A Brief History of Yosemite Topography

Yosemite Nature Notes, a high-quality video blog about – you guessed it – the natural wonders of Yosemite National Park, offers online visitors more than just beautiful photos and videos. The series, currently with eight released episodes, is highly informative and provides information that some regulars to the park might not know.

For episode six, Yosemite Nature Notes highlights the history of maps and map making of the Yosemite Valley and it’s surrounding land. Among those interviewed for the piece is nature-documentarian and National Parks celebrity, Ken Burns. The 9 1/2-minute piece has a lot to love: hiking, maps, nature, Yosemite, and a search for a long-lost surveyors point. I enjoyed seeing some of the map collection owned by Jan van Wagtendonk, a research scientist and cool-named guy. Here’s what he had to say about maps:

“Ever since I was a kid, I had maps. Everywhere I go, I gather new maps. I’m not sure what the attraction is, I just like to be able to see the land depicted this way. I’ve always been very curious about where things are and why they are named what they are, and how to get from place to place. I’ve had a life-long fascination with maps.”

Visit Yosemite Nature Notes to view the episodes.

Frequent visitors to my websites might be aware of my own fascination with maps. The quote by van Wagtendonk hits home for me. I’ve been collecting maps for most of my life. (You can read about my collections here & here.) The episode about maps reminded me that I own a piece of Yosemite map history myself. While exploring the dusty shelves of a used bookstore in Santa Barbara, I found two maps in a box of assorted maps. A 1940’s AAA road map of the Eastern Sierras and a topographical map of Yosemite National Park from 1947. I bought them immediately. I used the maps in a photo shoot a few years ago:

Two Maps & A Compass

Two Maps & A Compass, one of my most-popular photos on Flickr

Via National Parks Traveler.

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