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|Sequoia National Park|
Sequoia National Park is one of the eight national parks in California. Located in the foothills and mountains of the south central section of the Sierra Nevada range, Sequoia is famous for big things--some of the largest trees in the world and some of the highest mountains in the U.S., including Mt. Whitney, at 14,495 feet the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. The park also contains over 100 marble solution caves (such as Crystal Cave) and more than 2600 lakes and ponds. It features a wide range of ecosystems which exist at an amazing range of altitudes, from 1700 feet near the Ash Mountain entrance to the peak of Mt. Whitney.
Before the arrival of the white man the foothill area of the park was inhabited by various tribes includes the Monaches. These Indians lived on a diet of acorns, were familiar with the groves of the giant trees, and traded with Paiutes who lived across the mountains in the Owens Valley. Tragically, most of the Indians in the area died of an epidemic in 1862.
For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.
The first white man to visit the giant trees may have been Hale Tharp in 1858 who eventually settled in the area and grazed cattle in meadows. Others followed, and extensive damage to the area was done by settlers who grazed sheep (called "hoofed locusts" by John Muir), miners, and lumbermen who cut down many of the largest sequoias. A number of people began to make an effort to preserve the great trees in the area, the most prominent of which were famous naturalist John Muir, who visited the area and championed the idea of great southern Sierra national park, and George W. Stewart, editor and publisher of the Visalia Delta newspaper. Muir, Stewart, and some members of the California Academy of Sciences put together a bill to save the area as a park in 1881, but the bill died in the Senate in 1882.
However, the preservation effort was ultimately successful and Sequoia became the nation's second national park when it was established on September 26, 1890, as a result of the same piece of legislation which created Yosemite and General Grant (now Kings Canyon) National Parks. It tripled in size one week after its founding, when the Giant Forest area was actually added to the park. In 1926 the park was again expanded toward the east to include the crest of the Sierra mountains, including Mount Whitney. The last section added was the Mineral King area in the southern portion of the park in 1978, culminating an effort to save the area from development as a ski resort.
Sequoia National Park contains gigantic specimens of a number of different types of trees, but the most memorable are surely the giant Sequoias which inhabit several groves scattered through the park. These gargantuan trees may grow to a height in excess of 300 feet. Among all species of trees, they are second in height only to their close relatives, the redwoods of the northern California coast, although they are considerably larger in bulk and girth.
The sequoia, which sprouts exclusively from seeds, continues to grow throughout its life. It usually dies only when toppled by wind or other catastrophic event. The trees are virtually impervious to disease; the oldest specimen on record lived approximately 3200 years. Their cinnamon color is an effect of the presence of tannin in the thick bark and heartwood which also contributes to their resistance to fire, insects, fungus, and decay.
Muir described the trees as "colonnades" along the edges of meadows, an comparison which can easily be understood from the images below.
The giant sequoia trees cluster togther in groves. In fact, all of the earth's sequoia trees are contained in 75 groves which lay at an elevation between 5000 and 7000 feet in the Sierras. Thirty of these are in Sequoia or Kings Canyon parks. Most of the pictures in this section were taken in Sequoia's "Giant Forest", a 5 square mile area lying at an altitude of about 6500 feet. 50 miles of trails which run through the grove give users ample opportunities to experience the sequoia close up. Four of the earth's 5 largest trees are found in this grove, which contains a total of 10,657 trees, 8411 of which are greater than one foot in diameter. The trees in this grove, named by John Muir, enjoy ideal climatic conditions which include some 44 inches of precipitation per year.
In one section of the Giant Forest grows one of the world's most famous trees--the "General Sherman" sequoia. Although sequoia trees continue to grow throughout their life span, this tree is already the world's largest and in fact ranks as the planet's largest living thing.
The statistics describing this tree are astounding. It measures 36 feet in diameter at its base and reaches a height of 275 feet. The tree weighs almost 2.7 million pounds and contains a volume of 52,500 cubic feet of wood. One of its branches alone measures approximately 7 feet in diameter, and a 15 story building would fit comfortably beneath its first branch! The General Sherman is estimated to be somewhere between 2300 and 2700 years old. The lowest limb of this tree, visible in the picture below 130 feet above ground, is larger than any tree east of the Mississippi.
Although trees like the General Sherman and King Canyon's General Grant are world famous, the practice of "naming" large trees was discontinued after World War II.
Another sequoia grove in the park northwest of the Giant Forest is the "Lost Grove" containing the trees shown below.
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