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Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center - (formerly LeConte Lodge) Main
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Inside the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center
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  Photo Albums:
General Photo Album
Including high-res photos
Centennial Photo Album
Rededication Photo Album
Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center Fact Sheet (2016) (PDF)
Help Preserve the Sierra Club Home in Yosemite National Park (PDF)
LeConte Memorial Lodge - First Permanent Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley & Home of the Sierra Club in Yosemite National Park (PDF) by Bonnie Gisel - from Yosemite Guide, May-June, 2012 (PDF)
LeConte Memorial - A Sierra Club Legacy by Elaine Gorman (PDF) (2012)
Joseph LeConte Fact Sheet (PDF)
John Muir, the National Parks, the Sierra Club, and the Yossemite Conservation Heritage Center (PDF)
John Muir Fact Sheeet (PDF)
Huell Howser Video
(Quicktime Movie 48 MB )
Hetch Hetchy and the Sierra Club
Make a Nature Journal
About Joseph LeConte
'Little Joe' Joseph N. LeConte
1896 Tribute to Dr. LeConte
John Muir Exhibit
Sierra Club History
Oher Sierra Club Lodges
Le Conte Memorial Lodge by Steven Finacom
NPS 1985 Theme Study
National Historic Landmark Program

Sierra Club Environmental Education Program
LeConte Memorial Lodge


Bonnie Johanna Gisel

The current curator of the LeConte Memorial Lodge (since 2002) is Bonnie Johanna Gisel. Bonnie finishes her 14th year as curator at the end of the 2015 summer season.

She is an environmental historian and educator, and a John Muir scholar and author. She holds a Ph.D in environmental history from Drew University (1998). She has served as adjunct or visiting professor at University of the Pacific, Drew University, and Green Mountain College. She is archivist for the William F. and Mayme B. Kimes Collection at the John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, California, and a research fellow at the Beatrice M. Bain Research Group, University of California, Berkeley.

Bonnie served as interim director of the John Muir Center at the University of the Pacific, where she coordinated the 2001 John Muir: Family and Friends Conference.

She is the author of Kindred and Related Spirits: The Letters of John Muir and Jeanne C. Carr, a compilation of the correspondence between Muir and his good friend and mentor, Jeanne C. Carr. In part, it was Jeanne Carr's artistic abilities that inspired Bonnie to create the Memorial's Wilderness Quilt Project.

Bonnie recently published her second Muir book rediscovering Muir's botanical legacy: Nature's Beloved Son. The latter project includes photographs by LeConte's artist-in-the-wilderness, Stephen Joseph, who provided the photographs for another brain-child of Bonnie's, the 2004 Re-enactment of the 1907 Wildflower Display.

A consummate educator, Bonnie constantly engages visitors to think about the meaning of the natural world by asking them to contribute a 3 inch sheet of paper of their Words for Wilderness Around the World. She encourages people to make and keep their own Nature Journals to grow their thoughts, feelings, and relationship with the natural world.

For the LeConte Memorial Lodge's Centennial, Bonnie not only planned a busy schedule of events, but managed to write well-researched and thoughtful essays on, The Eve of the Centennial , plus the opening and closing remarks for the Centennial Rededication Ceremony.

In the 2006 season, Bonnie launched the Green Shoes Project to encourage visitors to care about nature and be stewards for the wilderness.

On August 26, 2006, Bonnie was awarded the 2006 John Muir Conservation Award by the Martinez-based John Muir Association. The award recognizes her re-energizing of the Leconte Memorial Lodge, her Muir scholarship, and her dedication to environmental education. Read Igor Skaradeoff's Introduction of Bonnie Gisel (illustrated) and her Acceptance Speech: Nature's Universal Abounding Glory.

In 2007, Bonnie appeared on the "California Gold" PBS television series by Huell Howser. View video clip.

In July, 2008, Bonnie was extensively quoted in a Smithsonian Magazine article on John Muir's Yosemite

In 2009, she was interviewed on radio by Tom Ashbrok, On Point Radio (Boston NPR affiliate wbur.og) on the subject of John Muir's Botanical Travels.

In 2011, Bonnie is featured in an interview in the PBS documentary, John Muir in the New World. and was recognized in the Oakland Museum's special exhibition A Walk in the Wild: Continuing John Muir's Journey as a "Modern-Day-Muir."

In 2014, Bonnie was featured as a "modern John Muir" in the Oakland Museum's special exhibition that year on A Walk in the Wild: Continuing John Muir's Journey. You can view a video interview of her on-site on YouTube.



Bonnie sums up her purpose and philosophy as curator very well:

“I want to instill in others a wonder of the world and an appreciation of the world so it becomes part of our daily breathing” - Bonnie Gisel

Earlier Curators

Even before the LeConte Memorial Lodge was built, the Sierra Club provided a public reading room and information center in Yosemite Valley, beginning in 1898. A young law school graduate, William E. Colby, who ulitimately served for 60 years as a Sierra Club leader, was the first attendant at the Sierra Club's "reading room" at Sinning's Cottage in the old Yosemite Village. A few years later, Galen Clark, a charter member of the Sierra Club, who was the original Guardian of Yosemite under state ownership, staffed the cottage.

Since 1904, the Sierra Club has provided both volunteer and paid staff members to care for the LeConte Memorial and to provide for access by the public. In these early days, the custodians later included many women and men as caretakers, overseen by a LeConte Lodge Committee which included such luminaries as Edward Taylor Parsons, Marion Randall Parsons, and later Joseph LeConte's son, J.N. LeConte (1916). For three years beginning in 1921, a young Ansel Adams served as the caretaker for the Memorial.

Over the past 100 years, a host of people have had the seasonal caretaker or custodian position, which in recent years has been re-named and expanded as the position of "curator."

Robert L. McWilliams, a graduate of the University of California, was the first caretaker, in 1904. Subsequently, the custodians included Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Stout (1905), Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Rhea (1906), Kate Gompertz (1907, 1912), Mary Randall (1908), Lydia Atterbury (1909-1912), Anita Gompertz (1911), Harold French (1913), William T. Martin (1914), Bayard Buckham (1915), Fred Morrison (1916), Docia Patchett and Rose Wright (1918), Katherine Stout (1919), Ansel Adams (1920-1923), F.C. Holman (1924-1933).

In the 1940's through 60's, custodians included Edward Anderson (1941), Enid Michael (1945-46, 1949 -), Sanford S. and Bert Tepfer (1948), Jean ___ (1955), Dick and Fran Reynolds (1956), Kathleen A. Slagter (1957), Marjorie Dunmire (1958), Louis R. Henrich (1959), and Margaret B. Parker (1962).

In the 1970's, Mary Hallesy of Palo Alto chaired the LeConte Memorial Committee under the wing of the Club's Northern California Regional Conservation Committee. Summer staff during this ten year period included Dr. Susan Schrepfer of the Sierra Club History Committee, and Mary Hallesy with a series of student interns from Stanford University, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and San Jose State University.

Beginning in 1981, the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club operated the LeConte program under the guidance of Club volunteers Doug Harwell, Gale Warner, Luke Erdoes, Sam MacNeal, and Harriette Parker.

In 1988, the LeConte Lodge Committee of the Sierra Club was moved to the national Sierra Club, with Harold Wood as chair, and the first curator under that title, Pat Mosley, was hired and served for nine years (1988-1995, 1997), greatly reinvigorating the LeConte Lodge program. Other Club staff in recent years have included Bill Groth (1996), Vern Johnson (co-curator with Pat Mosley 1997), Carolyn Johnson (1998-2001), and Bonnie Gisel (2002-present).

Information and Donations

For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, (209) 372-4542.

During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543, Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail:

Help us keep the Sierra Club's oldest public outreach and education program in Yosemite National Park. We need to continue the Sierra Club's legacy at the Heritage Center and the time has come to raise funds for the program and ensure its existence for future generations. To start, we need to raise $90,000 by October 1, 2016 to fully fund operations for fiscal year 2017. (See Fundraising Fact Sheet) (PDF)

Please make a tax deductible donation to preserve the Sierra Club home in Yosemite National Park!

  • Make an online donation using our secure web form; or
  • Write a check payable to "Sierra Club Foundation," marked "restricted for the LeConte Memorial Fund." Please send to: The Sierra Club Foundation, 2101 Webster St., Suite 1250, Oakland, CA 94612.

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