Yosemite National Park – The “Thank God Ledge”

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the thank god ledge yosemite national park
The Thank God Ledge - Yosemite National Park

Half Dome Yosemite, California – The Thank God Ledge

(Read more about Yosemite National Park further below)

What is The Thank God Ledge

The ledge is a small flat surface located 2000 feet up on one of Yosemite Parks Cliffs. It was named this because hikers would say, “Oh thank God, there is a ledge!” It’s a popular rock climbing destination and spot.

Where is thank God ledge?

This 12m long sliver of granite is positioned at Half Dome Yosemite, California. Named the “Thank God Ledge”, it is the only means to get beyond the Visor. This huge roof looms overhead the Regular Northwest Face route of the Yosemite National Park.

How high is the Thank God ledge?

Around 2000 feet
The verb was spurred by photographs of Honnold in exactly that spot on Thank God Ledge, located 1,800 feet off the deck in Yosemite National Park.

Is Half Dome safe?

Most years, hikers safely summit & descend from Half Dome with no casualties. However, adverse weather conditions & lack of care on the cables can put you in jeopardy. Make sure to plan ahead, don’t venture the hike if a storm is nearing, & prepare for a challenging climb.


Yosemite National Park

yosemite national park california


Yosemite National Park is a popular American national park in the western part of Sierra Nevada of Central California, surrounded on the southeast by Sierra National Forest & on the northwest by Stanislaus National Forest.

The national park is managed by the National Park Service & covers a region of 748,436 acres or (1,169 sq mi; 3,029 km2) & is located in four counties: centred in Tuolumne & Mariposa, extending north & east to Mono & south to Madera County.

Appointed a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognised for its granite cliffs, clear stream, waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, meadows, mountains, lakes, glaciers, & biological diversity. Approximately 95% of the park is assigned wilderness.

On average, around four million people visit Yosemite each year, & most use most of their time in the seven square miles or 18 km2) of Yosemite Valley. The national park set a visiting record in 2016, surpassing five million visitors for the first time in its past. Yosemite was central to the evolution of the national park idea.

Galen Clark & others lobbied to preserve Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln’s ordaining the Yosemite Grant in 1864. John Muir led a movement to have Congress establish a larger national park by 1890, one which included the Valley & its surrounding mountains & forests, paving the way for the National Park System.

Yosemite is one of the most gigantic & least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, & the park encourages a diversity of plants & animals. The park has an altitude range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) & includes five major vegetation zones: chaparral & oak woodland, lower upper montane forest, montane forest, subalpine zone, & alpine.

Of California’s 7,000 plant varieties, around 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada, & more than 20% are in Yosemite. The park comprises suitable habitat for higher than 160 rare plants, with rare local geologic structures & unique soils characterising the restricted ranges several of these plants occupy.

The geology of the Yosemite area is defined by granitic rocks & remnants of earlier rock. Around 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then shifted to form its relatively gentle western slopes & the more exciting eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream & river beds, resulting in the creation of deep, narrow canyons.

yosemite national park california

About one million years ago, snow & ice collected, forming glaciers at the higher alpine grasslands that moved down the river valleys. Ice density in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the early glacial event. The downslope advance of the ice masses cut & sculpted the U-shaped Valley that draws so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.

How Yosemite Was Named

The name “Yosemite” (meaning “killer” in Miwok) formerly referred to the name of a tribe which was forced out of the area (& possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Earlier, the site had been called “Ahwahnee” (“big mouth”) by indigenous people.

The term Yosemite itself is from the Native American word “uzumate,” which meant grizzly bear. The indigenous tribe that existed in the Valley were named Yosemites by Caucasians & by other tribes because they dwelled in a place where grizzly bears were prevalent. They were reportedly experienced at killing the bears.

Yosemite National Park History

Ahwahneechee & the Mariposa Wars

Yosemite Valley has been occupied for nearly 3,000 years. However, humans may have first visited the region as long as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The indigenous natives declared themselves the Ahwahnechee, meaning “dwellers in Ahwahnee”. They are linked to the Northern Paiute & Mono tribes. Many tribes visited the region to trade, including nearby Central Sierra Miwoks.

They lived on the drainage area of the Tuolumne & Stanislaus Rivers. A notable trading route went over Mono Pass & through Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake, merely to the east of the Yosemite area. Vegetation & game in the region were comparable to that present today; acorns were a staple to their nutrition, as well as other seeds & plants, deer & salmon.

ahwahneechee the mariposa wars
The Ahwahneechee Tribe

The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century expanded travel by European-Americans in the region, causing competition for resources among the regional Paiute & Miwok, the miners & hangers-on.

In the year 1851 as part of the Mariposa Wars was meant to dull down Native American resistance, United States Army Major Jim Savage commanded the Mariposa Battalion into the west end of Yosemite Valley. He was tracking forces of around 200 Ahwahneechee headed by Chief Tenaya.

Reports from this battalion were the first well-documented statements of ethnic Europeans entering Yosemite Valley. Connected to Savage’s unit was Dr Lafayette Bunnell, the company physician, who later wrote of his astonished reactions of the Valley in The Discovery of the Yosemite.

Bunnell is recognised with naming Yosemite Valley, based on his meetings with Chief Tenaya. Bunnell wrote that Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Ah-wah-nee community. The Miwok, a neighbouring tribe, & most white settlers viewed the Ahwahneechee to be incredibly violent because of their numerous territorial disputes. The Miwok word for the Pai-Ute band was yohhe’meti, indicating “they are killers”.

Communication & articles composed by members of the battalion helped to popularise the natural wonders of the Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area. Chief Tenaya & his Ahwahneechee were finally captured, & their village fired; they were transferred to a reservation near Fresno, California.

The chief & some others were later permitted to return to Yosemite Valley. In the spring of 1852, they ambushed a group of eight gold miners & then moved east to flee law enforcement. Near Mono Lake, they took shelter with the nearby Mono tribe of Paiute. They seized horses from their hosts & moved away.

Still, the Mono Paiutes hunted down & killed many of the Ahwahneechee, including Chief Tenaya. The Mono Paiute took the survivors as prisoners back to Mono Lake & absorbed them into the Mono Lake Paiute tribe.

After those wars, numerous Native Americans proceeded to live within the boundaries of Yosemite. Several Indians established the growing tourism industry by working as labourers or maids.

At a later stage, Indians became part of the tourism industry itself by trading baskets or performing for tourists. A reconstructed version of the “Indian Village of Ahwahnee” has been constructed behind the Yosemite Museum, placed next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

yosemite national park california

Early tourists

In the year 1855, entrepreneur James Mason Hutchings, artist Thomas Ayres & two others were the first to travel the area. Hutchings & Ayres were accountable for much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, writing articles & exclusive magazine issues of the Valley.

Ayres’ style in art was highly developed with exaggerated angularity. His works & recorded accounts were distributed nationally, & an art exhibition of his sketches was held in New York City. Hutchings’ publicity attempts between 1855 and 1860 led to an expansion in tourism to Yosemite.

Wawona was an Indian camp in what is now the southwestern part of the park. Settler Galen Clark found the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia in Wawona in 1857. He had simple residences built, & roads to the area.

In 1879, the Wawona Hotel was created to serve tourists attending Mariposa Grove. As tourism evolved, so did the number of trails & hotels developed by people planning to build on the trade.

The Wawona Tree, AKA the Tunnel Tree, was a legendary giant sequoia that occupied the Mariposa Grove. It was 227 feet (69 m) tall & was 90 ft (27 m) in circumference. When a carriage-wide tunnel was cut into the tree in 1881, it became even more famous as a tourist photo attraction.

Everything from to automobiles in the first part of the 20th century to horse-drawn carriages in the late 19th century travelled the road which passed through that tree. The tree was forever weakened by the tunnel, & the Wawona Tree fell in the year 1969 under a heavy snowstorm. It was estimated to have been around 2,300 years old. It is not clear how much longer it may have lived if it had not been damaged.

the wawona tree aka the tunnel tree
The Wawona Tree, AKA the Tunnel Tree

Yosemite’s first franchise was established in 1884 when John Degnan & his wife established a bakery & store. In the year 1916, the National Park Service granted a 20-year right to the Desmond Park Service Company.

It bought out or built hotels, a dairy, camps, stores, a garage, & other park services. Desmond switched its name to the Yosemite National Park Company in December 1917 & was reorganised in 1920.

The Curry Company had been begun in 1899 by David & Jennie Curry to provide grants in the park. They also established Camp Curry, historically known as Half Dome Village, now restored back to Curry Village. The Currys pressured reluctant park supervisors to allow enlargement of concession operations & development in the area.

Managers in the National Park Service felt that restricting the number of concessionaires in each national park would be more financially reliable. The Curry Company & its rival, the Yosemite National Park Company, were forced to join in the year 1925 to form the Yosemite Park & Curry Company (YP&CC). The business built the Ahwahnee Hotel in 1927.

Yosemite National Park Geography

Yosemite National Park is situated in the central Sierra Nevada of the state of California. Three forest areas are adjacent to Yosemite: the Hoover Wilderness to the northeast, the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the southeast, & the Emigrant Wilderness to the north.

The 1,189 sq mi or 3,080 km2 park is approximately the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island & contains thousands of lakes & ponds, 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails, 1,600 miles (2,600 km) of streams, & 350 miles (560 km) of roads. Two federally appointed Wild & Scenic Rivers, the Merced & the Tuolumne start in Yosemite’s borders & flow westward in through the Sierra foothills, into the Central Valley of California.

On average, approximately 4 million people visit the park each year, with most visitor use focused in the seven-square-mile or 18 km2 area of Yosemite Valley.

Just about all of the landforms in the Yosemite area are derived out of the granitic rock of the Sierra Nevada Batholith (a batholith is a large chunk of intrusive igneous rock that was created deep below the surface of the earth).

About five per cent of the park’s landforms (mostly in its eastern border close to Mount Dana) are metamorphosed volcanic & sedimentary rocks. These rocks are named roof pendants because they were formerly the roof of the underlying granitic rock.

yosemite national park california
The view from Glacier Point View Terrace with Half Dome, Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park across the valley.

Erosion acting against different types of uplift-created joint & fracture systems is responsible for forming the valleys, domes, canyons & other features we see today. These joints & fracture systems do not move & are consequently not faults. The area between joints is controlled by the amount of silica in the granite & granodiorite rocks; more silica tends to form a more resistant rock, resulting in bigger spaces between joints & fractures.

Pillars & columns, such as the Washington Column & Lost Arrow, are produced by cross joints. Erosion acting on master joints is accountable for creating valleys & later canyons. The single most corrosive force over the last few million years has been massive alpine glaciers, that have turned the previously V-shaped river-cut valleys into U-shaped glacial-cut canyons (such as Yosemite Valley & Hetch Hetchy Valley).

Exfoliation (caused by the trend of crystals in plutonic rocks to grow at the surface) acting on the granitic rock with broadly spaced joints is responsible for producing domes such as Half Dome & North Dome & inset arches such as Royal Arches.

Yosemite National Park popular features

Yosemite Valley embodies only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors come & stay. The Tunnel View is the first view of the Valley for a lot of tourists and visitors and is widely photographed.

El Capitan, a well-known granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world as it has a large range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility. Granite domes such as Sentinel Dome & Half Dome rise 3,000 & 4,800 feet (910 and 1,460 m), each, over the valley floor. In the park are numerous domes.

The high country of Yosemite includes beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, the Cathedral Range, the Clark Range, & the Kuna Crest. The Sierra crest & the Pacific Crest Trail run into Yosemite, including peaks of red metamorphic rock, such as Mount Dana & Mount Gibbs, & granite peaks, such as Mount Conness.

Mount Lyell is the highest section in the park, standing at 13,120 feet (4,000 m). The Lyell Glacier is the biggest glacier in Yosemite National Park. It is one of the few remaining in the Sierra Nevada today.

The park has three forests of ancient giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees; the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees), the Mariposa Grove (200 trees), & the Merced Grove (20 trees). This variety grows larger in size than any other & is one of the tallest & longest-lived.

yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Activities

Yosemite Valley is open all year-round, & a number of activities are available via the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, & Aramark at Yosemite, including nature, photography, walks & art classes, stargazing programs, bike rentals, tours, rafting, rock climbing classes & mule & horseback rides.

Many individuals love short walks & longer hikes to the waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley or walk among giant sequoias in the Tuolumne, Mariposa, or Merced Groves. Others like to drive or take tour buses to Glacier Point (summer-Autumn/fall) to see views of Yosemite Valley & the high country, or drive along the scenic Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows (May–October) & go for a walk or hike.

Most park visitors stay just for the day & visit only those locations in Yosemite Valley that are easily enterable by automobile. There is a US$25–30 per automobile user fee to access the park, depending on the season or time of year. Traffic congestion in the Valley is a major problem during peak tourist and adventurer season, in summer.

A free shuttle bus timetable operates year-round in Yosemite Valley, & park rangers encourage individuals to use this system since parking in the Valley during the summer is often almost impossible to find. Transit opportunities are available from Fresno and Merced.

In addition to travelling the natural features of the park, visitors can also learn about the natural & cultural history of Yosemite Valley at various facilities in the Valley: the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the adjoining Yosemite Museum, & the Nature Center located at Happy Isles.

There are also two National Historic Landmarks: the Ahwahnee Hotel & the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge (Yosemite’s first public visitor centre), &. Camp 4 was attached to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

In the winter, it is snowed under, but the region of Tuolumne Meadows has a great deal of hiking, rock climbing, & mountain climbing.

See also the highest mountains of Yosemite National Park.

yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Hiking

Over 800 miles or 1,300 km of trails are open to hikers – everything from a leisurely stroll to a challenging mountain hike, or an overnight backpack journey. One of the most popular trails heads to the summit of Half Dome & requires an advance permit from Memorial Day weekend in late May, to Columbus Day in early October.

A maximum of 300 hikers, chosen by lottery, are permitted to advance past the base of the sub dome each day, including 225-day hikers & 75 backpackers.

The park can be split into five sections for the day-user—Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove/Wawona/Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy & Crane Flat/White Wolf. Numerous books describe park trails, & free information is obtainable from the National Park Service in Yosemite. Park rangers assist visitors in experiencing parts of the park in addition to Yosemite Valley.

Between late spring & early fall, much of the park can be entered for multiple-day backpacking trips. All overnight trips into the backcountry need a wilderness permit, & most require allowed bear-resistant food storage.

Yosemite National Park Driving destinations

While some locations in Yosemite entail hiking, other locations can be entered via automobile transportation. Driving locations also allow guests to observe the night sky in locations other than their campsite or lodge. All of the roads in Yosemite are scenic. Still, the most popular is the Tioga Road, typically open from late May or the early part of June and throughout November.

As an alternative to driving, bicycles are permitted on the roads. However, bikes are permitted off-road on only 12 miles (19 km) of paved trails in Yosemite Valley itself; mountain biking is not allowed.

yosemite national park california

Yosemite National Park Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a necessary part of Yosemite. In particular, Yosemite Valley, which is circled by the famous summits like Half Dome & El Capitan. Camp 4, a walk-in campground in the Valley, was instrumental in the evolution of rock climbing as a sport & is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Climbers can usually be spotted in the snow-free months on anything from ten-foot-high (3 m) boulders to the 3,300-foot (1.0 km) face of El Capitan. Classes on rock climbing are given by numerous groups.

Further Reading

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