Kings Canyon National Park and this dramatic landscape, testifies to nature’s size, beauty, and diversity–huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. Kings Canyon was established in 1940 and incorporated General Grant National Park, which was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias. The park is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park; the two are administered by the National Park Service jointly as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. They were designated the UNESCO Sequoia-Kings Canyon Biosphere Reserve in 1976.
Humans have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The first Native Americans in the area were Paiute peoples, who moved into the region from their ancestral home east of Mono Lake. The Paiute Nation people used deer and other small animals for food, as well as acorns. They created trade routes that extended down the eastern slope of the Sierra into the Owens Valley.
Kings Canyon had been known to white settlers since the mid-19th century, but it was not until John Muir first visited in 1873 that the canyon began receiving attention. Muir was delighted at the canyon’s similarity to Yosemite Valley, as it reinforced his theory regarding the origin of both valleys, which, though competing with Josiah Whitney’s then-accepted theory that the spectacular mountain valleys were formed by earthquake action, Muir’s theory later proved correct: that both valleys were carved by massive glaciers during the last Ice Age.
Then United States Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes fought to create the Kings Canyon National Park. He hired Ansel Adams to photograph and document this among other parks, in great part leading to the passage of the bill in March 1940. The bill combined the General Grant Grove with the backcountry beyond Zumwalt Meadow.
Kings Canyon’s future was in doubt for nearly fifty years. Some wanted to build a dam at the western end of the valley, while others wanted to preserve it as a park. The debate was settled in 1965, when the valley, along with Tehipite Valley, was added to the park.
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Photographer and graphic artist, Rob Decker, studied photography with Ansel Adams in the summer of 1979 in Yosemite National Park, an experience that solidified his love of photography and our National Parks. Now he is on a journey to photograph and create iconic WPA-style posters of all 59 major national parks as we celebrate the next 100 years of the National Park Service.