I used to hike in and around Yosemite National Park. To me (and I imagine thousands of other visitors), Yosemite was the embodiment of “nature,” something grand, pristine, and, well “natural.” Of course there is a sense in which that is true: Yosemite was not made by the hand of man.
But in another sense that understanding is false, as Jen Huntley explains in The Making of Yosemite: James Mason Hutchings and the Origins of America’s Most Popular National Park (UP of Kansas, 2011). Yosemite the Place may be “natural,” but Yosemite the Park is not. It was made by a set of people with a variety of interests, some familiar to us (e.g., making money) and others not (e.g., purifying the nation). Suffice it to say that the makers of Yosemite the Park were not exactly “environmentalists” as we understand them. They were people of their own time, and with that time’s ideas and values. Jen does a terrific job of exploring them (and the fascinating James Hutchings in particular), what they thought, what they wanted to do, and what they did to create Yosemite.