Galen Clark, the First Ranger

Galen Clark
Galen Clark in the Mariposa Grove

In August of 1855, 41-year-old Galen Clark, a Canadian gold seeker turned carpenter, first saw the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees and Yosemite Valley. He would spend the next 55 years of his life committed to educating the public about preservation of the region.

He settled at present-day Wawona in 1857, providing a rest stop for early travelers. His rest stop became known as Clark’s Station. He gained a reputation for offering guests warmth and humor, along with a wealth of interesting facts about his explorations.

In 1864, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were “reserved from settlement” by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The Act created the first California state park, called the Yosemite Grant. The Grant was locally administered by a guardian representing a commission of eight men, and in 1866, commission member Galen Clark was chosen as that guardian.

Serving two terms as guardian totaling 22 years, Clark was known for his energy and ingenuity. Famed botanist John Muir called him the best mountaineer he ever met.

In 1897, at the age of 83, Galen Clark resigned his last guardian post. Even after his resignation, he remained committed to his beloved Yosemite, presenting tours and campfire chats to visitors. He passed away on March 24, 1910, a few days before his 96th birthday.

Clark is buried in Yosemite Valley under the sequoia trees he planted as seedlings more than 100 years ago. His legacy lives on in today’s state park rangers, the modern day guardians of our parks.