Sequoia National Park turns 125 years old


Sequoia National Park was created by an act of Congress on September 25, 1890. Today, Three Rivers’s closest neighbor is 125 years old.

Sequoia is part of the Three Rivers identity. This community would be quite different if there was no Sequoia National Park.

With a stroke of the pen of President Benjamin Harrison on this day in 1890, the Big Trees were saved from those who were intent on harvesting them. And along with these ancient giants, protected forever were mountain ranges, watersheds, animal habitat, vegetation, and other natural resources worthy of preservation.

It is a privilege and an honor to reside on the fringes of this magnificent park. Because of the proximity of our homes and businesses to this vast swath of protected land, we reap the rewards and bear some responsibility. There are risks and there are gains.

Sequoia National Park has a kinetic energy that flows into Three Rivers. There is a magnetic pull toward the mountains so we hike, ride, drive, swim, or whatever it takes to feel the intrinsic spirit of the trees, the granite, the grasses, the water.

There are several climate zones from the foothills to the forest to the high peaks. There are dry hillsides and moist meadows, seasonal creeks and flowing rivers, giant sequoia groves and wildflowers, granite mountain spires and high plateaus.

Within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park are the largest tree in the world (General Sherman Tree) and the highest mountain (Mount Whitney) in all of the United States except for Alaska. A decision to leave the automobile in the parking lot to venture onto a trail is a fairly safe prospect as the Sierra is a gentle place to explore with its mild climate and wildlife that prefers to steer clear of humans rather than be confrontational.

About a hundred miles to the north of Sequoia is Yosemite National Park, another outdoor cathedral where one can explore the wonders of the Sierra Nevada. Sequoia, however, is a less-crowded version of Yosemite and offers more of a wilderness experience.

It is to the credit of the United States that the need for protection of Sequoia was realized and the land was set aside. Three men in particular are deserving of credit: John Muir, Stephen Mather, and George Stewart.

There are problems and challenges, definitely: aging infrastructure, climate change, air pollution, light pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, marijuana cultivation and drug cartels, visitor-and-wildlife interactions, traffic congestion, balancing public access with resource protection, outreach and education, science and research. Looking toward the next century, Sequoia will benefit most from sustained, commonsense leadership, locally in its superintendent’s office and, nationally, with actions initiated by a prudent Congress and an insightful president. 

Sequoia National Park is a place of national significance. Three Rivers residents have unlimited access to a region that people travel from all over the world to experience. 

For less than eight cents a day, an annual park pass ($30) may be purchased that provides entry to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Once inside the parks, visitors may recreate with little additional financial commitment.

Many National Park Service employees, including superintendents, in Sequoia National Park stay here for a while then transfer to another park as they forward their career goals. We here in Three Rivers are the constant vigil, the stewards, the historians, the welcoming committee for all park visitors.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, at locations throughout Sequoia National Park, there will be tours and talks, programs and presentations, food and a full moon, and something for all ages. On this day, visit with the park superintendent, Woody Smeck; learn about the Buffalo Soldiers and others who have left their mark on Sequoia’s history; meet the park’s hardest workers, its horses and mules; participate in “open houses” at the maintenance facilities, the native plant nursery, and Halstead Meadow; and discover the natural wonders of Sequoia: bears, Big Trees, Crystal Cave, Moro Rock, mountains, and the night sky. And because entrance fees are being waived on this day, it’s all free!

Can you believe it? It’s Sequoia National Park’s 125th birthday and we get all the gifts.

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