Falls of Yosemite - Carlton Watkins

Carlton Watkins took photographs similar to these on his first trip to Yosemite in 1861. They were shown nationally and their impact was considerable. They helped persuade artist Albert Bierstadt to make his first trip to Yosemite in 1864. Senator John Conness of San Francisco who introduced the bill in the U.S. Congress granting Yosemite to California owned a collection of Watkin's prints.1

Yosemite Falls

Nevada Falls
Vernal Falls
Bridalveil Falls

To Start You Thinking

1) The photograph of Yosemite Falls provides evidence of alterations to the Yosemite landscape by the Ahwahnechee prior to 1861 when the photo was taken. Describe differences between the landscape in the foreground of the photo and that closer to the base of the falls.

2) Use the Yosemite Valley, 1868 map and identify the rivers and creeks that flow into Yosemite Valley and create the falls pictured above.


1Peter E. Palmquist, Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception, exhibition catalogue, (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1999)

mages from Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, cropped slightly from the originals.

Last modified in June, 2019 by Rick Thomas