UNESCO World Heritage List
The main fork of the Merced River is a great place for swimming, hiking, fishing, rafting, gold-panning, camping and general recreation during the summer months. It’s low elevation also makes it a great place for a day hike in the winter.
Merced River History
Many Native American tribes have lived on the Merced River including the Miwok (consisting of Plains Miwok and Sierra Miwok), Paiute, and Ahwahneechee. The Plains Miwok settled in the lowlands along the lower Merced River. In the early 19th century, military expeditions sent by Spanish colonists from coastal California traveled into the Central Valley. On one of these trips, headed by lieutenant Gabriel Moraga, the colonists arrived on the south bank of the Merced River thirsty and low on provisions. They named the river Rio de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (River of Our Lady of Mercy) because it provided much needed water.
You can still see some evidence on the banks of the Merced River of the Yosemite Valley Railroad, originally established with the discovery of mineral deposits in Yosemite Valley and Merced Canyon, and continuing to function through the early 20th century carrying tourists to Yosemite Valley along the Merced River. El Portal Road, constructed through Merced Canyon in 1926, put an end to passenger service on the railway, but operations continued until the mid-1940s, when major flooding occurred, destroying sections of the railroad.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park lies in the heart of California. With its ‘hanging’ valleys, many waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, moraines and U-shaped valleys, it provides an excellent overview of all kinds of granite relief fashioned by glaciation. At 600–4,000 m, a great variety of flora and fauna can also be found here.
Statement of Significance
Yosemite National Park vividly illustrates the effects of glacial erosion of granitic bedrock, creating geologic features that are unique in the world. Repeated glaciations over millions of years have resulted in a concentration of distinctive landscape features, including soaring cliffs, domes, and free-falling waterfalls. There is exceptional glaciated topography, including the spectacular Yosemite Valley, a 914-meter (1/2 mile) deep, glacier-carved cleft with massive sheer granite walls. These geologic features provide a scenic backdrop for mountain meadows and giant sequoia groves, resulting in a diverse landscape of exceptional natural and scenic beauty.
Criterion (vii): Yosemite has exceptional natural beauty, including 5 of the world’s highest waterfalls, a combination of granite domes and walls, deeply incised valleys, three groves of giant sequoia, numerous alpine meadows, lakes, diversity of life zones and variety of species.
Criterion (viii): Glacial action combined with the granitic bedrock has produced unique and pronounced landform features including distinctive polished dome structures, as well as hanging valleys, tarns, moraines and U-shaped valleys. Granitic landforms such as Half Dome and the vertical walls of El Capitan are classic distinctive reflections of geologic history. No other area portrays the effects of glaciation on underlying granitic domes as well as Yosemite does.
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