The National Parks


The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)

In 1851, word spreads across the country of a beautiful area of California’s Yosemite Valley, attracting visitors who wish to exploit the land’s scenery for commercial gain and those who wish to keep it pristine. Among the latter is a Scottish-born wanderer named John Muir, for whom protecting the land becomes a spiritual calling.

AIRED: April 25, 2016 | 1:55:41

Announcer: Our national parks belong to all of us.

They are places of discovery, they are places of inspiration,

they are America's best idea.

Major funding provided by: the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Additional funding was provided

by the Park Foundation in support

of a clean and healthy environment;

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations--

dedicated to strengthening America's future

through education;

the National Park Foundation,

the official charity of America's national parks;

the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation;

the Pew Charitable Trusts;

by General Motors;

by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;

and by generous contributions to this PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

Bank of America is proud to be

exclusive corporate underwriter

for the films of Ken Burns

and hopes you enjoy this encore presentation.

MAN: One learns that the world, though made, is

yet being made, that this isstill the morning of creation,

that mountains long conceivedand now being born brought to

light by the glaciers,channels traced for rivers,

basins hollowed for lakes.

When we try to pick outanything by itself, we find it

hitched to everything else in the universe.

The whole wildernessin unity and interrelation

is alive and familiar.

The very stones seem talkative,

sympathetic, brotherly.

Everybody needs beauty,as well as bread, places to

play in and pray in, wherenature may heal and give

strength to body and soul alike.

This natural beauty hungeris made manifest in our

magnificent national parks...

nature'’s sublime wonderlands,

the admiration and joy of the world.

John Muir.

PETER COYOTE: They area treasure house of nature'’s

superlatives, 84 millionacres of the most stunning

landscapes anyone has ever seen...

including: a mountain somassive it creates its own

weather, whose peak rises more than 20,000 feet above

sea level, the highest point on the continent...

a valley where a riverdisappears into burning sands

282 feet below sea level, the lowest and hottest

location in the hemisphere...

a labyrinth of caves longerthan any other ever measured...

and the deepest lake in the nation

with the clearest water in the world.

They contain trees dead for 225 million years

that are now solid rock...

and trees still growing thatwere already saplings before

the time of Christ, beforeRome conquered the known

world, before the Greeksworshipped in the Parthenon,

before the Egyptians builtthe pyramids, trees that are

the oldest living things on Earth

and the tallest and the largest.

They encompass a mile-deepgash in the ground, where the

Hopis say the first peopleemerged from the underworld

and where scientists saya river has patiently carved its

way to expose rocks that are1.7 billion years old,

nearly half the age of the planet itself...

and an island where a goddessnamed Pele destroys everything

in her path while shesimultaneously gives birth

to new land.

They preserve cathedrals of stone gaily ornamented

by cascading ribbons of water...

Arctic dreamscapes wherethe rivers are made of ice...

and a geological wonderlandwith rivers that steam,

mud that boils amidst the greatest collection

of geysers in the world.

They became the last refugefor magnificent species

of animals that otherwisewould have vanished forever...

and they remain a refugefor human beings seeking to

replenish their spirit,geographies of memory and hope

where countless American families have forged

an intimate connection totheir land and then passed it

along to their children.

MAN: I think that deep in ourDNA is this embedded memory

of when we were not separatedfrom the rest of the natural

world, that we were part of it.

The Bible talks aboutthe Garden of Eden as that

experience that we had at thebeginnings of our dimmest

memories as a species, and sowhen we enter a park, we'’re

entering a place that hasbeen--at least the attempt has

been made to keep it like itonce was, and we cross that

boundary, and suddenly, we'’re no longer masters

of the natural world.

We'’re part of it, and in that sense,

it'’s like we're going home.

It doesn'’t matter where we'’re from.

We'’ve come back to a placethat is where we came from.

MAN: It is the preservation ofthe scenery, of the forests,

and the wilderness game forthe people as a whole instead

of leaving the enjoyment thereof to be confined to

the very rich.

It is noteworthy in its essential democracy, one

of the best bits of nationalachievement which our people

have to their credit, and ourpeople should see to it that

they are preserved for theirchildren and their children'’s

children forever with theirmajestic beauty all unmarred.

Theodore Roosevelt.

COYOTE: But they are morethan a collection of rocks

and trees and inspirational scenes from nature.

They embody something lesstangible yet equally enduring,

an idea born in theUnited States nearly a century

after its creation, as uniquely American as

the Declaration of Independence and just as radical.

MAN: What could be more democratic than owning

together the most magnificentplaces on your continent?

Think about Europe.

In Europe, the most magnificent places,

the palaces, the parks, are owned by aristocrats,

by monarchs, by the wealthy.

In America, magnificence is a common treasure.

That'’s the essence of our democracy.

COYOTE: "National parks," the writer and historian

Wallace Stegner once said, "are the best idea

we'’ve ever had."

MAN: It'’s not the best idea.

The best idea came fromThomas Jefferson, that all human

beings, irrespective of theaccident of their birth,

are entitled to enjoy theaspirations of being fully

complete and free human beings.

That'’s America's gift to the world,

but right up there are the national parks.

Jefferson, I think, would sayif you go out into the heart

of America and see this continent in its glory,

it will embolden you to dream

about the possibilities of life, that American nature is

the guarantor of American Constitutional freedom,

that if you don'’t have a genuine link to nature

in a serious, even profound way,

you can'’t be an American.

COYOTE: Like the idea of America itself, full

of competing demands andimpulses, the national park

idea has been constantlydebated, constantly tested,

and is constantly evolving,ultimately embracing plas

that also preserve thenation'’s first principles,

its highest aspirations, its greatest sacrifices,

even reminders of its most shameful mistakes.

Most of all, the story of thenational parks is the story

of people, people from everyconceivable background,

rich and poor,famous and unknown, soldiers

and scientists, natives andnewcomers, idealists, artists,

and entrepreneurs, peoplewho were willing to devote

themselves to saving someprecious portion of the land

they loved and in doing soreminded their fellow citizens

of the full meaning of democracy.

From the very beginning asthey struggled over who should

control their national parks,what should be allowed within

their boundaries, even whythey should exist at all,

Americans have looked uponthese wonders of nature

and seen in them thereflection of their own dreams.

MAN: One of the things I thinkwe witness when we go to the

parks is the immensity andthe intimacy of time.

On the one hand, we experience the immensity of time,

which is the creation itself,it is the universe unfolding

before us, and yet it is alsotime shared with the people

that we visit these placeswith, and so it'’s the

experience that we rememberwhen our parents took us

for the first time to theseand then we as parents passing

them on to our children,a kind intimate transmission

from generation to generationto generation of the love

of place, the love of nationthat the national parks are

meant to stand for.

[Birds chirping]

[Water running]

COYOTE: Early in 1851 duringthe frenzy of the California

gold rush, an armed group ofwhite men was scouring the

western slopes of the Sierra Nevada,

searching for Indians,

intent on driving them from their homeland.

They called themselves theMariposa Battalion, and late

on the afternoon of March 27,they came to a narrow valley

lined by towering granite cliffs where a series

of waterfalls droppedthousands of feet to reach

the Merced River on the valley'’s floor.

One of the men, a young doctornamed Lafayette Bunnell stood

there transfixed.

MAN AS LAFAYETTE AS BUNNELL:As I looked, a peculiar,

exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being,

and I found my eyes in tears with emotion.

I said with some enthusiasm, "I have here seen the power

"and glory of the Supreme Being.

"The majesty of His handiwork is in that testimony

"of the rocks."

COYOTE: Bunnell's enchantmentwith the scenery was not

shared by the rest of theMariposa Battalion, who busied

themselves setting fire toany Indian homes they found.

Before the Battalion moved on,Bunnell convinced the others

that as the first white menever to enter the valley they

should give it a name.

He suggested Yosemite becausehe thought that was the name

of the tribe they had come to dispossess.

Later, scholars would learnthat the people living in

the valley called it Ahwahnee, meaning the place of a gaping

mouth, and they calledthemselves the Ahwahneechee.

Yosemite, it was learned, meant something

entirely different.

In the native language, Yosemite refers to people

who should be feared.

It means they are killers.

4 years later in 1855,a second group of white people

entered Yosemite Valley, this time as tourists,

not Indian fighters.

They were led by James Mason Hutchings,

an energetic Englishman who had failed miserably

as a prospector during the gold rush.

Now he hoped to make a fortuneby promoting California'’s

scenic wonders through an illustrated magazine.

When a report about theIndian campaign in the Sierras

mentioned a waterfallmore than 1,000 feet high,

Hutchings rushed to see it for himself.

Word and images of Yosemite quickly spread.

Other tourists began showing up to witness

its beauty firsthand.

The trip required a two-dayjourney from San Francisco to

the nearest town and then,with no wagon road into

the valley, a grueling 3-daytrek by foot or horseback up

and down steep mountainsideson narrow, rocky paths.

But for most, the scenicreward was worth the hardship.

"Looking at the majestic cathedral rocks

"and cathedral spires," wrote a Massachusetts

newspaperman, "made it easy to

"imagine that you are underthe ruins of an old gothic

"cathedral to which those ofCologne and Milan are

"but baby houses."

Upon seeing Yosemite Falls,the highest free-leaping

waterfall on the continent,another visitor began

quoting The Bible.

"Now let me die," he told hiscompanions, "for I am happy."

15 miles south of Yosemite Valley,

the Mariposa Groveof giant sequoias contains

the largest living things

on earth, trees nearly 3,000 years old.

When Horace Greeley, editorof the "New York Tribune,"

saw them, he boasted to hisreaders that they were

"of substantial size when David danced before the Ark."

Soon, the celebrated painterAlbert Bierstadt arrived

and produced a series of masterpieces.

One of them would commanda price of $25,000, equal to

the highest amount ever paidfor an American work of art.

While Bierstadt painted,his friend Fitz Hugh Ludlow

wrote dispatches that appearedin "The Atlantic Monthly,"

the nation'’s most prestigious magazine.

MAN AS FITZ HUGH LUDLOW:We did not so much seem to be

seeing from that crag ofvision a new scene on the old

familiar globe as a new heavenand a new earth into which

the creative spirit had just been breathed.

I hesitate now, as I did then,at the attempt to give my

vision utterance.

Never were words as beggaredfor an abridged translation

of any scripture of nature.

JENKINSON: Jefferson lookedacross America from the

portico at Monticello, andhe saw wilderness all the way

out, so he couldn'’t conceiveof a national park because,

for Jefferson, America was a national park.

This country is Eden, and weAmericans had this glorious

opportunity to see the worldin its infancy so that America

in a sense had been kept as a symbol of what

the world once was.

COYOTE: As Thomas Jefferson'’s nation had grown,

the country'’s sense of itselfand its possibilities had

grown, as well, not only in the political sphere

but in the arts, literature, and in its citizens'’

relationship to God.

MAN: At the gates of the forest, the surprised man

of the world is forced to leave his city estimates

of great and small, wise and foolish.

The knapsack of custom fallsoff his back with the first

step he takes.

Here is sanctity which shamesour religions and reality

which discredits our heroes.

Here, we find nature to bethe circumstance which dwarfs

every other circumstanceand judges like a god all men

that come to her.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

COYOTE: The transcendentalistwriter Ralph Waldo Emerson had

been telling Americans foryears that God was more easily

found in nature than in the works of man.

His disciple, Henry David Thoreau,

had called for "little oasesof wildness in the desert

"of our civilization."

CRONON: What emerges in themiddle of the 19th Century is

this idea that going back towild nature is restorative,

it'’s a way of escaping thecorruptions of urban civilized

life, finding a more innocentself, returning to who you

really are, returning to akind of authenticity, and if

you want to know God atfirsthand, the way to do that

is not to enter a cathedral,not to open a book, but to go

to the mountaintop, and on themountaintop, there you will

see God as God truly is in the world.

COYOTE: But it was all in danger as the nation,

in the name of manifestdestiny, marched inexorably

across the continent,systematically dispossessing

Indian peoples from theirhomelands and transforming

the land to new uses.

The artist George Catlinworried th the vast herds

of buffalo and the Indians whodepended on them would someday

be gone forever, and he calledfor the creation of a nation'’s

park to save them both.

No one listened.

By the 1860s, the country'’smost famous natural landmark,

Niagara Falls, hadalready been nearly ruined.

Every overlook was owned by a private landowner

charging a fee.

Tourists could expect tobe badgered and oftentimes

swindled by the huckstersand self-appointed guides who

swarmed the railroad depotand carriage stands.

European visitors publiclybelittled Americans

for allowing such a majesticwork of nature to become

blighted by commercialdevelopment and offered it as

further evidence that the United States was still

a backward, uncivilized nation.

CRONON: Americans feel thatthe United States is somehow

inferior to Europe, where theUnited States doesn'’t have the

ruins of Rome or of Greece,it doesn'’t have the Acropolis,

it doesn'’t have the Parthenon,and so it seems like we'’re

an inferior nation, and yetthe one thing we do have is

a nature that looks closer tothe new morning of God'’s own

creation, closer to paradisethan anything that Europe has

to offer, and so the thoughtis that if we'’re to preserve

anything that stands for theglory of America, then these

overwhelmingly beautiful,sacred spots are the ones we

ought to preserve.

COYOTE: On May 17, 1864,in the midst of the Civil War,

with Union casualties averaging 2,000 a day,

the junior senator from California, John Conness,

rose to explain a bill he had just introduced.

It had nothing to dowith the war that threatened

to destroy his nation.

MAN AS JOHN CONNESS: I willstate to the Senate that this

bill proposes to make a grantof certain premises located

in the Sierra Nevada Mountainsin the state of California

that are for all publicpurposes worthless but which

constitute perhaps some of thegreatest wonders of the world.

It is a matter involvingno appropriation whatever.

The property is of no value to the government.

COYOTE: Conness'’ billproposed something totally

unprecedented in human history, setting aside not

a landscaped garden or acity park but a large tract

of natural scenery for thefuture enjoyment of everyone.

More than 60 square miles offederal land, encompassing

the Yosemite Valley and theMariposa Grove of big trees,

were to be transferred to the care of the state

of California on the conditionthat the land never be opened

for private ownership and instead be preserved

for public use, resort, and recreation.

After only a few questionsand no objections, the Senate

passed Conness'’ bill andmoved on to other business.

A month later, the House didthe same, and on June 30, 1864,

a day in which he alsosigned bills increasing import

duties and broadening the income tax in order to

continue a war to preserve the Union,

President Abraham Lincoln signeda law to preserve forever

a beautiful valley and a groveof trees that he had never seen

thousands of miles away in California.

JENKINSON: And so Lincoln,who realizes that it'’s the

West that is the dynamo ofAmerican life, it'’s the fuel

of American idealism--Lincolnwants to save some significant

portions of it from what hesees as the North'’s runaway

industrial idea of the future of the continent.

In a sense, the whole historyof America is a lament that

this Garden of Eden which wehave discovered is going to

slip away from us somehow.

MAN: When I think of a groveof giant sequoia, I think

of a cathedral or a church,a place where you'’re not

necessarily worshipping the name of something

but the presence of something else.

There'’s no need for someoneto remind you that there is

something in this worldthat is larger than you are

because you can see it,and you look up in a storm,

and you can'’t even see the rim of the valley.

All you can see our cloudsgathered there at the rim

of the valley, and YosemiteFalls seems to flow out

of the clouds itself as if out of nowhere.

It'’s a gathering place of water, all the waters

of the sky flowing into thatone spot, which makes it

a gathering of life and agathering of spirit, as well,

and all of those things,are flowing through Yosemite,

and so I think what betterplace is there that has such

a confluence of so many things flowing together

and the result is music?

MAN: Men who are rich enoughprovide places of neededher

recreation for themselves.

They have done so fromthe earliest periods known

in the history of the world.

is thus a monopoly of avery few, very rich people.

The great mass of society,including those to whom it

would be of the greatestbenefit, is excluded from it.

Thus, unless steps are takenby government to withhold them

from the grasp of individuals, all places favorable

in scenery to the recreationof the mind and body will be

closed against the great body of the people.

Frederick Law Olmsted.

COYOTE: 4 months after theCivil War ended, a small group

gathered in Yosemite Valleyto hear Frederick Law Olmsted,

the celebrated designer ofNew York City'’s Central Park,

read a report he had writtenabout the future of the land

that had just been entrustedto the state of California.

He called for strictregulations to protect the

landscape from anything thatwould, in his words, "obscure,

"distort, or detract fromthe dignity of the scenery."

"In a place as special as Yosemite," Olmsted said,

"the rights of posterity were more important than

"the desires of the present."

MAN AS FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED:Before many years if proper

facilities are offered,these hundreds will become

thousands, and in a century,the whole number of visitors

will be counted by millions.

An injury to the scenery soslight that it may be unheeded

by any visitor now will be onemultiplied by those millions.

COYOTE: But once Olmstedreturned to New York, a small

group of Yosemite commissioners secretly

convened, decided his recommendations were too

controversial to bring to thestate legislature, and quietly

shelved his report.

Among those who studiouslyignored Olmsted'’s suggestions

on the future of Yosemitewas James Mason Hutchings.

No one had done more thanHutchings to bring the valley

to the nation'’s attention,but now that the nation had

moved to protect it inperpetuity by declaring it

public, no one fought that decision

with greater vehemence.

MAN: James Mason Hutchingsloved Yosemite, no doubt

about that, and every nationalpark will have somebody who

loves it deeply and then wantsto exploit the hell out of it.

The thing about James MasonHutchings is that once he gets

control of Yosemite Valleyhe does exactly what most

concessionaires do with abeautiful place like that.

He begins to make it into another Niagara Falls.

You have to pay him for the privilege of seeing

Yosemite Valley.

COYOTE: He had already givenup his publishing business

and bought one of the valley'’stwo hotels, which he quickly

renamed The Hutchings House.

He enjoyed lecturing his guests and leading them

on sightseeing tours, yet sometimes failed to

provide them with knives andforks at dinner or forgetfully

filled their coffee cups with cold water.

"Guests would be better served," one of his early

customers wrote, "if theproprietor paid less attention

"to describing the beauties andmore to providing comfortable

"beds and properly prepared meals."

WOMAN: Upstairs, the roomswere only divided by pieces

of cotton cloth, and itrequired some little strategy

to place the candle so thatone'’s figure should not appear

on the cloth partition hugelymagnified for the amusement

of one'’s neighbors.

COYOTE: Hutchings was technically a squatter

in Yosemite, but in brazendefiance of the law, he went

about expanding his operations.

To provide the lumber heneeded would require a sawmill

Hutchings decided and someone to run it.

Just at that moment in thefall of 1869, a 31-year-old

Scottish-born wanderer wouldshow up to apply for the job.

He called himself "an unknownnobody," but he would do far

more than Hutchings to extolthe beauty of Yosemite,

more than Frederick Law Olmsted to protect it,

and with his lyrical voiceinfuse the national park idea

with the passion of religious fervor.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: I knowthat I could under ordinary

circumstances accumulate wealth and obtain a fair

position in society, but Iam sure that the mind of no

truant schoolboy is more freeand disengaged from all the

grave plans and purposes andpursuits of ordinary orthodox

life than mine.

John Muir.

I don'’t know how you everaccount for an extraordinary

individual like John Muir.

It'’s one of the enduring human mysteries.

Out species is capable of suchpathetic, appalling narrowness

and occasionally of such magnificent generosity.

I don'’t know how to account for that.

COYOTE: John Muir was born inDunbar, Scotland, and raised

in Wisconsin, where he hadsuffered a harsh childhood

at the hands of a tyrannical father, an itinerant

Presbyterian minister whoinsisted that Muir memorize

The Bible and repeatedly beathim until by age 11 he was

able to recite 3/4 of The Old Testament

and the entire New Testament by heart.

He was a natural-bornscientist, studied geology

and botany at the Universityof Wisconsin, and coming

of age at a time when newindustries were transforming

post-war America, Muir alsoshowed great promise as

an inventor, increasing theproductivity of every one

of the businesses that hired him.

DUNCAN: He went to work in a carriage factory

in Indianapolis and did a sortof time-motion study that said

the factory is like a machineitself and the human beings

are parts of that.

He could have beenAndrew Carnegie, he could have

been--with his inventive genius, he could have been

Thomas Edison, but somethinginside of him drew him to

a different destiny.

COYOTE: A factory accidenttemporarily blinded him

for several months.

When he regained his sight,Muir fled his workday world

and set out on a thousand-milewalk to Florida, pursuing his

passion for the natural sciences, studying plants

and flowers, and beginninga journal he would keep

for the rest of his life.

MAN: When Muir began that walk,he was intending to walk

to South America and toeventually find the headwaters

of the Amazon, build himselfa raft, and float down the

entire length of the Amazon.

Happily, he was discouragedfrom doing so by a fever,

probably malaria that soweakened him he decided that

going to the west coast andwhat he had heard vaguely

of Yosemite might be a better idea.

COYOTE: After getting off aboat in San Francisco, he was

asked, "Where do you wish to go?"

Muir answered, "Anywhere that'’s wild."

POPE: And he walks.

The essence of John Muiris the John Muir who walks.

He immediately sets off acrossPacheco Pass, across the

Central Valley to Yosemite,and it is this act of walking

which actually creates afaith for him, a new version

of Christianity,a Christianity rooted in place

and wildness and nature.

It'’s a Christianity that isnot about the built worship

of God but about theworship of God'’s creation.

COYOTE: Soon, he was ramblingacross the Sierra Nevada,

the vast mountains he called"the range of light, surely

"the brightest and best ofall the Lord has built."

MAN AS JOHN MUIR:We are now in the mountains,

and they are in us,kindling enthusiasm, making

every nerve quiver, fillingevery pore and cell of us.

Our flesh-and-bone tabernacleseems transparent as glass to

the beauty about us, neitherold nor young, sick nor well,

but immortal.

COYOTE: Then he descended into Yosemite Valley.

"It was," Muir wrote, "by far the

"grandest of all the specialtemples of nature I was ever

"permitted to enter,

the sanctum sanctorum of the Sierra."

When Hutchings offered him thejob, he realized he could make

Yosemite his home.

Muir built Hutchings'’ sawmilland began producing lumber

for the many projects hisnew employer directed him to

undertake: replacing the muslin sheets with wooden

partitions in the hotel'’ssleeping quarters; improving

a space called The Big TreeRoom built around the trunk

of a giant cedar; and erectingtwo additional cottages to

accommodate the increasingnumber of tourists,

now exceeding 1,000 a summer.

For himself and a fellowworker, Muir built a one-room

cabin near the base of Yosemite falls complete

with a single window facingthe falls, a floor paved

with stones spaced far enoughapart to allow ferns to

continue growing, and asmall ditch that brought part

of the creek into a corner ofthe cabin "with just enough

"current," Muir wrote, "to allow it to sing

"and warble in low, sweettones, delightful at night

"while I lay in my bedsuspended from the rafters."

Every free moment Muir devotedto exploring the valley

and the mountain ramparts surrounding it, traveling

for days with only a fewpounds of crackers, oatmeal,

and tea for nourishment,the soles of his shoes studded

with nails for clamoring uprocky slopes, pondering

the geology of the Sierras,closely inspecting everything

he encountered, thinkingnothing of covering 50 miles

in a two-day excursion.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR:I drifted from rock to rock,

from stream to stream, from grove to grove.

When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it

for a minute or a day to makeits acquaintance and hear

what it had to tell.

I asked the boulders I metwhence they came and whither

they were going.

CRONON: One way to thinkabout John Muir is as a kind

of ecstatic holy man, a manwho is sort of in a berserk

rapture out there in naturedoing bizarre things that I

think most of us can'’t imagine ever doing.

DUNCAN: He decided hewanted to go see the brink

of Yosemite falls a few thousand feet or so above

the canyon floor, and something, he said,

impelled him not just to golook but to crawl out over the

edge and bring himself alongthe side of the canyon face

so he could be--experiencewhat the water felt when it

goes, leaps over the edge.

He went behind Yosemite Falls, I mean,

crawling up just these very, very dangerous,

slippery rocks.

I mean, he didn'’t have pitons and ice axes.

He didn'’t have gear.

He climbed up so he couldstand right behind the falls.

He said, "I wanted to hearthe song of the waterfall."

STETSON: Some of the more astonishing things he did

there was to ride a snow avalanche to the bottom

of the valley, having spentall day climbing to the top

of the Yosemite Valley wallsand then being swished to

the foot of that canyon injust less than a minute.

DUNCAN: He was interested inthe animals, and he saw a bear

in a meadow and decided "IfI run at it, I can view it as

"what it looks like when it'’s running."

Well, so he scampered and made a bunch of noise.

The bear raised up an didn'’t run at all.

He later called it "my interview with the bear."

STETSON: An earthquake hitYosemite Valley, and Muir was

bounced from his bed and ran outside, shouting,

"Noble earthquake!"

And as soon as a great sectionof the wall had collapsed,

he was racing to see it.


He celebrated trees by goingup, crawling up into the very

tops of them and lettingstorms batter him so that he

understood what a storm felt like to a tree.

WOMAN: John Muir saw the spirituality

inherent in granite.

His view as a scientist andhis view as a deeply religious

man were the same view.

He had this wonderful senseof ecstasy, having been born

every single day new when hewas in a wild, raw landscape.

He haMAN AS JOHN MUIR:senseI am a captive, I am bound.n

Love of pure, unblemishednature seems to overmaster

and blur out of sight all other objects

and considerations.

COYOTE: "It was all part," Muir said, of his

"unconditional surrender to nature.

"The winds and cascading creeks seemed to sing an exalting

"chorus audible to anyone willing to listen."

He contemplated the life of a raindrop, marveled

at the tenacity of plants somehow clinging to life

on bare granite, soaked sequoia cones in water

and drank the purple liquid.

"To improve my color," he explained, "and render

"myself more tree-wise and sequoical."

Other times, he liked to puthis head down between his

knees and look at the worldupside down to see what he

called "its upness."

Everywhere Muir turned,he believed he was witnessing

the work and presence of God,not the stern and wrathful God

of his father, who placed manabove nature, but a God who

revealed himself throughnature and for whom mankind

was merely one part of a great, joyously interconnected

web of being.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: I willfollow my instincts, be myself

for good or ill, and see what will be the upshot.

As long as I live, I'’ll hear waterfalls and birds

and winds sing.

I'’ll interpret the rocks,learn the language of flood,

storm, and the avalanche.

I'’ll acquaint myself withthe glaciers and wild gardens

and get as near to the heartof the world as I can.

EHRLICH: John Muir once said,"By going out into the natural

world, I'’m really going in."

He defined in that sentencewhat it is to be a human being

because I think we'’re bornlost, and we remain lost until

we remove the shell of whowe think we are, all the

preconceptions of who we thinkwe are and to expose ourselves

to the great power of thenatural world and to let that

power reshape us the way it'’s reshaped the rocks

of Yosemite Valley.

COYOTE: Muir now felt he haddiscovered something else,

his own destiny.

The gaunt mountaineer withblazing blue eyes and long

whiskers would devote himself to understanding

the wilderness and then teach others the lessons

he had learned.

If Yosemite was a temple, he would be come its

high priest.

"Heaven knows," he wrote,"that John the Baptist was not

"more eager to get all hisfellow sinners into the Jordan

"than I to baptize all of mine in the beauty

"of God'’s mountains."

The man who seemed to talkto flowers and rocks was

considered by many people as an eccentric, one more

of Yosemite'’s curiosities.

On one excursion into the mountains, he met a total

stranger and told him he was rambling across

the Sierra Nevada looking at trees.

"Oh, then," the stranger replied,

"you must be John Muir."

Josiah Whitney,California'’s state geologist,

grew indignant when he heard that Muir was

disputing his theory thatYosemite had been created by

a cataclysmic collapse of the valley floor.

Muir instead believed thatover thousands of years

glaciers had gouged out thevalley and polished smooth

the granite domes.

Whitney derided Muir as "a mere sheep herder"

and "an ignoramus" and scornfully dismissed

his conclusions,

but Muir persevered and in1871 discovered a living

glacier in the recesses of theSierra, the first of 65 he

would eventually encounter andstudy, and when he led other

geologists to his evidence,they came to see that he was

right and Whitney was wrong.

Meanwhile, James MasonHutchings has persuaded his

friends in the CaliforniaLegislature to pass a special

bill exempting him from thelaw that had set the valley

aside as public property,and twice, the U.S. House of

Representatives was willing to go along.

Both times, however, the Senate held firm against him.

Hutchings sued, arguing allthe way to the U.S. Supreme

Court that the federalgovernment had no right to

dispose of public landsfor any purpose other than

private settlement.

Ruling against him, the HighCourt established a precedent

that the act creating Yosemitewas in fact Constitutional.

In 1875, Hutchings was evicted from his

hotel and banished from the valley he had

so tirelessly promoted.

DUNCAN: James Mason Hutchingsdid 3 very important things

for the national park idea.

First of all, he broughtYosemite and its wonders to

the attention of the world.

Secondly, inadvertently,by challenging the law that

set it aside and tried to kickhim out--by challenging that

all the way to the SupremeCourt, luckily, the Supreme

Court ruled that, in fact,it was Constitutional to do.

So that was a very importantprecedent that if it had gone

the other way who knows what would have happened

with national parks.

The third and probably mostimportant thing is he hired

John Muir and helped introducehim to the Yosemite Valley.

COYOTE: With the completion ofthe Transcontinental Railroad,

even more tourists were arriving in the par:

writers, artists, scientists,and wealthy Easterners who

enjoyed listening to Muir as he led them from one

spectacular viewpoint to another.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: How little note is taken

at the deeds of nature.

What paper publishes her reports?

Who publishes the sheet musicof the winds or the music

of water written in river lines?

Who reports the works and waysof the clouds, those wondrous

creations coming into beingevery day like freshly

upheaved mountains?

COYOTE: But soon, John Muirwould leave Yosemite, too.

He packed his meager belongings and moved to

Oakland, where he hoped tospread his gospel of nature by

writing a series of reportsfor the "Overland Monthly"

and other popular magazines.

"Writing," he said, "waslike the life of a glacier,

"one eternal grind," but overthe next several years,

that writing would help articulate for millions

of Americans a deep andabiding love for their land.

[Birds cawing]

MAN: Sacred means differentthings to different people,

and to the American Indians,sacredness means you can go in

there walk as your ancestors did,

you can go in there and youcan see what the creator has

made for us, and you can feelit, you can feel the spirits,

but we can take it one step farther.

Because the environment isstill there as in the time

of creation, we believe that it is still alive.


DUNCAN: In the early 1800s,reports started filtering out

about this magical place.

John Colter, who had been amember of the Lewis and Clark

expedition had left them instead of returning to

civilization, became the firstlegendary mountain man, and he

came back with a tale of aplace where mud was boiling,

where steam was coming outof the ground, water spouted,

and people sort of made fun of it.

They called it Colter'’s Hell.

Joe Meek, the mountain man,stumbled upon it and said it

reminded him of the place thatthe preachers had warned him

about back when he went to church.

COYOTE: Jim Bridger, anothermountain man, had also told

tales of the place, the long-time home of the

Sheepeater Band of ShoshoneIndians and a meeting place

for half a dozen other tribes.

It included a lake,he claimed, where a man could

catch a fish in one spot andthen swing his line over a few

feet to instantly cook hiscatch in a hot spring.

"There was a canyon so deep,"he added, "that a man could

"shout down into it at nightand be awakened by his echo

"the next morning."

As late at 1869, a group ofprospectors had ventured into

the area they called theValley of Death, but when they

finally wrote a detailed account of their journey,

magazines in the East refused to publish it.

"Thank you," one editor responded, "but we do not

"print fiction."

[Horse neighs]

Then in the late summer of1870, a much more prestigious

group intended to put an endto the mystery and either

confirm or deny the rumors once and for all.

Accompanied by a smallmilitary escort, they included

a prominent banker, a son of a United States Senator,

a part-time newspaper correspondent,

and Truman C. Everts, at age

54 the oldest member of the expedition,

a Vermonter who had come along on a lark.

The moving force behind the expedition was

Nathaniel P. Langford, a well-connected

Montana politician who

believed the future prosperityof the territory rested

with completion of a proposedsecond transcontinental

railway, The Northern Pacific.

Earlier in the year, Langfordhad met privately with

Jay Cooke, the financier underwriting $100 million

worth of Northern Pacific bonds.

The two had agreed that anypublicity about the region'’s

attractions would be good for the territory, good

for The Northern Pacific'’sbond sales, and good

for Nathaniel Langford.

MAN: And we know that Langfordwas actually in the employ

of Northern Pacific.rd.

He seemed to always--no matterwhere else he was, he seemed

to always be near the till.

COYOTE: Two weeks into hisexpedition's journey, Langford

came across the kind of scenery the mountain men

had described.

MAN AS NATHANIEL LANGFORD:We came suddenly upon a basin

of boiling sulfur springs,boiling like a cauldron,

throwing water and fearfulvolumes of vapor higher

than our heads.

The spring lying to the eastof this, more diabolical

in appearance and filled with a hot,

brownish substance of the consistency of mucilage,

is in constant, noisyebullition, emitting fumes

of a villainous odor.

COYOTE: They kept movingpast more mud pots that made

noises, they said, "like thesafety valve of a laboring

"steamboat engine," over groundthat sounded hollow under

their horses'’ hooves,near vents that were too hot

too touch even with glovedhands, places to which they

would attach names like Hell Broth Springs,

Hell Roaring River,Devil'’s Den, Brimstone Basin.

Farther on, they came to twowaterfalls slicing through

a steep and narrow canyonthey estimated at half a mile

in depth, the one Jim Bridgerhad once bragged about,

the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Langford was now convincedthat the Yellowstone could be

an even greater attractionthan he and the backers

of The Northern Pacific had dreamed.

During their exploration,the nearsighted Truman Everts

somehow got separated from themain group and went missing.

Over the next several days, search parties were

dispatched to find him.

They encountered grizzly bears, heard the howls

of wolves, but found no traceof Everts or his horse.

On September 13, a surprisestorm dropped two feet

of snow on them.

Running low on supplies,the expedition had no choice

but to turn for home, leavingnotes behind for Everts

at each campsite along withwhat little food they could

spare from their own dwindling rations.

Heading for the Madison River and the mining town

of Virginia City, theystruggled for days through

snow and dense timber until they came upon

a large clearing.

MAN AS NATHANIEL LANGFORD:We had already seen what we

believed to be the greatestwonders on the continent.

Judge then of our astonishmenton entering this basin to see

at no great distance before usan immense body of sparkling

water projected suddenly andwith terrific force into

the air to the height of over 100 feet.

General Washburn has namedit Old Faithful because

of the regularity of its eruptions, the intervals

between which being from 60 to 65 minutes.

COYOTE: They gave names tothe other geysers, too--

The Castle, The Bee Hive, andThe Giant--but because of their

shortage of food could notstay long amidst the wonders

surrounding them.

Yet as they followed the steaming Firehole River,

they came across stillmore basins and still more

curiosities, the greatestconcentration of geothermal

features on Earth, a vastarray of geysers, fumaroles,

mud pots, and hot springs

When the expedition finallyreached Virginia City and then

Helena, the big news was Langford'’s confirmation

of what had been consideredwild rumors about a place once

called Colter'’s Hell, but theeven bigger news was that

Truman Everts was still lost there.

MAN AS TRUMAN EVERTS:On the day that I found myself

separated from my company,our course had been impeded by

the dense growth of the pine forest.

As separations like this hadfrequently occurred, it gave

me no alarm, and I rode on inthe direction which I supposed

had been taken until darkness overtook me.

I selected a spot for comfortable repose,

picketed my horse, built a fire, and went to sleep.

COYOTE: At first, Evertsthought his separation from

the expedition would be a momentary inconvenience,

but on the second day,his horse ran away, taking

with it his guns, blankets,fishing tackle, and matches,

everything but the clothes onhis back, a small opera glass,

and two knives, which thehapless Everts promptly managed

to lose in the underbrush.

MAN AS TRUMAN EVERTS: I realized I was lost.

Then came a crushing sense ofdestitution--no food, no fire,

no means to procure either,alone in an unexplored

wilderness 150 miles from the nearest human abode,

surrounded by wild beasts,and famishing with hunger.

WHITTLESEY: He didn'’t have any matches.

All he had was an opera glass,and it took him quite a while

to figure out he could makea fire with the opera glass.

DUNCAN: Then he finally figured out that

"if it'’s no sunny, I can'’t start a fire."

So he learned that he had tokeep a stick burning, so you

can imagine him stumblingaround midday with a burning

stick, emaciated.

I mean, this was not John Muir

in ecstasy becoming one with nature.

This was a horrific ordeal fora poor guy who just got lost

at the wrong time.

COYOTE: He wandered for days,vainly searching for his

friends or any sign of their trail.

He spent a night in a treecowering from a mountain lion

prowling underneath, sufferedfrostbite on his feet from

the snowstorm that blanketedthe region and saturated his

clothes, found refuge for aweek huddling day and night

against the warm ground ofone of the thermal features.

MAN AS TRUMAN EVERTS: I was enveloped

in a perpetual steam bath.

At first, this was barely preferable to the storm,

but I soon became accustomed to it,

and before I left, though thoroughly parboiled,

actually enjoyed it.

COYOTE: At another hot spring,Everts broke through the thin

crust of earth, and his hipwas severely scalded by steam.

One evening in his sleep,he lurched forward into his

fire and burned his hands.

Wasting away from exhaustionand hunger, Everts began

seeing apparitions and hearing voices.

"I will not perish in thiswilderness," he told himself

and forced himself onward,retracing the route that had

originally brought the expedition into

the Yellowstone Plateau.

On October 16, 37 days afterbeing separated from the

expedition, Everts was foundcrawling along a hillside.

His starvation diet of thistleroots had reduced him to

a mere 50 pounds.

The scalded flesh on his thighs was blackened.

His bare and frostbitten feethad been worn to the bone.

His burnt fingers were said to resemble birds'’ claws.

He was incoherent for days,though he slowly recovered

and in time produced a widelyread account of his ordeal

that "Scribner'’s Monthly"

published for popular consumption.

MAN AS TRUMAN EVERTS: My narrative is finished.

The time is not far distant when the wonders

of the Yellowstone will bemade accessible to all lovers

of sublimity and novelty innatural scenery, and when

that day arrives, I hope inhappier mood and under more

auspicious circumstances torevisit scenes fraught for me

with such mingled glories and terrors.

Truman Everts.

[Wolf howls]

BAKER: Every time I hear aboutthe white people coming into

our national parks and discovering something,

I can almost see them standingthere on top of this mountain,

3 or 4 of them saying,"From now on, we'’ll call those

"mountains so and so becausewe'’re the first ones here."

In the meantime, I can see myrelatives hiding behind

the rocks, looking at them,saying, "Wow. What are these

"guys doing up here?"

For us, it was almost kind of humorous

because we'’ve been there forthousands upon thousands

of years, and it didn'’t need to be discovered.

It was never lost.

All they had to do was ask us.

All they had to do was gettogether with the tribes,

"OK. What'’s there?"

And we could have told them.

COYOTE: In the summer of 1871,the United States government

decided it was time forprofessionals to take a look

at the place where Truman Everts had gotten

so helplessly lost.

Ferdinand Hayden, who hadbeen exploring other parts

of the West, now led anexpedition of topographers,

botanists, zoologists, and mineralogists to

Yellowstone to determine onceand for all its real value,

but perhaps even moreimportant than the scientists

was the presence of two othermen, a young artist named

Thomas Moran, who hadnever ridden a horse before

and required a pillow on hissaddle, and William Henry

Jackson, a photographer fromOmaha who most recently had

chronicled the building of theTranscontinental Railroad.

For the first time, Americanscould see what mere words had

previously described.

As Ferdinand Hayden preparedthe report that Congress was

expecting, he received anintriguing letter from a man

named A.B. Nettleton, a shrewd lobbyist working

for The Northern Pacific,suggesting that Hayden do more

than merely catalog his discoveries.

MAN AS A.B. NETTLETON: Dear,Dr. Hayden, let Congress pass

a bill reserving the greatgeyser basin as a public park

forever just as it hasreserved the Yosemite Valley

and Big Trees.

If you approve this, wouldsuch a recommendation be

appropriate in your official report?

COYOTE: Hayden was happy to oblige.

His report took pains to assure Congress that

at an elevation of 6,000 feetabove sea level or higher the

Yellowstone region was totally unsuitable for farming

and ranching and that becauseof its volcanic origins no

valuable mines were likelyto be found there, but,

he warned, if congress didnot protect Yellowstone from

private development, it wouldbecome another Niagara Falls,

another national embarrassment.

RUNTE: Well, if there had beengold next to the geysers

in Yellowstone, there wouldnot be geysers in Yellowstone,

and if there had been a biggold strike in the Yosemite

Valley, Yosemite Valley wouldhave been a mining pit,

and the reason for thatis that it was still very,

very difficult for theAmerican people to relent from

their commercial pursuits.

COYOTE: With The NorthernPacific quietly maneuvering

behind the scenes and withMoran'’s sketches and Jackson's

photographs prominently displayed in the halls

of the Capitol, a bill beganmoving through congress,

and by late January of 1872,it was ready for action

in the Senate.

MAN: Be it enacted that thetract of land lying near

the headwaters of the Yellowstone River...

COYOTE: The senate overwhelmingly

approved the bill.

The house passed it 115-65,and on March 1, 1872,

President Ulysses S. Grantsigned the bill creating

Yellowstone Park.

Unlike Yosemite, which wasbeing administered by

the state of California,this would be a national park,

the first national park inthe history of the world.

You wish that they had,you know, gone out and rang

bells to say, "This is something new on Earth,"

because it was.

A federal government wassaying, "We'’re setting this

aside as a national park."

No government had ever donethat before, and you'’d like

them to make note of it inthat way just the way with the

Declaration of Independence

they read it and bells were rung.

That didn'’t happen with this.

It looks like they took itmaybe a little more seriously

than the decision of whether or not to repaint

the cloak room.

It wasn'’t that big a deal to most of them.

It was just business as usual that day.

It'’s only hindsight that allows us to see

what they started.

You know, they were kickingthe rock off the cliff,

and most of them turned and walked away.

There'’s no evidence that anyof them thought this was

the first of a type or that"we'’re going to turn this into

"a hugely important world institution."

COYOTE: The "New York Herald"saw the new creation as one

more reason for national bragging rights.

"Why should we go toSwitzerland to see mountains

"or to Iceland for geysers?"it asked, adding that

"with Yosemite and Yellowstone,Snow we have attractions which

"diminish Niagara into an ordinary exhibition."

But the "Helena Rocky MountainGazette" complained that

a great blow had been struckagainst the prosperity

of the region.

"The new park," it said, "will keep the country

"a wilderness and prevent economic development."

Its cross-town rival the"Helena Herald" disagreed.

"It will be a park," the paper said,

"worthy of the great republic."

DUNCAN: I think that if Wyoming had been

a state in 1872, they probably would have

followed the Yosemite model.

They would have just givenit to the state of Wyoming

for safekeeping, but becauseit was a territory, there was

no state to give it to, and sotherefore, almost by accident,

it became a national park,and that doesn'’t seem like

a big thing at first, but whenyou think about it, it really

was an incredible turning point.

What would we think of Yellowstone if it was

Yellowstone State Park in Wyoming?

It would still be--thegeysers would be going off,

the waterfall would still bethere, the mud would still be

boiling, we'’d be attracted togo see it, but we wouldn'’t

feel the sense of responsibility to it as

a citizen of our nation, only if we were a citizen

of the state of Wyoming.

By making it a national park, implicitly it becomes

ours, everybody'’s.

We'’re all somehow responsible for it,

and we all can take pride init, and so by this accident

more or less, this precedentwas set that it'’s gonna be

a national park that we as anation have to take care of.

COYOTE: By any standard, the new national park

at Yellowstone was huge, more than 2 million acres

of remote mountainous terraincovering the northwestern

corner of Wyoming Territory

and spilling into Montana and Idaho, bigger than

the states of Delawareand Rhode Island combined,

more than 50 timeslarger than the Yosemite Grant

in California,but having created the world'’s

first national park,Congress had seen no reason to

appropriate any money tomanage it or protect it from

the people who were sure to come.

WOMAN: Our first site ofgeysers made us simply wild

with the eagerness ofseeing all things at once.

We ran and shouted and called to each other

to see this or that.

We had at last reached Wonderland.

Emma Cowan.

COYOTE: In August of 1877,a group of 9 tourists from

Montana had entered the parkbent on taking in the sights.

Among them were Emma Cowan,24 years old, and her husband

George, planning to celebrate their second wedding

anniversary in Yellowstone.

WOMAN AS EMMA COWAN: We seemedto be in a world of our own.

Not a soul had we seen save our own party.

One can scarcely realize theintense solitude which then

pervaded this land fresh from the Maker'’s hand.

COYOTE: On the morning oftheir anniversary, the Cowans

stepped outside their tentand found themselves not only

in the middle of the world'’s first national park

but in the middle of an Indian war.

WOMAN AS EMMA COWAN: A pistol shot rang out.

My husband'’s head fell back.

A red stream trickled downhis face from beneath his hat.

COYOTE: Chief Joseph andhundreds of his Nez Perce Tribe

were streaming through the park, pursued by

the U.S. Army because they had refused to move onto

a reservation in Idaho.

Only two weeks earlier, nearly90 of them had been killed,

more than half women andchildren, when their sleeping

village had been attacked inThe Battle of the Big Hole.

Some of the young warriorswere still incensed

about the casualties they hadsuffered and ignored Joseph'’s

instructions not to harm any white civilians.


As the Nez Perce continuedtheir flight through

Yellowstone, there were other incidents

with unlucky tourists.

Several were wounded, and two were killed.

Moving through a few daysbehind the Indians, the army

picked up the survivors.

Among them was George Cowan, somehow still alive.

Army surgeons probed his headby candlelight and removed

the bullet, flattened by his skull.

By the time he was reunitedwith his wife, the Nez Perce War

was ending hundreds ofmiles away with Chief Joseph'’s

surrender in northern Montana.

Yellowstone'’s superintendentsoon arranged for the native

Sheepeaters, who had not takenpart in the troubles, to be

evicted from their homelandso he could assure the public

that Yellowstone National Parkwas now free of all Indians.

Years later when the Cowansreturned to visit the park,

Emma would say she wassurprised any of her group had

been spared given the horrible treatment

the Indians had suffered.

George meanwhile happilyrecounted their tale of their

second anniversary and thencapped his story by showing

off his proudest Yellowstonesouvenir, the bullet that had

been removed from his skull,which he had made into

a watch fob.

[Train chugging]

[Whistle blowing]

[Bell clangs]

MAN: I had a vision of thefuture of this great country.

The iron horse had jumped theMissouri and was rushing up

the bountiful valley of theYellowstone, carrying with it

all its civilization and change.

Instead of the teepees ofthe wild red men, there were

thousands of beautiful homes.

In the bottomlands waved the rich grain,

giving bread to millions.

The hillsides were coveredwith stock, supplying

the world its meat, and stillthundered on the iron horse up

over the Rocky Mountains,and I thanked God that right

in the heart of all this noiseand restless life of millions

a wise government had foreverset apart that marvelous

region as a national park.

Colgate Hoyt.

SCHULLERY: As early as 1871,they began to call Yellowstone

Wonderland because "Alice in Wonderland," the book,

had just appeared a few years earlier,

and The Northern Pacific Railroad took that

right up and began to produce

pamphlets, brochures, and guidebooks all

with the title "Wonderland."

COYOTE: In 1883, The NorthernPacific Railroad was finally

completed across the continent.

Now tourists from the East,well-to-do refugees from the

increasingly industrialized and crowded cities

of the Gilded Age, could reachthe entrance to Yellowstone

National Park in relative comfort and speed.

That first year,attendance increased 5-fold.

Everything, the hotel, the food, the tents,

the stages, the guides,was now under the exclusive

control of the YellowstonePark Improvement Company,

a politically well-connectedfirm with close ties to

The Northern Pacific.

They had quietly arranged forthe secretary of the interior

to grant the company a remarkable monopoly

within the park.

For a fee of only $2.00 anacre, the lease allowed the

company to cut as much timberas it needed, kill elk, deer,

and bison in the park to feedtheir work crews and guests,

plant crops and graze horsesand cattle wherever they

wished, even mine coal fortheir furnaces and rechannel

some of the hot springs to heat the buildings.

As if that weren'’t enough,the contract granted the

company the right to chooseparcels of 640 acres,

one square mile, at 7 different locations

within the park.

The prime attractions ofYellowstone were about to be

completely surrounded and exploited.

MAN: The project of the worthyspeculators, who are after

the people'’s pleasure ground,appears to be flourishing.

Here and there are feeblevoices raised in protest against

the steal, but with a powerfullobby to back them and no

opposition from the interiordepartment, the grabbers have

little to fear.

The park is at present all our own.

How would the readers liketo see it become a second

Niagara, a place where onegoes only to be fleeced,

where patent medicine advertisements stare one

in the face, and the beautiesof nature have all been

defiled by the greed of man?

George Bird Grinnell.

COYOTE: George Bird Grinnellof New York City had been

educated at Yale inornithology and paleontology

and had made several trips tothe West to collect specimens

as a young man, including an1875 excursion to Yellowstone,

which had instilled in hima deep love of the new park

and a fierce desire toprotect it and its wildlife.

Having sold his father'’sinvestment business, Grinnell

had taken control of "Forest and Stream,"

a sportsman'’s magazine he nowused to champion his causes.

Yellowstone was one of them,and he began a crusade to stop

Grinnell'’s fight against therailroad interests was soon

joined by an unlikely ally,General Philip Sheridan,

a cavalry hero of theCivil War and celebrated Indian

fighter, who was now commander of the U.S. Army

for much of the West.

MAN AS PHILIP SHERIDAN:I regretted exceedingly to learn

that the national park had been rented out to

private parties.

The improvements in the park should be national,

and the control of it in the hands of an officer

of the government.

I can keep sufficient troopsin the park to accomplish this

object and give a place of refuge and safety

for our noble game.


COYOTE: Sheridan evensuggested that Yellowstone

should be expanded by morethan 3,000 square miles,

doubled in size to provide greater

protection for the elk andbuffalo by conforming the

park'’s boundaries to theirseasonal migrations.

It was a radical ideaimmediately opposed by Western

politicians, who believed that Yellowstone was

already too big.

In Washington, Grinnelltook on the railroad lobby

directly, calling for aninvestigation into the park

contracts, proposing an expansion of Yellowstone,

and trying to write park regulations concerning

hunting into law.

The debate that followed wouldbe echoed in every debate

on national parks for the next century.

[Gavel bangs]

MAN: I do not understandmyself what the necessity is

for the government enteringinto the show business

in the Yellowstone National Park.

I should be very glad myselfto see it surveyed and sold,

leaving it tostone private enterprise.

Senator John Ingalls, Kansas.

MAN: The great curse of thisage and of the American people

is its materialistic tendencies.

"Money, money" is the cry everywhere

until our people are held up already

to the world as noted for nothing except

the acquisition of money.

I am not ashamed to say thatI shall vote to perpetuate

this park for the American people.

There should be to a nationthat will have 100 million or

150 million people a parklike this as a great breathing

place for the national lungs.

Senator George Vest, Missouri.

COYOTE: The bill to expandYellowstone failed, though

Congress did appropriate$40,000 for its maintenance.

In the next few years,proposals were made to shrink

the park, to place it underMontana'’s legal jurisdiction,

or to follow the Yosemite example and simply turn

the park over to Wyoming oncethe territory became a state.

George Bird Grinnell would have none of it.

"Leave the people'’s park alone," he declared.

He tried valiantly to stopeach attack on Yellowstone

until August 4, 1886,when Congress stripped away

any money to protect the park.

For the moment it seemed, Yellowstone would have to

fend for itself.

Coming to the rescue,

Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan gladly

dispatched Troop "M" of the1st United States Cavalry

to take control of the world'’s first national park.

They arrived believing, as everyone else did,

that military supervision of Yellowstone would be

a temporary stopgap.

30 years later, the cavalrywould still be there.

[Clock ticking]

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: I am losing precious days.

I am degenerating into a machine for making money.

I am learning nothing inthis trivial world of men.

I must break away and get out into the mountains to

learn the news.

COYOTE: For 5 years, John Muirhad tried his best to confine

himself to his writing desk inOakland, California, turning

out article after articlefor the "Overland Monthly,"

"Scribner'’s," and "Harper's"magazine about the majesty

of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada,

about the necessity to preserve forests from

destruction, and about the joy

to be found in quietlyobserving the world, all part

of his desire, he said, to "preach nature

"like an apostle."

In the process, he had becomefamous, but he had soon grown

restless to travel again,and when the opportunity came

to visit Alaska, a vastwilderness that had been part

of the United States for barely a decade,

he had jumped at the chance.

At Fort Wrangell, hearing talkof a remote and unexplored

area lined with glaciers,he had hired 4 Tlingit Indians

and their big canoe to make the long 800-mile

journey there.

It was Glacier Bay.

Here, the glaciers marchedright down to the sea and were

of an entirely different scalefrom the remnants Muir had

tracked down high in the Sierra Nevada.

"Alaska," he wrote,"is nature'’s own reservation,

"and every lover of wildnesswill rejoice with me that by

"kindly frost it is so well- preserved."

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: Glaciers,back in their white solitudes,

work apart from men, exertingtheir tremendous energies

in silence and darkness.

Outspread spirit-like,brooding above predestined

landscapes, they work onunwearied through immeasurable

ages until in the fullness oftime the mountains and valleys

are brought forth, channelsfurrowed for rivers, basins

for lakes and meadows,and soil spread for forests

and fields.

Then they shrink andvanish like summer clouds.

He camps out on the glacier,and he'’s been diagnosed as

having a deep cough.

He goes out and sleeps on theglacier and loses his cough,

says that "no lowland microbecan survive on a glacier."

He said, "Any man that does not believe in God

"and glaciers is the worstkind of unbeliever."

COYOTE: The conversations heshared around the campfire

with his Tlingit companionsexposed him for the first time

to Indian beliefs.

"Don'’t you believe wolves have souls?"

one of them asked, and thediscussion that followed

impressed upon Muir that theyheld views of the natural

world not that much different from his own.

BAKER: John Muir would havemade a great medicine man

in his day because hewould feel the same things

an American Indian would because he was listening,

he was truly listening.

He wasn'’t exploring.

He was living, he was learning, he was living

with the elements out there,and John Muir would have been

part of it just like theelders that I knew were part

of the environment.

COYOTE: After his return from Alaska, he married

Louie Wanda Strentzel, the reclusive daughter

of a prosperous fruit growerand settled down on her

parents'’ estate near the town

of Martinez inCalifornia'’s Alhambra Valley.

Two children quickly followed,and Muir single-mindedly threw

himself into providing for hisfamily, taking over management

of his in-laws'’ 3,000 acres,bringing to bear the same

intensity and mechanical inventiveness he had

demonstrated as a young man.

He improved the farm'’sproductivity, converting extra

land from pasture into cash crops of cherries,

Tokay grapes, and Bartlett pears and steadily amassed

considerable wealth.

Muir was tender and devotedto his wife and daughters,

but his health deterioratedfrom the ceaseless dawn to

dusk farm work and hisisolation from the mountains

and forests and glaciers that had always seemed to

replenish him.

He lost weight.

He'’d become "nerve-shaken andlean as a crow," he wrote his

brother, "loaded with care, work, and worry."

The result was that he wasslowly weaning himself away

from all that had compelledhim in his life up to that

point, and his--his wife essentially said,

"You'’ve got to go outand engage the wilderness."

COYOTE: In 1888, Louie Muirpersuaded her husband to take

another outing toMount Rainier in the state

of Washington, where he campedat what he called "the most

"extravagantly beautiful ofall the Alpine gardens I ever

"beheld with a volcanic conelooming overhead reflected

"in a crystalline blue lake."

Captivated by the view,he felt some of his old energy

returning, and when the youngmen camping with him set off

on a grueling 7 1/2-hour climbup the 14,000-foot peak,

the 50-year-old Muir impulsively joined them.

"Did not mean to climb it,"Muir wrote his wife later,

"but got excited and soon was on top."

The climb, he said, had lefthim "with heart and limb

"exultant and free."

STETSON: By the time he camedown from that mountain,

he understood that his realpassion and his energy should

be devoted to preserving suchplaces, and that'’s where he

went from there.

COYOTE: Louie Muir, meanwhile,had written her husband

a letter that released him just as surely as

the thrilling vista from Rainier'’s mountaintop.

WOMAN AS LOUIE MUIR: My dearJohn, a ranch that needs

and takes the sacrifice of anoble life ought to be flung

away beyond all reach and power for harm.

The Alaska book and the Yosemite book, dear John,

must be written, and you needto be your own self, well

and strong, to make them worthy of you.

COYOTE: In 1889, Robert Underwood Johnson,

an editor of "The Century Magazine,"

arrived from the East and askedMuir for a tour of Yosemite.

In the last 8 years, Muir hadmanaged only one brief visit

to the place that had changed his life,

and he eagerly accepted.

But as they approached Yosemite Valley, he began

seeing disturbing signs.

Tunnels had been carved throughthe heart of some of the big

trees as gaudy touristattractions to entice visitors

to use one road over another.

In the valley itself, he foundpiles of tin cans and other

garbage in plain view, and themeadows had been converted into

hay fields and pastures,even a hog pen "whose stink,"

Muir wrote, "has got into the pores of the rocks."

He was dismayed to learn ofplans to throw colored lights

upon the majestic waterfallsas if that would make them

more beautiful.

"Perhaps," he said, "we mayyet hear of an appropriation

"to whitewash the face of El Capitan or correct

"the curves of the domes."

Glacier Point, 3,254 feetabove the valley, had been one

of Muir'’s favorite spots fromwhich to contemplate the place

he considered nature'’s cathedral.

Now it was a place where tourists mugged

for the camera.

An entrepreneur named James McCauley had built

the Mountain House Hotel there.

On summer nights, his sonswould collect donations from

tourists for a firefall inwhich McCauley would build

a huge bonfire and then lightsticks of dynamite to send

the fire cascading over the sheer cliff.

The crowds loved it.


DUNCAN: Muir came back into the Yosemite Valley,

his cathedral, and his cathedral had been turned

into a carnival.

It wasn'’t what he envisioned it should be.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR: Like anything else worthwhile,

however well guarded,they have always been subject

to attack by despoilinggain-seekers and mischief-makers

of every degree from Satan tosenators, eagerly trying to

make everything immediatelyand selfishly commercial.

Thus long ago, a few enterprising merchants

utilized the Jerusalem templeas a place of business instead

of a place of prayer,and earlier still, the first

forest reservation, including only one tree,

was likewise despoiled.

COYOTE: Distressed at everything he saw within

Yosemite Valley, Muir fled with his guest

Robert Underwood Johnson into the high country,

but here, too, much had changed.

Beyond the boundaries of theYosemite Grant and therefore

unprotected by even the lackluster vigilance

of the state, the headwatersof the streams feeding into

the valley had been left tothe mercy of the lumbermen

and sheep herders.

That evening at their camp inTuolumne Meadows, Muir spoke

passionately about what they had seen.

and he predicted that if the destruction continued

unchecked without the treesand grasses of the high Sierra

to trap and hold the wintersnows, the springtime melts

would become swifter and moredestructive, the clear streams

would become muddy with silt,and by summertime, the valley

and the waterfalls thatnourished it would be dry.

Johnson suggested that thehigh country be set aside as

a national park and urged Muirto become the public voice

for the campaign by writingarticles again describing not

only the region'’s beauty but its vulnerability.

for the MAN AS JOHN MUIR:ngarticlesThe mountains are not

fountains of men, as well as of rivers,

of glaciers, of fertile soil.

The great poets, philosophers,prophets, able men whose

thoughts and deeds have movedthe world, have come down from

the mountains, mountaindwellers who have grown strong

there with the forest treesin Nature's workshops.

CRONON: Muir in a way comesfrom a literary rhetorical

tradition that for most modernAmericans has been lost,

that comes from--as withAbraham Lincoln with whom,

I think, he has a lot in common--that knowing

The Bible chapter and verse,the entire text, knowing

Shakespeare, these sort ofclassic literary roots that

are as fundamental to the wayso many literate Americans are

educated in the 19th Century,and Muir has that language,

this rapturous, religious,rhetorical set of images that

he has at his fingertips, and he maps them onto his

concrete experiences out in these natural settings

in a way that makes them transcendent.

COYOTE: Muir threw himselfinto what became a pitched

battle to preserve the high country.

Vested interests and opposingpoliticians lied about his

past, questioned his motives, and publicly impugned

his integrity.

Muir was hurt but endured itall, going directly to

the people, who soon flooded Congress

with letters and petitions.

Finally on October 1, 1890,President Benjamin Harrison

signed into law a bill creating Yosemite National Park,

setting aside more than 900,000 acres,

nearly 1,500 square miles.

Muir was disappointed thatthe original Yosemite Grant

encompassing the valley floorand the Mariposa Grove was

still left under state control, but this new park was

30 times bigger and, to Muir'’sdelight, included one of his

favorite places on Earth,the nearby Hetch Hetchy Valley,

which he considered"a grand landscape garden,

"one of nature'’s rarest and mostprecious mountain temples."

At the same time as theYosemite Bill, two more groves

of big trees on the westernflank of the Sierras had also

been preserved as Sequoia andGeneral Grant National Parks.

"The majestic sequoia is theking of the conifers,"

Muir had written, "the noblestof all the noble race."

There were now 4 national parks.

Flushed with the success of his first venture into

the world of politics, Muir immediately began

making new plans.

He wanted more parks,bigger parks, and more park

supporters to defend themagainst the enemies he knew

would oppose them.

He was right.

In the years to come,the battle over parks would

intensify, threatening even his own precious

mountain temple.

John Muir was 52 years old now.

It had been nearly a quarter century since,

as a self-described "unknown nobody,"

he had first entered Yosemiteand then been transformed

by his "unconditional surrender to nature."

He would need to convince many other Americans to

surrender, as well,to see the necessity, as he

said, "in all that is wild."

CRONON: What he means is thatwildness is an essential part

of ourselves that our ordinarylives tempt us to forget,

and by losing touch with thatessential part of ourselves,

we risk losing our souls, and so for him,

going out into nature tothese parks is how we recover

ourselves, remember who wetruly are, and reconnect

with the core roots of ourown identity, of our own

spirituality, that which issacred in our experience.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR:The tendency nowadays to wander

in wilderness is delightful to see.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken,

overcivilized people are beginning to find out

that going to the mountains is

going home, that wildness isa necessity, and that mountain

parks and reservations areuseful, not only as fountains

of timber and irrigating riversbut as fountains of life.

John Muir.

ANNOUNCER: Next time on "The National Parks,"

a young president becomes one ofthe parks'’ greatest champions.


this country of ours for a day.

It is to last through the ages.

ANNOUNCER: In Yellowstone,a magnificent species

is rescued from extinction,

and in Yosemite, John Muir wages the fight of his life.

MAN AS JOHN MUIR:The battle for conservation

will go on endlessly.

ANNOUNCER: As"The National Parks" continues.

To further explore

"The National Parks: America'’s Best Idea,"

visit PBS online at...

"The National Parks: America'’s Best Idea,"

a film by Ken Burns is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

A companion book and CD are also available.

To order, visit

or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

Bank of America is proud to be

exclusive corporate underwriter

for the films of Ken Burns

and hopes you enjoyed this encore presentation.

Announcer: Our national parks belong to all of us.

They are places of discovery, they are places of inspiration,

they are America's best idea.

Major funding provided by: the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Additional funding was provided

by the Park Foundation in support

of a clean and healthy environment;

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations--

dedicated to strengthening America's future

through education;

the National Park Foundation,

the official charity of America's national parks;

the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation;

the Pew Charitable Trusts;

by General Motors;

by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;

and by generous contributions to this PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.


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