Posted by: Ed Darrell | December 14, 2011

American landmarks: Half Dome in Yosemite National Park (with a little bit of Teddy Roosevelt)

One of whatcould be an occasional series of posts on American iconic places, natural features, sights to see, etc. For studies of U.S. history and U.S. geography, each of these posts covers subjects an educated American should know. What is the value of these icons? Individually and collectively, our preservation of them may do nothing at all for the defense of our nation. But individually and collectively, they help make our nation worth defending.

In fewer than 10 minutes,  Yosemite Nature Notes provides glorious pictures and good information about Yosemite National Park — this video explains the modern incarnation of Half Dome, an enormous chunk of granite that captures the imagination of every living, breathing soul who ever sees it.

Potential questions for class discussion:

  • Have you put climbing Half Dome on your bucket list yet? Why not?
  • Is it really wilderness when so many people go there?
  • How should the National Park Service, and the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, manage these spectacular, completely unique features, both to preserve their wild nature, and allow people to visit them?
  • What are the federalism issues involved in protecting Half Dome, or any grand feature, like the Great Smokey Mountains, Great Dismal Swamp, Big Bend, Yellowstone Falls, or Lincoln Memorial?
  • Does this feature make you wonder about how glaciers carve mountains and valleys? (Maybe you should watch this video about glaciers in Yosemite.)
  • What is the history of the preservation of the Yosemite Valley?
  • Planning your trip to Yosemite: Which large city airports might be convenient to fly to? (What part of which state is this in?)
  • What other grand sights are there to see on your trip to Yosemite?
  • What does this image make you think? Can you identify the people in it?

    John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt in Yosemite Valley

    Who are those guys? Why might it matter? (Answer below the fold)

  • How about this image? Who made this, and so what?
    Albert Bierstadt, Sunrise, Yosemite Valley, ca. 1870 - Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

    Photo or painting? Where could you see this work?

    (For my students at Molina:  Extra credit for going to the Amon Carter Museum to see the painting . . . )

Caption to photograph:

President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and John Muir had long talks about conservation while camping together at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, 1903. Roosevelt galvanized Progressive conservation and Muir galvanized the preservation movement. Their meeting of the minds symbolizes the environmental leadership the 21st century will increasingly ask of the National Park Service. (Library of Congress photo).

Painting information:

Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Sunrise, Yosemite Valley, ca. 1870, Oil on canvas 1966.1 – Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

What do you think about this little point of history?

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