Winter in the Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, United States

Photograph by John C Stires

Viewed from the snow-covered Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls can be seen in the distance. The highest waterfall in North America and the 6th highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is one of the major attractions in Yosemite National Park, cascading 2,425 feet (739 meters) from the upper falls to the base of the lower falls.

Perhaps the main attraction in Yosemite National Park is the Yosemite Valley itself – a glacial valley in the western Sierra Nevada mountains carved out over millenia by the Merced River. Up to a mile deep and eight miles long, the Yosemite Valley is flanked by massive granite summits including El Capitan and Half Dome.

Although the valley makes up only one percent of the park, most visitors arrive there and spend much of their trip in the valley.

In 1851, Dr. Laffayette Bunnell was a a member of the Mariposa Battalion, formed as a punitive expedition against the Native Americans in the Yosemite Area. While the first non-natives to witness the beauty of the Yosemite Valley were likely part of the John Walker Party of 1833, the Mariposa Battalion was the first to describe what they saw. On March 27, 1851, the Mariposa Battalion saw their first glimpse of the Yosemite Valley, prompting Dr. Bunnell to later write,

The grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley — light as gossamer — and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion.

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