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A Guide to Celebrating "John Muir Day"

The Governor annually shall proclaim April 21st to be 'John Muir Day'

- California Government Code Section 6714.

John Muir Day:

(a) April 21 of each year is designated and set apart as John Muir Day, a day having special significance pursuant to Section 37222.
(b) On John Muir Day, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises stressing the importance that an ecologically sound natural environment plays in the quality of life for all of us, and emphasizing John Muir's significant contributions to the fostering of that awareness and the indelible mark he left on the State of California.

- California Education Code Section 37222.11
(Added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 241, Sec. 4. re-numbering Code from Education Code Section 37222 (a)(2) and (b)(2).)

Days having special significance:

(a) On each day designated and set apart as a day having special significance, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to observe that day and to conduct suitable commemorative exercises.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the exercises encouraged by subdivision (a) be integrated into the regular school program, and be conducted by the school or institution within the amount of time otherwise budgeted for educational programs.

- California Education Code Section 37222.

John Muir's Importance

John Muir, the legendary wilderness explorer and writer who served as the first President of the Sierra Club, has achieved something of mythic proportions, over 150 years after his birth. His life, work, and vision have inspired countless Americans to appreciate and protect the natural world.

Born in Scotland, April 21, 1838, John Muir immigrated to the United States with his family when he was eleven years old. He traveled to California in the spring of 1868 and explored the high country of the Sierra Nevada, making California his life-long home. He also traveled widely in Alaska and throughout the American West, writing numerous books and articles describing natural wonders and arguing for the need to preserve wilderness.

When Muir traveled around the world in his later years, he inspired people all over the globe to protect places of special beauty and wildness. His life is celebrated by the existence of Yosemite National Park, which he was instrumental in establishing in 1890. In 1976, the California Historical Society voted Muir the greatest Californian in the state's history. Geographic place names for Muir exist in Alaska, California, Florida, Washington State,Wisconsin , and in his birthplace,Dunbar , Scotland. Now, thanks to legislative action in California, the recognition of John Muir is not confined to geography, but is added to the calendar.

Recently, some have questioned Muir's outlook, arguing that his writing discriminated against native peoples. As the John Muir Trust in Scotland explains: "Some of the remarks that Muir made historically about indigenous peoples are not acceptable and can seem out of touch and out of date. Muir was a human being with flaws and faults, not a saint or prophet. Later in life, his views evolved. He outgrew a very strict upbringing and became close to native peoples. He grew to admire indigenous communities for their light ecological footprint and careful stewardship of the land. He also wrote sympathetically about the impacts of colonialism on native peoples and joined indigenous rights organisation The Sequoya League. Muir's work as a scientist and advocate for nature has continued relevance in modern environmental campaigning. An openness to different points of view and a capacity to change one's mind when presented with new information are character traits to be welcomed, while a focus on protecting nature for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants is more relevant now than ever."

The Sierra Club's own History and Future Task Force concluded in 2021, "John Muir, one of the Sierra Club's founders, sparked the movement to preserve millions of acres of land from logging and mining, and inspired generations of people to protect nature. The Sierra Club recognizes the importance of Muir's conservation efforts with regard to designation of national parks, national forests, and rangelands, which prevented hundreds of millions of acres from being privatized and transferred into the hands of white logging, mining, and livestock grazing corporations enabled by 19th century colonization laws like the Timber and Stone Act, Homestead Acts, and Desert Lands Act. John Muir is a complex historical figure and a symbol of the early conservation movement. The Sierra Club acknowledges that John Muir used derogatory language about Black Americans and Indigenous people that created harm. Muir later recognized and appreciated the achievements of Indigenous people and spoke about the equality of all people and the importance of making public lands accessible for all."

The Value Of John Muir Day

"John Muir Day", celebrated each April 21, provides us with a day to recognize the modern ecological insight that humankind is a part of Nature, and that our well being - indeed our very survival - depends upon an ecologically sound natural environment. By taking some time to appreciate how far we have come in the environmental movement launched by Muir, we can be inspired as we tackle the myriad environmental problems facing us today.

Celebration Ideas

1. Sponsor a John Muir celebration at your school, public library, or community center, Show a film, put on a skit portraying John Muir, sponsor an outing, or invite a speaker. Make a display about John Muir and wilderness preservation.

2. Ask your own County Board of Supervisors and the City Council or Mayor of your City to issue a John Muir Day Proclamation. (Sample) Ask them at least a month before April 21 to give time to issue the Proclamation.

3. If you live in California, download a copy of the Governor's John Muir Day Proclamation, from the website, to display at your school, public library, or City Hall: Governor's Office, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

4. Start writing and drawing in a Nature Journal like John Muir did. to get started, see Journal Writing with John Muir - tips and resources for keeping a nature journal.


General Resources

  • "John Muir Day Study Guide" - Offers Lesson plans in the areas of English-Language Arts, History/Social Studies, and Science.

  • Through the Eyes of John Muir:: A Multi-disciplinary Approach to Looking at our World by Janice Kelley
    This curriculum, aligned to both Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, can be applied in and outside the classroom for students to learn how to see through the eyes of John Muir - as environmental stewards, scientists, historians and advocates. Each lesson is presented within the context of John Muir's own actions. These Standards apply to grades 3 and 4. Most activities are applicable to or can be modified to meet the needs of older students.

  • "John Muir Fact Sheet" (available in English, Spanish, German, or Japanese) and Muir time-line bookmarks. - Sierra Club, Information Desk, 2101 Webster Street, Suite 1300, Oakland, CA 94612

  • "A Knight in the Wilderness: Sierra Club founder John Muir launched a movement a century ago" by Gerald Parshall. 2 pp.- U.S. News and World Report.July 20, 1992

  • John Muir T-Shirts- Many designs are available from vendors throughout the Internet!

  • "John Muir's House," self-guided tours of Muir's ranch home and nearby hills, brochures, booklets, environmental living programs, visitor center with books, postcards, posters, medallions, etc. - John Muir National Historic Site, National Park Service, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553. Telephone: (925) 228-8860.

  • Sponsor a "Live Presentation" from one of the several excellent actors who portray John Muir in programs suitable for schools, community groups, or local theater. Visit our "Live Presentations" page for contact information.


  • John Muir Tribute CD
    Outstanding collection of Muir quotations, stories, and songs evocative of Muir's life.
  • "Muir Power To You"
    Music by Bill Oliver, on John Muir Tribute CD , Better Things to Do , and Audubon Adventures

  • "Me and Stickeen"
    Music by Bill Oliver, on Friend of the River
    Bill Oliver
    801 W. Gibson
    Austin, TX 78704
    512-447-2240 (Texas)
    415-331-7032 (California)
  • "John of the Mountains", music by Matthew Werner, on Mariposa's First Light of Dawn - Catalpa Records, P.O. Box 1314, Santa Cruz, CA 95061.

  • Lee Stetson. Conversations with a Tramp,John Muir's Stickeen, and The Spirit of John Muir. Stetson is also available for live presentations to schools. - Wild Productions, P.O. Box 811, Yosemite, CA 95389.


  • Lee Stetson. Conversation with a Tramp. Video cassette.A KQED-TV S.F. production. 1992. - Wild Productions, P.O. Box 810, Yosemite, CA 95389.

  • John Muir: The Man, The Poet, The Legacy. Video cassette. Color w/ black and white sequences, VHS and PAL format, $24.95.A KRON-TV S.F.Production in association with Chronicle Productions, 1981.Produced by Ziggy Stone. Available from Canyonlands Publications, 4860 N Ken Morey Dr., Bellemont, AZ 86015 (928) 779-3888.

New And Noteworthy Books:

Student Bibliography

  • "John Muir: Friend and Protector of Nature"in Cobblestone Magazine,August, 1989, a special issueon "The Environmental Movement.".Available from Cobblestone Publishing, 30 Grove St., Peterborough, NH 03458.

  • Anderson, Peter, John Muir: Wilderness Prophet (New York: A First Book, Franklin Watts, 1995). Color and black and white photos, paperback, $5.95, 63 pp.

  • * Cornell, Joseph John Muir: My Life with Nature (Nevada City: Dawn Publications, 2000) Illustrations by Elizabeth Ann Kelley and Christopher Canyon. Paper, $8.95, ISBN 1-58469-009-7, Ages 10-16, 72 pages, 34 photo/illustrations, includes "Further Reading" and credits, 6" x 9."
    An unique "autobiography" of John Muir for children and adults, delivers John Muir to us through the "Sharing Nature" outdoor education philosophy. Author Joseph Cornell of Sharing Nature with Children fame explains, "To stay true to the spirt of Muir as clearly and fully as possible, I have told his story as if he were alive, using his own words and colorful expressions as often as possible. I have, however, simplified and condensed his words to make them more accessible to young readers." Cornell includes about ten journal-writing activities that assist in appreciating Nature through the inspiration of John Muir.
    There is a book jacket summary and photo of book cover for this book.
  • Douglas, William O., Muir of the Mountains (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1993). Illustrated by Daniel San Souci. Hardcover, $15.95, 183 pp.

  • Force, Eden.John Muir.(Englewood Cliffs: Silver Burdett Press, 1990). Part of "Pioneers in Change" series. Paperback, $7.95, 145 pp.

  • Greene, Carol.John Muir: Man of the Wild Places.(Chicago: Childrens Press, 1991) A Rookie Biography.48 pp., illustrated, paperback, $4.95

  • Ito, Tom, The Importance of John Muir (San Diego: Lucent Books, 1996). Hardcover, 111 pp.

  • Ledbetter, Cynthia E. and Richard C. Jones, John Muir (Vero Beach, Florida: Rourke Publications, Inc., 1993). Color and b and w photographs, index, hardcover, 112 pp.

  • Naden, Corrinne J. and Rose Blue.John Muir: Saving the Wilderness.(Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992)(Distributed by Houghton Mifflin)A Gateway Biography, 48 pp., illustrated, paperback, $4.95.

  • Talmadge, Katherine S., John Muir: At Home in the Wild (New York: 21st Century Books, 1993) $14.95.

  • Tolan, Sally.John Muir:Naturalist, Writer, and Guardian of the North American Wilderness.(Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens Children's Books, 1990)Part of "People Who Have Helped the World" series.Hardbound, $12.95, 68 pages.

  • Wadsworth, Ginger.John Muir: Wilderness Protector.(Minneapolis: LernerPublications Co., 1992) Hardbound, $15.95, 144 pages.

General Bibliography

  • Muir, John.The Wilderness World of John Muir.edited by Edwin Way Teale(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954, paperback reprint.

  • Muir, John, The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures , selected and introduced by Lee Stetson (Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Association, 1994).

  • Fox, Stephen.John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement.(Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1981.)

  • Wilkins, Thurman, John Muir: Apostle of Nature (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1995).

  • Wolfe, Linnie Marsh.Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir.(Madison:Univ. of Wisconsin Press 1978) (Originally published: 1945by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.)

What You Can Do

  1. Ask your own County Board of Supervisors and the City Council or Mayor of your City to issue a John Muir Day Proclamation. For sample forms, contact the John Muir Education Team at the address indicated below.

  2. Sponsor a John Muir celebration at your school, public library, or community center, Show a videotape, put on a skit portraying John Muir, or invite a speaker to tell about his life and work. Combine recognition of John Muir with Earth Day activities.

  3. Spread the word about John Muir Day wherever you can.


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