Back John Muir, “Yosemite Valley in Flood”

John Muir (1838–1914)
From John Muir: Nature Writings

Sentinel Rock, Yosemite (1872), oil on canvas by Scottish American painter William Keith (1838–1911). Both Keith and John Muir were born in Scotland the same year; the two men met for the first time when Keith traveled to Yosemite in 1872 and Muir took the visitor on one of his tours of the valley. They became close friends, occasionally traveling together in the Sierra Nevada range during the subsequent four decades, and Muir owned several of Keith’s paintings. In an 1875 article in The Overland Monthly, Keith criticized the accuracy of previous paintings of Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hill: “The cliffs are neither red nor yellow, but an indescribable shifting gray, changing and shifting even as you look.” (Wikimedia Commons)

150 years ago, in the fall of 1871, John Muir confirmed something he had suspected: that the ice sheet he had traversed near Red Mountain south of Yosemite a few weeks earlier was, in fact, a glacier, moving steadily across the landscape at the rate of one yard per month.

Just two years earlier, Harvard geologist Josiah Whitney had published The Yosemite Guide-Book, in which he and his colleagues at the California Geological Survey declared that “there is no reason to suppose, or at least no proof, that glaciers have ever occupied the Valley, or any portion of it.” Whitney later went further, claiming that there were no surviving glaciers anywhere in the Sierra Nevada. Yet a young amateur, newly arrived in Yosemite, whose past employment included sheepherding and factory management, managed to confirm within a few years the existence of sixty-five “living” glaciers in the region. Muir also convinced many of the nation’s leading geologists that the Yosemite Valley itself had been formed largely by glacial erosion.

Many of the glaciers identified by Muir have melted away in recent decades. That first glacier near Red Mountain has vanished entirely. Lyell Glacier—the largest in Yosemite, measuring a mile long and a mile wide in 1872—has lost more than 80 percent of its surface area and, since it has stopped moving, it is no longer even a glacier. Geologists and park officials anticipate that climate change will eradicate the hundred or so remaining glaciers (and former glaciers) in the Sierra Nevada within a couple of decades.

Although Muir first gained national attention for his identification of California’s glaciers, he became even more famous as he began to write for popular magazines various articles describing his adventures and observations of America’s wilderness. We present his essay “Yosemite Valley in Flood,” about a spectacular and torrential storm that swamped the area, as our current Story of the Week selection and, in an introduction, we describe the astonishing trek that brought Muir to Yosemite in the first place.

Read “Yosemite Valley in Flood” by John Muir

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Benefits of Using Safe Crypto Casinos. One of the most captivating reasons people drift towards Australian casinos online-casino-au com is the promise of anonymity. Safe platforms guarantee that your identity remains a secret. Quick Payouts and Minimal Fees. No one likes waiting, especially for winnings. Safe crypto casinos ensure that payouts are swift and the fees minimal, if not non-existent.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Ozwin Casino offers an exciting array of top-notch slots that cater to every player's preferences. From classic fruit machines to cutting-edge video slots, Ozwin Casino Real Money collection has it all. With stunning graphics, immersive themes, and seamless gameplay, these slots deliver an unparalleled gaming experience. Some popular titles include Mega Moolah, Gonzo's Quest, and Starburst, known for their massive jackpots and thrilling bonus features. Ozwin Casino's slots are not just about luck; they offer hours of entertainment and the chance to win big, making it a must-visit for slot enthusiasts.

Support our mission