It’s Sequoia Tree Facts this week! More Than Just Parks is having a two-for-one special. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks includes ten fascinating facts about two of America’s oldest national parks.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks had 1.2 million visitors in 2020. Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890, making it our country’s second oldest national park.
Kings Canyon was established fifty years later on March 4, 1940. Together, these two parks offer a truly unique experience for travelers looking to experience some of America’s most amazing natural wonders.
Sequoia Tree Facts (& Park Facts)
1. Sequoia Had The First African American Superintendent Of A National Park
Born as a slave during the American Civil War, Charles Young lived an extraordinary life. He was the first African American to graduate from a white high school in Ohio. In 1884, Young defied the odds winning an appointment to West Point though a competitive military examination.
After confronting the racism which was unfortunately typical of his era, he emerged as only the third African American to graduate from America’s most prestigious military academy.
Captain Of An All Black Regiment
Young served as a cavalry officer. He then became the captain of an all-black regiment at San Francisco’s Presidio. Young’s career path would take an interesting turn when managing the national parks became the responsibility of the U.S. Army beginning in 1891.
This was before the creation of a unified system of national parks or the establishment of an elite cadre of park rangers.
By 1903, the U.S. Military was providing protection at America’s parks. Young was assigned to take his troops to Sequoia and General Grant (what is now Sequoia National Park and a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park).
It was during the summer of 1903 that he made history by becoming the acting superintendent of the these two parks.
No Poaching On His Watch
Poaching had become a problem in the parks given their limited supervision. As a result of Young’s leadership, however, there was no poaching reported at Sequoia or General Grant during his tenure as superintendent.
In commemoration, a Sequoia Tree would be named in his honor.
Young spent one summer as an acting superintendent at Sequoia/Kings Canyon before being reassigned as a military attache in Haiti. He then served in the same position in Liberia.
With General Pershing In Mexico
Eager to see some action, Young went on to serve under General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing in Mexico. It was during this assignment that he engaged in active combat against the Mexican Revolutionary Leader Pancho Villa.
Charles Young Earns The Rank Of Colonel
Young was sidelined from active duty during World War One due to health issues, but returned to command after the war. He would earn the rank of colonel. Young died unexpectedly, however, in 1922.
Full Military Honors
Given his distinguished service, he was the fourth soldier to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
2. Sequoia Was The First Park Created To Protect A Living Organism | Sequoia Tree Facts
If you’ve read Jonathan Swift’s classic, Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, it’s the story of Lemuel Gulliver who journeys to four amazing lands.
While his most famous voyage was to Lilliput (ergo the “Lilliputians” or “Little People”) in one of Gulliver’s other journeys, he travels to the land of Brobdingnag where a blade of grass is as tall as a tree.
You, Too, Can Experience What Gulliver Did
You don’t have to travel to Brobdingnag to experience what Gulliver did. Travel to Sequoia National Park where the trees are so tall and so amazing that you’ll feel like a Lilliputian in this land of the giants.
These massive Sequoia trees actually grow between 5,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation.
How is this possible you might ask? At Sequoia, the winters are relatively mild which makes it a perfect natural habitat for these incredible specimens to grow and thrive.
3. A Photographer Helped To Expand Sequoia National Park
If a picture’s worth a thousand words then how many acres might it be worth?
In America, the 1920s were known as the “Jazz Age.” It was a time of economic prosperity, cultural transformation and bootleg gin. It was also a time when women were making themselves felt in society.
Women Gained The Right To Vote
With the passage of the 19th amendment, women cast their first ballot for president in 1920. Their entrance into the workforce in increasing numbers signaled a battle for social liberation and equal rights.
One of these women would be Susan Priscilla Thew. In August of 1923, she decided to explore the wilderness of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
A preservationist at heart, Susan Thew wanted to share the magic of these parks with a wider audience so she brought along a camera to capture some iconic images.
Her Pictures Made A Difference
Susan Thew originally came to California to escape the harsh winters of her native Ohio. Soon she fell in love with the Sierra Nevada range.
Learning of efforts to create a greater Sequoia National Park, she contacted Colonel John R. White, the park’s superintendent. She then proposed the idea of promoting the park to a wider audience.
Thus began the incredible travels of Susan Thew. Just as John Muir stirred peoples souls with his inspiring stories of the wonders of nature, Susan brought those wonders to life through her incredible photographs.
She covered hundreds of miles traversing some of the most rugged territory throughout the United States.
She Influenced Ansel Adams
A project which would take her several summers culminated in a beautiful publication titled, “The Proposed Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park.” Her intended audience were the members of Congress. It was for them that she managed to convey a sense of what made these lands so special.
Through her efforts, Congress was able to pass a bill enlarging the park’s boundaries to include the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah Peaks, the Kern Canyon, and the Sierra Crest.
Susan Thew’s bold approach influenced Ansel Adams. In 1940, Adams also created a portfolio of stunning images for distribution among members of Congress. Like Susan Thew, Ansel Adams efforts contributed to success in passing a bill creating Kings Canyon National Park.
4. Sequoia Is Home To The Tallest Mountain In The Lower 48 States | Sequoia Tree Facts
Remember that wonderful song from The Sound Of Music which Julie Andrews sings? Yes, I know, there were so many of them. The one I have in mind is “Climb Every Mountain.”
Well, if you’re ready for adventure and like to climb mountains then Sequoia’s got one waiting for you. Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. It has an elevation of 14,505 feet.
The mountain’s west slope is located in Sequoia National Park. The southern terminus of the John Muir Trail is where the summit is located.
From the peak of Mount Whitney, you can see the incredible majesty of the Sierra Nevada range and look down into the beautiful Owens Valley. This magnificent mountain is the highest point of the Great Basin Divide.
5. Sequoia Is Home To The Largest Tree On Earth
You probably didn’t see General Sherman march through Georgia, but you have the opportunity to see his namesake at Sequoia National Park. William Tecumseh Sherman was five foot eleven inches tall. The General Sherman Tree is much, much taller.
As a matter of fact, it’s the world’s largest tree, measured by volume. It stands 275 feet tall, and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base. Sixty feet above its base, the Sherman Tree is 17.5 feet in diameter. It’s a real “skyscraper.”
6. Over 95% Of Sequoia & Kings Canyon Are Wilderness
If you’re someone who likes to get away from it all then you’ll be thrilled to learn that over 95% of Sequoia and Kings Canyon are wilderness areas.
Thanks to the efforts of Susan Thew and others over the years, Congress expanded Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to 1,353 square miles.
I’m a historian by background and training so perhaps a little history would be helpful. In September of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act.
This act made the preservation and protection of wild places a national priority. Today, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks currently protect over 808,000 acres of designated wilderness in addition to 29,500 acres of proposed wilderness.
7. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Feature Over 800 Miles Of Trails | Sequoia Tree Facts
To paraphrase Nancy Sinatra, “These parks are made for walking. That’s just what they do.”
And, if walking’s what you do then check out the John Muir Trail. It’s a 221-mile trail stretching from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. It travels through Kings Canyon and into Sequoia so you get two parks for the price of one.
If you’re a hiker then know that the best hiking season is from July to September when the weather is sunny and dry. Permits are not required for day kikes unless you’re planning to hike Mount Whitney. Consider going in the early morning or evening hours to escape the heat of the day.
8. George W. Bush Was The First President Ever To Stay At Sequoia & Kings Canyon While In Office
The average male has 25% body fat. As President, George W. Bush had a a body fit of 14%. How did he do it? According the the White House, he worked on an elliptical machine two days a week, lifted weights two days a week, ran an average of four miles four days each week and did regular stretching exercises.
George W. Bush was clearly one of our more physically fit presidents while in office. When jogging became too difficult as a result of knee surgeries, he later took up mountain biking. This man did not shy away from rugged physical exercise even on the hottest of days.
He was also the first president to visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks while in office. While there, he took a walking tour of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park on May 1, 2001.
9. Sequoia & Kings Canyon Have The Deepest Canyon In America | Sequoia Tree Facts
So far, we’ve focused more on Sequoia than Kings Canyon National Park. Tallest tree, tallest mountain, etc. But Sequoia doesn’t claim all of the prizes. In Kings Canyon National Park there can be found the deepest canyon in the United States.
This canyon is even deeper than the better known Grand Canyon in Arizona.
How deep you might ask? Why it’s so deep that it reaches a maximum depth of 8200 feet, when measured from Spanish Peak down to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks of the Kings River. That’s deep!
Believe it or not, you don’t need to hike this one. You can drive right down to the bottom of the canyon on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which links the park’s main visitor centers of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove.
Along the way, you will also pass through the Giant Sequoia National Monument of the Sequoia National Forest, pass Hume Lake and several hiking trails.
10. Sequoia & Kings Canyon Are Great Places For Mountaineering | Sequoia Tree Facts
If you like to climb then Sequoia and Kings Canyon have much to offer you. As a matter of fact, these parks are a climbers paradise. Similar to Yosemite, these rock formations are nothing short of amazing.
Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced climber, there’s something for everyone. Climbs range from easy to extremely challenging-without the crowds and distractions of better known climbing areas. Popular routes include the Obelisk and Grand Sentinel.
Come prepared to spend the night, however, as most climbs include at least a day’s hike in.
Ten Facts About Sequoia & Kings Canyon
- Sequoia/Kings Canyon had the first African American superintendent (acting) of a national park
- Sequoia was the first park created to protect a living organism
- A Photographer Helped To Expand Sequoia National Park
- Sequoia is home to the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states
- Sequoia is home to the largest tree on earth
- Over 95% of Sequoia & Kings Canyon are wilderness
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Feature Over 800 Miles Of Trails
- George W. Bush Was The First President Ever To Stay At Sequoia & Kings Canyon While In Office
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon Have The Deepest Canyon In America
- Sequoia/Kings Canyon Are Great Places For Mountaineering