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John Muir - Conservation Leader & "Father of Our National Parks"

By: C.M.Shorter

John Muir
(April 21, 1838–Dec. 14, 1914)
Conservation Leader & "Father of Our National Parks"
John Muir
Photo Credit:
American Library of Congress


John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, geologist, writer, and conservationist is immortalized in American history as one of America’s greatest Conservation Leaders.  Muir is best known for his never ending conservationist efforts to discover, share and pronounce his love for the land he came to call home.  John Muir, born in Dunbar, Scotland  traveled the seas to come to America in 1849 with his family at the young age of 11.  They settled in Wisconsin, northeast of Lake Mendota and it was through his devotion to the American wilderness he became a native son.    Muir, with the pioneer spirit that propelled him, proclaimed himself to be a “Citizen of the World”.   His adventures, studies and belief of divine affinity with nature became the core fundamentals on which many conservation ideals were built.  Muir, best remembered for his campaign efforts to preserve Yosemite National Park had a kinship and reverence for the simplicity of nature but also made accurate scientific observations, particularly in his study and theory of the glacial formations that created the lands he explored. 

John Muir spent a lifetime traveling and surveying the wonders of nature & became the epitome of a man with the solid values of integrity, patience, courage & perseverance.  Muir’s observations & philosophy taught us that everything in nature is connected. The only way to ensure healthy ecosystems was to preserve large tracks of unfragmented wilderness.  A great tribute to this man is that his conservation legacy continues to this day.   Literally millions of people travel each day to witness firsthand the splendors of our nation’s National Parks and the lands he sought so hard to protect for the whole of mankind. 

It was in 1869 Muir left Wisconsin.  John Muir had already left the walls of study at the University of Wisconsin compelled to attend nature’s “University of the Wilderness”.  As a young man eager to learn about the world that surrounded him, he set out on foot to making his first famous journey of 1,000 miles.  He literally walked from Indiana to Florida, reaching Cedar Key in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 3 months.   There is a National Historic Landmark in Cedar Key dedicated to John Muir’s wilderness exploration.  After a bout with Malaria, Muir decided not to continue onto to South America instead he set his sites on the wilderness of California.  The “Range of Light” of the Sierra Nevada Mountains called his name as he headed for the rugged Pacific Coast. After traveling to Cuba and Panama, John Muir ended up in California in 1868.  

John Muir often set out on foot to make his wilderness journeys with no more than his writing tablet, tea, and some biscuits in a backpack.  Upon reaching the Sierra Nevada range, John Muir decided to settle in Yosemite.  An efficient mountaineer, he built his own cabin at the foot of Yosemite Falls were he made his home for eleven years.   He herded sheep and ran a saw mill making a livelihood milling fallen lumber for pioneer cottages.  With discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills in 1849, the Gold Rush was on in full force and it brought thousands of miners & prospectors west to the Sierra Valley seeking their fortunes.  Gold Fever was changing the face of the pristine American wilderness.

More on John Muir >> Also: John Muir Photographic History
Also: Tributes commemorating the life and legacy of John Muir >> | Cedar Key >> | Yosemite National Park >> | General Grant Tree >>
Related: Theodore Roosevelt | Ansel Adams | Galen Clark | The Florida Everglades

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