Restoring Mariposa Grove – 2017

The restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias balances visitor needs with ecological protection.

Thanks to the generous support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provided $20 million to support the restoration of Mariposa Grove, matching the National Park Service’s contribution.

IMAGINE: It’s a quiet morning in southern Yosemite. Look up, and admire the red-brown bark stretching high overhead. Look down, at the cedar planks forming a boardwalk over lush wetland vegetation. Glance across the boardwalk and up the slope, to spot slender sequoia saplings with tiny green needles.  Close your eyes, and hear the nasal call of a nuthatch, the tap-tap-tap of a woodpecker, or maybe even the lively hoot of a spotted owl.

Take a deep, restorative breath. You’re in Mariposa Grove.

On June 30, 2014, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act by breaking ground on a multiyear restoration project in Mariposa Grove, one of the areas protected by that landmark 1864 legislation. Now, in the final year of the restoration, we’re reflecting on the accomplishments of this collaborative effort, and looking ahead to many years of continued protection, education and inspiration in the grove.

Mariposa Grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias, many of them hundreds or even thousands of years old. These trees, the most massive on earth, grow naturally only in the western Sierra Nevada, where water from the mountain snowpack seeps through the soil to reach their shallow roots.

While the grove was officially protected more than a century and a half ago, years of human activity and development took a toll on the sequoias’ fragile habitat. By the late 20th century, asphalt and trails were compacting soil around tree roots, disrupting natural water flow and jeopardizing the long-term health of the trees.

Now, as we look ahead to wrapping up the restoration work, those threats are evaporating. A seasonal shuttle service from the new Mariposa Grove welcome plaza at the park’s South Entrance will limit vehicle traffic near the grove while creating a convenient way for all to access the trees. Giant sequoia habitat is regenerating in the original parking area, where new interpretive signs frame a welcoming gateway. Accessible trails and boardwalks have replaced paved roadways in the lower area of the grove, protecting wetland and roots while ensuring visitors of all abilities can experience the grandeur of the sequoias, including the famed Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel  Tree.

The grove is expected to reopen to the public in 2018, after being closed to facilitate the restoration work. We hope you’ll find yourself on that cedar boardwalk — maybe this year, or next, or a decade from now.

Whenever you get there, be sure to look up, at the age-old, resilient trees still standing strong; look down, at smooth, sustainable trail surfaces; and look around, at the intricate network of plants, animals and streams rebounding into  a healthy ecosystem. Breathe in the oxygen emanating from 1,000-year-old trees, and remember: This remarkable transformation, like hundreds of other projects in Yosemite, would not have been possible without your generous support.

Thank you for helping to preserve and protect your park.

Project Milestones 

2014

  • Continued developing designs for the restoration of Mariposa Grove, a process that began in 2010
  • Celebrated the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act with an official groundbreaking in the Grove on June 30
  • Completed much-needed repairs, new stonework and other restoration activities at Wawona Point to create a safer, more enjoyable visitor experience

2015

  • Completed a new accessible trail connecting the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree
  • Removed pavement from the roadways and parking lot in the lower Grove area to facilitate natural water flow and help regenerate giant sequoia habitat in the Grove
  • Began creating an accessible loop trail in the lower Grove area, including the foundation of a boardwalk that will help protect sensitive wetlands
  • With help from Youth in Yosemite participants, removed social paths, collected plants for future ecological restoration and built stone walls to delineate trails

2016

  • Re-established sequoia habitat in the former lower Grove parking area, and develop interpretive elements to welcome and inform visitors
  • Improved access to the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree for people of all abilities
  • Encouraged natural water flow by replacing and repairing culverts
  • Converted paved roadways in the upper Grove area into pedestrian trails

2017

  • Completed new arrival plaza at the South Entrance, complete with parking, shuttle, hydration stations and a Yosemite Conservancy bookstore

2018

 

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Project Notes

This project was a dream come true. The Mariposa Grove was needing some tender loving care for many years. I can already see the transformation occurring as we pull out asphalt and infrastructure from the roots of the trees. The grove will be returned to a reverential experience for many people.

Sue Beatty
Restoration Ecologist
Yosemite National Park

Restoration of Mariposa Grove

Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove is home to hundreds of mature giant sequoias. Those magnificent trees helped inspire the...