Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite National Park

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. Following the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901, Roosevelt, at age 42, succeeded to the office, becoming the youngest United States President in history. Leading his party and country into the Progressive Era, he championed his “Square Deal” domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs. Making conservation a top priority, he established a myriad of new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation’s natural resources.

John Muir, also known as “John of the Mountains”, was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization.

In 1903, Roosevelt visited Muir in Yosemite. Guided into the Yosemite wilderness by Muir, the president went on a three-day wilderness trip that started at the Mariposa Grove, and included Sentinel Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Valley among other points of interest in Yosemite National Park. Muir seized the opportunity “to do some forest good in talking freely around the campfire,” and the President, referring to John Muir, is quoted as saying “Of course of all the people in the world, he was the one with whom it was best worth while thus to see the Yosemite.”

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite National Park. Photography: Library of Congress

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite National Park. Photography: Library of Congress


Roosevelt and Muir camped the first night, May 15, at the Mariposa Grove under the Grizzly Giant, with the President bedding down in a pile of about 40 wool blankets, and the second night was spent in the vicinity of Sentinel Dome during a snow storm that left five inches of new snow on top of the existing five feet of snow. The third night of camping was at the edge Bridalveil Meadow in Yosemite Valley, where President Roosevelt was Muir’s captive audience to hear a convincing plea for Yosemite wilderness and for setting aside other areas in the United States for park purposes. That night, during the campfire discussion, Muir’s main focus of conversation was not only the need for forest preservation but also his concern that the California State Grant of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, surrounded in 1892 by Yosemite National Park, be receded to the United States for inclusion in the park. Roosevelt agreed that two controls made for “triple troubles.” Eventually, their discussion prompted the Presidential signature on the Yosemite Recession Bill in June, 1906. This Joint Resolution accepted the recession by the State of California of the Yosemite Valley Grant and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove, now the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which withdrew them from state protection and put them under federal protection, making them part of Yosemite National Park.

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias…our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their Children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred,” said Theodore Roosevelt.

During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt signed into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests.

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