RE
SERVES FOR THE WESTERN UNITED STATES . 394
From maps furnished by the U. S. Government



OUK NATIONAL PARKS



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

CHAPTER I

THE WILD PARKS AND FOREST RESERVATIONS
OF THE WEST

" Keep not standing fix d and rooted,

Briskly venture, briskly roam ;
Head and hand, where er thou foot it,

And stout heart are still at home.
In each land the sun does visit

We are gay, whate er betide:
To give room for wandering is it

That the world was made so wide."

THE tendency nowadays to wander in wilder
nesses is delightful to see. Thousands of tired,
nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are begin
ning to find out that going to the mountains
is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and
that mountain parks and reservations are use
ful not only as fountains of timber and irrigat
ing rivers, but as fountains of life. Awakening
from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-
industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they
are trying as best they can to mix and enrich
their own little ongoings with those of Nature,
and to get rid of rust and disease. Briskly ven
turing and roaming, some are washing off sins
and cobweb cares of the devil s spinning in all-
3



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

day storms on mountains ; sauntering in rosiny
pinewoods or in gentian meadows, brushing
through chaparral, bending down and parting
sweet, flowery sprays; tracing rivers to their
sources, getting in touch with the nerves of
Mother Earth; jumping from rock to rock, feel
ing the life of them, learning the songs of them,
panting in whole-souled exercise, and rejoicing
in deep, long-drawn breaths of pure wildness.
This is fine and natural and full of promise. So
also is the growing interest in the care and pres
ervation of forests and wild places in general,
and in the half wild parks and gardens of towns.
Even the scenery habit in its most artificial
forms, mixed with spectacles, silliness, and
kodaks; its devotees arrayed more gorgeously
than scarlet tanagers, frightening the wild
game with red umbrellas, even this is en
couraging, and may well be regarded as a
hopeful sign of the times.

All the Western mountains are still rich in
wildness, and by means of good roads are being
brought nearer civilization every year. To the
sane and free it will hardly seem necessary to
cross the continent in search of wild beauty,
however easy the way, for they find it in abun
dance wherever they chance to be. Like Tho-
reau they see forests hi orchards and patches of
huckleberry brush, and oceans in ponds and
4



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

drops of dew. Few in these hot, dim, strenu
ous times are quite sane or free; choked with
care like clocks full of dust, laboriously doing
so much good and making so much money,
or so little, they are no longer good for
themselves.

When, like a merchant taking a list of his
goods, we take stock of our wildness, we are
glad to see how much of even the most de
structible kind is still unspoiled. Looking at our
continent as scenery when it was all wild, lying
between beautiful seas, the starry sky above
it, the starry rocks beneath it, to compare its
sides, the East and the West, would be like
comparing the sides of a rainbow. But it is no
longer equally beautiful. The rainbows of to
day are, I suppose, as bright as those that first
spanned the sky; and some of our landscapes
are growing more beautiful from year to year,
notwithstanding the clearing, trampling work
of civilization. New plants and animals are
enriching woods and gardens, and many land
scapes wholly new, with divine sculpture and
architecture, are just now coming to the light
of day as the mantling folds of creative glaciers
are being withdrawn, and life in a thousand
cheerful, beautiful forms is pushing into them,
and newborn rivers are beginning to sing and
shine in them. The old rivers, too, are growing
5



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

longer, like healthy trees, gaining new branches
and lakes as the residual glaciers at their high
est sources on the mountains recede, while the
rootlike branches in their flat deltas are at the
same time spreading farther and wider into
the seas and making new lands.

Under the control of the vast mysterious
forces of the interior of the earth all the conti
nents and islands are slowly rising or sinking.
Most of the mountains are diminishing hi size
under the wearing action of the weather,
though a few are increasing in height and girth,
especially the volcanic ones, as fresh floods
of molten rocks are piled on their summits
and spread in successive layers, like the wood-
rings of trees, on their sides. New mountains,
also, are being created from time to time as
islands in lakes and seas, or as subordinate
cones on the slopes of old ones, thus in some
measure balancing the waste of old beauty
with new. Man, too, is making many far-
reaching changes. This most influential half
animal, half angel is rapidly multiplying and
spreading, covering the seas and lakes with
ships, the land with huts, hotels, cathedrals,
and clustered city shops and homes, so that
soon, it would seem, we may have to go farther
than Nansen to find a good sound solitude.
None of Nature s landscapes are ugly so long
6



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

as they are wild; and much, we can say com
fortingly, must always be in great part wild,
particularly the sea and the sky, the floods of
light from the stars, and the warm, unspoilable
heart of the earth, infinitely beautiful, though
only dimly visible to the eye of imagination.
The geysers, too, spouting from the hot under
world; the steady, long-lasting glaciers on the
mountains, obedient only to the sun; Yosemite
domes and the tremendous grandeur of rocky
canons and mountains hi general, these
must always be wild, for man can change them
and mar them hardly more than can the butter
flies that hover above them. But the conti
nent s outer beauty is fast passing away,
especially the plant part of it, the most de
structible and most universally charming of all.
Only thirty years ago, the great Central
Valley of California, five hundred miles long
and fifty miles wide, was one bed of golden
and purple flowers. Now it is ploughed and
pastured out of existence, gone forever,
scarce a memory of it left in fence corners and
along the bluffs of the streams. The gardens
of the Sierra, also, and the noble forests hi
both the reserved and unreserved portions are
sadly hacked and trampled, notwithstanding
the ruggedness of the topography, all ex
cepting those of the parks guarded by a few
7



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

soldiers. In the noblest forests of the world,
the ground, once divinely beautiful, is desolate
and repulsive, like a face ravaged by disease.
This is true also of many other Pacific Coast
and Rocky Mountain valleys and forests.
The same fate, sooner or later, is awaiting them
all, unless awakening public opinion comes
forward to stop it. Even the great deserts in
Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico,
which offer so little to attract settlers, and
which a few years ago pioneers were afraid of,
as places of desolation and death, are now
taken as pastures at the rate of one or two
square miles per cow, and of course their plant
treasures are passing away, the delicate
abronias, phloxes, gilias, etc. Only a few of the
bitter, thorny, unbitable shrubs are left, and
the sturdy cactuses that defend themselves
with bayonets and spears.

Most of the wild plant wealth of the East
also has vanished, gone into dusty history.
Only vestiges of its glorious prairie and wood
land wealth remain to bless humanity in boggy,
rocky, unploughable places. Fortunately, some
of these are purely wild, and go far to keep
Nature s love visible. White water-lilies, with
rootstocks deep and safe in mud, still send up
every summer a Milky Way of starry, fra
grant flowers around a thousand .lakes, and
8



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

many a tuft of wild grass waves its panicles
on mossy rocks, beyond reach of trampling
feet, in company with saxifrages, bluebells,
and ferns. Even in the midst of farmers fields,
precious sphagnum bogs, too soft for the feet
of cattle, are preserved with their charming
plants unchanged, chiogenes, andromeda,
kalmia, linnsea, arethusa, etc. Calypso borealis
still hides in the arbor-vitse swamps of Canada,
and away to the southward there are a few
unspoiled swamps, big ones, where miasma,
snakes, and alligators, like guardian angels,
defend their treasures and keep them as pure
as paradise. And beside a 7 that and a that,
the East is blessed with good winters and
blossoming clouds that shed white flowers over
all the land, covering every scar and making
the saddest landscape divine at least once a
year.

The most extensive, least spoiled, and most
unspoilable of the gardens of the continent are
the vast tundras of Alaska. In summer they
extend smooth, even, undulating, continuous
beds of flowers and leaves from about latitude
62 to the shores of the Arctic Ocean; and in
winter sheets of snowflowers make all the
country shine, one mass of white radiance like
a star. Nor are these Arctic plant people the
pitiful frost-pinched unfortunates they are



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

guessed to be by those who have never seen
them. Though lowly in stature, keeping near
the frozen ground as if loving it, they are bright
and cheery, and speak Nature s love as plainly
as their big relatives of the South. Tenderly
happed and tucked in beneath downy snow
to sleep through the long, white winter, they
make haste to bloom in the spring without
trying to grow tall, though some rise high
enough to ripple and wave in the wind, and
display masses of color, yellow, purple, and
blue, so rich that they look like beds of
rainbows, and are visible miles and miles away.
As early as June one may find the showy
Geum glaciale in flower, and the dwarf willows
putting forth myriads of fuzzy catkms, to
be followed quickly, especially on the dryer
ground, by mertensia, eritrichium, polemo-
nium, oxytropis, astragalus, lathyrus, lupinus,
myosotis, dodecatheon, arnica, chrysanthe
mum, nardosmia, saussurea, senecio, erigeron,
matrecaria, caltha, valeriana, stellaria, to-
fieldia, polygonum, papaver, phlox, lychnis,
cheiranthus, linnsea, and a host of drabas,
saxifrages, and heathworts, with bright stars
and bells in glorious profusion, particularly
cassiope, andromeda, ledum, pyrola, and vac-
cinium, cassiope the most abundant and
beautiful of them all. Many grasses also grow

10



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

here, and wave fine purple spikes and panicles
over the other flowers, poa, aira, calama-
grostis, alopecurus, trisetum, elymus, festuca,
glyceria, etc. Even ferns are found thus far
north, carefully and comfortably unrolling
their precious fronds, aspidium, cystop-
teris, and woodsia, all growing on a sumptuous
bed of mosses and lichens; not the scaly lichens
seen on rails and trees and fallen logs to the
southward, but massive, round-headed, finely
colored plants like corals, wonderfully beauti
ful, worth going round the world to see. I
should like to mention all the plant friends I
found in a summer s wanderings in this cool
reserve, but I fear few would care to read their
names, although everybody, I am sure, would
love them could they see them blooming and
rejoicing at home.

On my last visit to the region about Kotze-
bue Sound, near the middle of September,
1881, the weather was so fine and mellow that
it suggested the Indian summer of the Eastern
States. The winds were hushed, the tundra
glowed hi creamy golden sunshine, and the
colors of the ripe foliage of the heathworts,
willows, and birch red, purple, and yellow,
in pure bright tones were enriched with
those of berries which were scattered every
where, as if they had been showered from the
ll



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

clouds like hail. When I was back a mile or
two from the shore, reveling in this color-
glory, and thinking how fine it would be could
I cut a square of the tundra sod of conventional
picture size, frame it, and hang it among the
paintings on my study walls at home, saying
to myself, "Such a Nature painting taken at
random from any part of the thousand-mile
bog would make the other pictures look dim
and coarse," I heard merry shouting, and,
looking round, saw a band of Eskimos men,
women, and children, loose and hairy like
wild animals running towards me. I could
not guess at first what they were seeking, for
they seldom leave the shore; but soon they
told me, as they threw themselves down,
sprawling and laughing, on the mellow bog,
and began to feast on the berries. A lively
picture they made, and a pleasant one, as they
frightened the whirring ptarmigans, and sur
prised their oily stomachs with the beautiful
acid berries of many kinds, and filled sealskin
bags with them to carry away for festive days
in winter.

Nowhere else on my travels have I seen so
much warm-blooded, rejoicing life as in this
grand Arctic reservation, by so many regarded
as desolate. Not only are there whales in abun
dance along the shores, and innumerable seals,
12



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

walruses, and white bears, but on the tundras
great herds of fat reindeer and wild sheep,
foxes, hares, mice, piping marmots, and birds.
Perhaps more birds are born here than in any
other region of equal extent on the continent.
Not only do strong-winged hawks, eagles, and
water-fowl, to whom the length of the conti
nent is merely a pleasant excursion, come up
here every summer in great numbers, but also
many short-winged warblers, thrushes, and
finches, repairing hither to rear their young in
safety, reinforce the plant bloom with their
plumage, and sweeten the wilderness with
song; flying all the way, some of them, from
Florida, Mexico, and Central America. In
coming north they are coming home, for they
were born here, and they go south only to
spend the winter months, as New Englanders
go to Florida. Sweet-voiced troubadours, they
sing in orange groves and vine-clad magnolia
woods in winter, in thickets of dwarf birch and
alder in summer, and sing and chatter more or
less all the way back and forth, keeping the
whole country glad. Oftentimes, hi New Eng
land, just as the last snow-patches are melting
and the sap in the maples begins to flow, the
blessed wanderers may be heard about orchards
and the edges of fields where they have stopped
to glean a scanty meal, not tarrying long, know-

13



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

ing they have far to go. Tracing the footsteps
of spring, they arrive in their tundra homes in
June or July, and set out on their return jour
ney in September, or as soon as their families
are able to fly well.

This is Nature s own reservation, and every
lover of wildness will rejoice with me that by
kindly frost it is so well defended. The discov
ery lately made that it is sprinkled with gold
may cause some alarm; for the strangely ex
citing stuff makes the timid bold enough for
anything, and the lazy destructively indus
trious. Thousands at least half insane are now
pushing then* way into it, some by the south
ern passes over the mountains, perchance the
first mountains they have ever seen, sprawl
ing, struggling, gasping for breath, as, laden
with awkward, merciless burdens of provisions
and tools, they climb over rough-angled boul
ders and cross thin miry bogs. Some are going
by the mountains and rivers to the eastward
through Canada, tracing the old romantic
ways of the Hudson Bay traders; others by
Bering Sea and the Yukon, sailing all the way,
getting glimpses perhaps cff the famous fur-
seals, the ice-floes, and the innumerable islands
and bars of the great Alaska river. In spite
of frowning hardships and the frozen ground,
the Klondike gold will increase the crusading

14



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

crowds for years to come, but comparatively
little harm will be done. Holes will be burned
and dug into the hard ground here and there,
and into the quartz-ribbed mountains and
hills; ragged towns like beaver and muskrat
villages will be built, and mills and locomo
tives will make rumbling, screeching, disen
chanting noises; but the miner s pick will not
be followed far by the plough, at least not until
Nature is ready to unlock the frozen soil-beds
with her slow-turning climate key. On the
other hand, the roads of the pioneer miners
will lead many a lover of wildness into the
heart of the reserve, who without them would
never see it.

In the mean time, the wildest health and
pleasure grounds accessible and available to
tourists seeking escape from care and dust and
early death are the parks and reservations of
the West. There are four national parks, 1
the Yellowstone, Yosemite, General Grant,
and Sequoia, all within easy reach, and
thirty forest reservations, a magnificent realm
of woods, most of which, by railroads and trails
and open ridges, is also fairly accessible, not
only to the determined traveler rejoicing in

1 There are now (1916) fourteen parks and one hundred
and fifty-three forest reservations, besides thirty-three "na
tional monuments."

15



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

difficulties, but to those (may their tribe in
crease) who, not tired, not sick, just naturally
take wing every summer in search of wildness.
The forty million acres of these reserves are in
the main unspoiled as yet, though sadly wasted
and threatened on their more open margins by
the axe and fire of the lumberman and pro
spector, and by hoofed locusts, which, like the
winged ones, devour every leaf within reach,
while the shepherds and owners set fires with
the intention of making a blade of grass grow
in the place of every tree, but with the result
of killing both the grass and the trees.

In the million acre Black Hills Reserve of
South Dakota, the easternmost of the great
forest reserves, made for the sake of the farm
ers and miners, there are delightful, reviving
sauntering-grounds in open parks of yellow
pine, planted well apart, allowing plenty of
sunshine to warm the ground. This tree is one
of the most variable and most widely distrib
uted of American pines. It grows sturdily on
all kinds of soil and rocks, and, protected by a
mail of thick bark, defies frost and fire and dis
ease alike, daring every danger in firm, calm
beauty and strength. It occurs here mostly
on the outer hills and slopes where no other
tree can grow. The ground beneath it is yel
low most of the summer with showy Wythia,

16



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

arnica, applopappus, solidago, and other sun-
loving plants, which, though they form no
heavy entangling growth, yet give abundance
of color and make all the woods a garden.
Beyond the yellow pine woods there lies a
world of rocks of wildest architecture, broken,
splintery, and spiky, not very high, but the
strangest in form and style of grouping imag
inable. Countless towers and spires, pinna
cles and slender domed columns, are crowded
together, and feathered with sharp-pointed
Engelmann spruces, making curiously mixed
forests, half trees, half rocks. Level gar
dens here and there in the midst of them offer
charming surprises, and so do the many small
lakes with lilies on their meadowy borders,
and bluebells, anemones, daisies, castilleias,
comandras, etc., together forming landscapes
delightfully novel, and made still wilder by
many interesting animals, elk, deer, beavers,
wolves, squirrels, and birds. Not very long
ago this was the richest of all the red man s
hunting-grounds hereabout. After the sea
son s buffalo hunts were over, as described
by Parkman, who, with a picturesque caval
cade of Sioux savages, passed through these
famous hills in 1846, every winter defi
ciency was here made good, and hunger was
unknown until, in spite of most determined,

17



OUR NATIONAL PARKS

fighting, killing opposition, the white gold-
hunters entered the fat game reserve and
spoiled it. The Indians are dead now, and so
are most of the hardly less striking free trap
pers of the early romantic Rocky Mountain
times. Arrows, bullets, scalping-knives, need
no longer be feared; and all the wilderness is
peacefully open.

The Rocky Mountain reserves are the
Teton, Yellowstone, Lewis and Clark, Bit
ter Root, Priest River and Flathead, com
prehending more than twelve million acres
of mostly unclaimed, rough, forest-covered
mountains in which the great rivers of the
country take their rise. The commonest tree
in most of them is the brave, indomitable, and
altogether admirable Pinus contorta, widely
distributed in all kinds of climate and soil,
growing cheerily in frosty Alaska, breathing
the damp salt air of the sea as well as the dry
biting blasts of the Arctic interior, and making
itself at home on the most dangerous flame-
swept slopes and ridges of the Rocky Moun
tains in immeasurable abundance and variety
of forms. Thousands of acres of this species
are destroyed by running fires nearly every
summer, but a new growth springs quickly
from the ashes. It is generally small, and
yields few sawlogs of commercial value, but is
18



WILD PARKS AND RESERVATIONS

of incalculable importance to the farmer and
miner; supplying fencing, mine timbers, and
firewood, holding the porous soil on steep
slopes, preventing landslips and avalanches,
and giving kindly, nourishing shelter to ani
mals and the widely outspread sources of the
life-giving rivers. The other trees are mostly
spruce, mountain pine, cedar, juniper, larch,


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