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Yosemite National Park, closed for its own birthday (+video)

Google is celebrating the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park - but it's closed. The surprising origin of the name Yosemite.

By Contributor / October 1, 2013

Google is celebrating the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park. But due to the government shutdown, Yosemite is shutting down.

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Google is celebrating Yosemite’s 123rd anniversary – on everyone else’s behalf.

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Staff Writer

Elizabeth Barber is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and English from SUNY Geneseo. Before coming to the Monitor, she was a freelance reporter at DNAinfo, a New York City breaking news site. She has also been an intern at The Cambodia Daily, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and at Washington D.C.’s The Middle East Journal.

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Yosemite and all the US’s national parks, monuments, and zoos were closed at midnight last night, after Congress failed to pass a new budget.

The government shutdown comes at an ironic moment for Yosemite: today is the park’s birthday, and it won’t be open for its own party.

“Yosemite” entered the American lexicon in 1851 when Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor with a California state battalion hunting Native Americans in the US west, named a swath of Californian land “Yosemite.” That, he wrongly believed, was the name of the local Native American tribe.

In fact, the tribe’s name was the Ahwahneechees, and the land was called Ahwahnee. “Yosemite” was actually how the tribe referred to the white intruders, as “killers.”

In the following decades, tourists poured into the sublime valley now called Yosemite and various parties tussled over who owned the region and what it meant to own it. The high-octane debate came to a close in 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison signed into law a bill that designated some 1,500 square miles of California as Yosemite National Park.

The US now has 401 national parks encompassing some 84 million acres.

The closure of the parks will unfold in two stages, according to the National Park Service Contingency Plan. In Phase 1, to take place over the first day and a half, all "day visitors" will be instructed to immediately leave the park. Overnight visitors (campers, RVers, and hikers) will be told to leave the park as part of Phase 2 and all commercial services will cease. The total process will take four days.

At the end of Phase 2, park operations will be kept at “minimum levels.”

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