About the Site
Yosemite National Park (14)  


Park History

Yosemite Valley

Merced River

Half Dome & El Capitan

Yosemite Peaks

Glacier Point

Yosemite Falls


Yosemite Village

Valley in Snow

Wawona Area

Mariposa Grove

Tioga Road

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Plants and Animals


Tuolumne Meadows

One of the most well known areas in the high country is Tuolumne Meadows. This area and it subalpine meadow is found at an altitude of about 8600 feet, about 55 miles from the Yosemite Valley.

Two thousand years ago, Tuolumne Meadows was buried under a 2,000 foot thick sheet of ice. This was the 60 mile long Tuolumne Glacier, the largest glacier ever formed in the Sierras. It formed on Mt. Lyell and flowed down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The ice scoured the landscape, and eventually when it finally receded it left melted water in a lake behind. Over time, the lake silts up, and a meadow replaced it. Over time, the meadow itself will disappear as it is colonized by the surrounding forest.

The existing meadow, with Lembert Dome in the background, is shown below. Lembert Dome is a familiar landmarks and large landmark which is found in the meadows area. It has a lopsided appearance which was the result of the action of ice, pushing against one side and tearing rock from the other.

Lembert Dome was covered by the great glacier of the Tuolumne area. This large monolith was named after John Baptist Lembert, who settled at Soda Springs in the mid-1800's to raise Angorra sheep and was later known as a hermit and goat herder.

John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson hatched the plan to work toward national park status while camping at Soda Springs in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Undoubtedly they were inspired by the incredible beauty of the area.

Below, the Tuolumne River flows through the Tuolumne Meadows area.

Below is a picture of Tuolumne Meadows, and the Tuolumne River with the mountains surrounding the meadow.

The eastern high country section of the park, including Tuolumne Meadows, was not added to the park until well after the Valley and sequoia sections. In fact, National Park Service head and pioneer Stephen Mather provide some private funding of his own to assist in acquiring this land.

In the picture below Tuolumne Meadows, Tuolumne Creek, and Lembert Dome are all visible.

One feature which can be observed in Tuolumne Meadows and elsewhere in the park is the existence of "glacial erratics." These are stones and rocks which were carried to and left in locations on the ground by the movement and eventual recession of the mighty glaciers which scoured much of the park. Glacier moraines are large piles of materials left by glaciers in a similar way.

In the early years after the arrival of the white man Basque shepherds brought their flocks from the east to graze on the grasses of Tuolumne Meadows. Although John Muir was originally hired to bring a flock of sheep from the valley into the high country, in 1869, he soon came to understand the devastating effects of their grazing, referring to them as "hooved locusts." The overgrazing of the sheep indeed caused tremendous damage until the 1890's when they were eliminated.

Summer in the meadows is beautiful, but that season in the Sierras is short, on the order of a matter of weeks.

Tuolumne Meadows has been a favored place for use by humans for a very long time. The Paiute Indians from the Mono Lake area east of the park, and the Miwok Indians who lived in Yosemite Valley, both camped in the meadow.

Many famous people have visited the high country, including Eleanor Roosevelt who camped here in 1934. A month the modern day visitors are rock climbers, who come to scale Lembert Dome.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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