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Ansel Adams

1902 - 1984 Ansel Adams with Camera, photo from


  • The noted photographer and conservationist often credited Muir as an inspiration, and his amazing photographs are often paired with Muir's writings.
  • Wallace Stegner said, "A place is not fully a place until it has had its poet. Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada have had two great poets, Muir and Adams. In consequence I think these mountains are better understood, held worthier of respect and protection than they would be if those two had never looked on them with reverence and been delighted with spring dogwood blossoms, and exhilarated by glacier pavements, dazed by half- mile cliffs, and glorified by snow peaks blossoming like roses in the dawn." (Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography By Jonathan Spaulding, (University of California Press, 1998), quoted in Gilliam, Harold, "Yosemite and the Twin Fires of Genius," San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 1985, reporting on the August, 1985 official dedication in Tuolumne Meadows of Mount Ansel Adams and the naming of Yosemite National Park as a World Heritage Site.)
  • According to Adams biographer Therese Lichtenstein, "Although Adams felt that Muir's writing was too elaborate, he nonetheless shared his love of the wilderness and his conservationist ethics."
  • Adams joined the Sierra Club in 1916. Beginning in 1919, he spent four summers as custodian at the Club's LeConte Memorial Lodge (now the Club's Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center) in Yosemite Valley. In 1934, Adams was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, a role he maintained for 37 years.
  • Adams' 1938 book The Sierra Nevada and the John Muir Trail, was influential in fulfilling John Muir's dream to add the wilderness region north of Sequoia National Park to the National Park System. The park was proposed as "John Muir National Park." After a fierce battle in Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a bill March 4, 1940, establishing Kings Canyon National Park.
  • In 1955, Adams and Nancy Newhall organized the important exhibition "This is the American Earth." The exhibition focused on conservation ethics and ideals, and was displayed at the LeConte Lodge in Yosemite National Park. About half of the photographs from forty different photographers were those of Adams. In 1960, the Sierra Club published the book as its first "exhibit format" book, This is the American Earth., which still serves as a beautiful statement of conservation principles.
  • The Sierra Club made Adams an Honorary Vice-President in 1971.
  • Ansel Adams received the Sierra Club John Muir Award, its highest honor, in 1963. This was only the third time this Award was given. He received many other award's, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, for "his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth."
  • In 1984, the year he died, the Ansel Adams Wilderness area was declared, covering 100,000 acres between Yosemite National Park and the John Muir Wilderness Area. In August ,1985, a year after Adams' death, a 11,700 foot peak located south of Mount Lyell at the head of the Lyell Fork of the Merced River on the southeast boundary of Yosemite National Park was officially named Mt. Ansel Adams. This peak had been unofficially named for Adams on a Sierra Club High Trip in 1933 by the climbers who made the first ascent. Because geographic features are never officially named for living people, the U.S. Geological Survey would not sanction it until several months after Adams died.
  • For more information, see Ansel Adams - biography from Sierra Club
Portrait of Ansel Adams by Cedric Wright, Sierra Club Archives.

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