One of the most-oft snapped photos in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is barely one-quarter of a mile inside the Ash Mountain entrance station. It’s the historic entrance sign where nearly every first-time visitor and lots of returnees who bring others on a Sequoia Park adventure stop and take their first park photograph of the day.
Taking a snapshot of the four-foot high, 10 feet wide, entrance sign with the subject visitor in the foreground, proves the visitor has made it to Sequoia National Park, and they have a photo with the historic sequoia sign to prove it. But for the past several weeks and the immediate future, the iconic sign hasn’t been in its historic location. It was removed and delivered to the parks’ sign shop just up the road at Ash Mountain headquarters.
Carved in 1935, the mammoth sign was chiseled from a fallen giant sequoia that easily could have been 2,000 years old. The sculptor was George Muno, who was serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps at the time.
The image of the “Indian chief” was based upon the Native American profile depicted on the Buffalo nickel, first minted in 1913. The iconic sign evokes many aspects of American history from a famous American Indian to the visual stereotyping of American Indians, from Depression-era hard times to booms in tourism, from using the wood of a giant sequoia to the preservation of the Big Trees, to name a few of the more obvious contrasts that come to mind.
For the present, there is an interpretive sign explaining the story and whereabouts of the absent sign.
Upon inspection by the parks’ sign-maker, it has been determined that there is water damage on the top of the sign and a dangerous crack through the center of the sign. Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, parks public affairs officer, said the sign shop is estimating the work will take four to six months, but they are still in the early stages of assessing the integrity of the 83-year-old landmark.