Explore the Yellowstone Region
also contributed to the early visual record of the
West. Although the Federal Government sponsored several
surveys that included the use of cameras in the 1850s,
the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 greatly reduced
further exploring expeditions. After the war, however,
photography became a popular method of documenting
the western American landscape.
One of these early photographers was
Carleton E. Watkins. Traveling and working alone,
Watkins made his first trip to Yosemite in 1861 and
produced some of the first photographs of this expansive
and spectacular territory in present-day California.
His views of Yosemite focused on the landscape as
a pristine wilderness, untouched by civilization.
They also helped encourage President
Abraham Lincoln to sign a bill on June 30, 1864, granting
Yosemite to the State of California in order to protect
the scenic lands for the enjoyment of all people.
This act sparked the idea of establishing Yellowstone
as a national park a few years later in 1872. (Yosemite
was set aside as a national park in 1890.)
Watkins. Yosemite Falls and the Merced River. Yosemite