Yosemite National Park is almost impossible to visualize in its entirety, with its 747,956 acres of mountains, rivers, forests, and myriad species galavanting about, or eating each other.
Imagine a map that gathers all that geographical wonder in one place. It exists in Joseph Mora’s 1931 cartographic homage to the great and treasured national park in California. It’s a colorful, humorous and eccentric mapping of Yosemite in all its glory.
“There is so much grandeur and reverential solemnity to Yosemite that a bit of humor may help the better to happily reconcile ourselves to the triviality of man,” Mora wrote at the top of his artwork.
The map portrays every element that figures into a trip to Yosemite. The arrival by train or by car. Passage into the park’s grounds, advice from local rangers, the camp sites, and the wide range of activities on offer for adventurous tourists.
Summer and winter pursuits are illustrated in small cartoons along the left-hand border, and along the bottom, with lively scenes of riding, tennis, dancing, skiing and swimming. The map is, by the admission of its creator, not entirely truthful, and offers a “tithe of mirth” to enhance the reader’s reverence for Yosemite.
The bottom left-hand side of the map imagines a family’s jaw-dropping repose after their first look at the national park’s stunning scenery.
The main body of the piece shows key monuments and significant sites, from the valley floor up to the park’s highest peaks, like the famous “Cloud’s Rest.” Mora, a Uruguayan-born artist who became famous for his artistic maps, has a comic and literal take on many of these.
It’s even possible to play a game akin to “Where’s Waldo” with your favorite Yosemite locations. There is a person staring at their reflection in “Mirror Lake.” George Washington stands atop “Washington Column.” And a woman in a white wedding dress lingers over “Bridal Veil Falls.” These cartoons are repeated across the map.
Stephen Mather founded the National Park Service 100 years ago last week, on August 25, 1916. This map was dedicated to him after his death in 1930.
An inscription on the bottom right-hand corner of the map thanks Mather, “whose untiring efforts and devotion to the ethics of the Service have been so fruitful in making Yosemite a vacation mecca for the people of the present and future generations.”
Charming scenes play out in different parts of the map. A man takes a photograph of a bear, a fisherman falls asleep by a river and a mother attends to a crying child. Elsewhere a man looks through binoculars, a family descends the train at El Portal, and a couple hug and gaze over “Inspiration Point.”