Sierra Club History

We are America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 2.7 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet.

1892-05-28 00:00:00

Sierra Club Founded

John Muir and others found the Sierra Club.

1893-12-01 00:00:00

The First Sierra Club Bulletin

The Sierra Club's original journal evolved over the years into the award-winning SIERRA magazine of today.

1898-04-22 15:51:09

First Visitor's Center in Yosemite Valley

The Sierra Club establishes the first visitor's center, Sinning's Cottage, in Yosemite Valley. It is staffed by William Colby, a 23-year-old Sierra Club member who would later found the Sierra Club Outings program.

1899-01-01 00:00:00

Mt Rainier National Park

Congress establishes Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State in response to efforts of the Sierra Club and other groups.

1901-07-09 00:00:00

The High Trip - The Club's First Outing

In the Sierra Club’s first outing, William Colby leads 96 participants on a multi-week trip to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. Understanding that people are more likely to value what they know and experience, the Sierra Club initiates an annual High Trip to take groups of people into the mountains to hike, climb, and camp. These popular trips convert city-weary folks into lovers of, and protectors of, mountains and wilderness. They are the beginning of the Sierra Club's expanded and continuing Outings Program, which today exposes over 200,000 people a year to natural landscapes all over the world.

1903-10-28 00:00:00

John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt

Sierra Club founder John Muir convinces President Theodore Roosevelt to back a proposal to transfer management of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove from the state of California back to the federal government, thereby making Yosemite National Park whole. The bill making it official passes in 1906.

1904-05-28 04:07:08

Early Sierra Club Outings

The fourth Sierra Club Outing travels to Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows, and Hetch Hetchy. Panoramic photo by Edward T. Parsons.

1906-02-01 00:00:00

San Francisco Earthquake

The San Francisco earthquake and fire destroy the Sierra Club's records and library.

1907-03-29 19:03:33

Early Call to Action

To meet the water needs of a growing San Francisco, a dam is proposed to flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park. The Sierra Club opposes the dam site as a violation of the protected status of national parks. Although the Sierra Club lost this battle, our strong and public opposition ultimately resulted in a widespread conviction that our national parks should be held inviolate.

1908-04-19 02:21:33

Membership Reaches 1,000

Sierra Club membership reaches 1,000.

1910-05-11 03:28:44

Glacier National Park Established

Glacier National Park is established. The current park encompasses approximately 1.4 million acres of wilderness and some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the western United States. John Muir described the area in his 1901 book, Our National Parks, -- "If you are business-tangled, and so burdened with duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy-laden year, then go to the Flathead Reserve; for it is easily and quickly reached by the Great Northern Railroad. Get off the track at Belton Station, and in a few minutes you will find yourself in the midst of what you are sure to say is the best care-killing scenery on the continent --beautiful lakes derived straight from glaciers, lofty mountains steeped in lovely nemophila-blue skies and clad with forests and glaciers, mossy, ferny waterfalls in their hollows, nameless and numberless, and meadowy gardens abounding in the best of everything."

1911-03-01 00:00:00

Sierra Club's First Chapter Founded

The Angeles Chapter is founded, starting first as the Southern California Section of the Sierra Club, then as the Southern California Chapter, and finally as the Angeles Chapter.

1913-07-19 16:04:05

Hetch Hetchy Valley Lost

Congress votes to allow flooding of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

1914-12-24 18:29:53

Death of John Muir

John Muir dies in a Los Angeles hospital on Christmas Eve.

1915-07-15 12:13:47

The John Muir Trail

After John Muir’s death in 1914, the Sierra Club successfully lobbies the California state legislature to establish the John Muir Trail to run between the Yosemite Valley floor and Mt. Whitney -- over 200 miles. Sierra Club volunteers work with the Forest Service and the State of California to build the trail. Forest Supervisor Paul Redington describes the trail as “a State recognition of [Muir’s] inestimable service in bringing the wonderful mountains of California to the attention of the world”.

1916-08-25 19:19:02

National Park Service

John Muir had long advocated the creation of a bureau to oversee and protect the national parks. After Muir's death in 1914, the Sierra Club continued to advocate for its establishment. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signs an act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments then managed by the department and those yet to be established. The first director, Stephen Mather, is a Sierra Club member.

1919-10-05 19:19:02

Redwoods

The Sierra Club supports the Save-the-Redwoods League and protests threats to redwoods, which ultimately leads to the establishment of a network of state parks to protect coastal redwoods.

1920-05-28 00:00:00

Dams in Yellowstone

The Sierra Club successfully opposes a proposal for major dams in Yellowstone National Park.

1923-05-28 00:00:00

Dams in Kings River

The Sierra Club successfully opposes dam sites in the Kings River region, which is now part of Kings Canyon National Park.

1926-05-28 00:00:00

Sequoia National Park

The Sierra Club leads a successful effort to enlarge Sequoia National Park. Congress adds the Kern and Kaweah regions, including Mt. Whitney.

1927-10-28 00:00:00

Aurelia Squire Harwood

Aurelia Squire Harwood becomes the first female president of the Sierra Club.

1928-07-12 04:50:55

Annual Summer Outing Photographed by Ansel Adams

The 1928 annual summer High Trip takes Sierra Club members out of the U.S. for the first time—to the Canadian Rockies. Ansel Adams is the trip’s official photographer.

1930-03-01 00:00:00

Angeles Chapter Builds Harwood Lodge

Harwood Lodge is built as a memorial to Aurelia S. Harwood, past president of the Sierra Club and leader of the Angeles Chapter. The lodge in the San Gabriel Mountains above Pomona, CA, is a place to get away from the city and enjoy the solitude of clear mountain air and blue skies.

1931-07-09 14:42:38

Rock Climbing Sections Formed

In the 1930s, the Sierra Club forms Rock Climbing Sections that begin teaching climbing techniques to members. The Sierra Club Decimal Rating System, developed at Tahquitz Rock by the Angeles Chapter Rock Climbing Section, soon becomes the American standard for determining the difficulty of rock climbs.

1934-03-01 00:00:00

Clair Tappaan Lodge Built

In 1934, a group of Sierra Club volunteers builds Clair Tappaan Lodge as a rustic retreat for hikers, skiers, and mountain climbers. The lodge is a charming home base from which to explore the riches of the Sierra Nevada.

1936-09-30 11:21:29

Ansel Adams in Washington, D.C.

Famed photographer and Sierra Club board member Ansel Adams journeys to Washington, D.C., to lobby the Roosevelt administration using his photographs of the High Sierra.

1939-01-01 00:00:00

First Sierra Club Film

The Sierra Club produces its first film, "Sky-Land Trails of the Kings" to promote creation of Kings Canyon National Park.

1939-06-01 00:00:00

First Ascent of Shiprock

Sierra Club members, including David Brower, continue the Club's legacy of climbing and mountaineering by completing the first-ever ascent of Shiprock, a 1,500-foot monadnock in New Mexico.

1940-10-28 00:00:00

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park is established after a long Sierra Club campaign.

1941-07-27 14:47:15

Outings Program Continues to Grow

A 1941 outings flier advertises a horseback trip.

1942-10-30 20:24:11

The 10th Mountain Divison

During World War II, Sierra Club members, including David Brower, respond to the need for an alpine fighting force by using their mountaineering and skiing skills to found and train the 10th Mountain Division -- a unit that distinguishes itself from the Dolomites of Italy to the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan. More than 1,000 Club members serve in the war.

1943-10-30 20:24:11

Antiquities Act Defended

The Sierra Club successfully opposes repeal of the Antiquities Act, which is used to establish national monuments.

1947-07-01 00:00:00

San Gorgonio Primitive Area

The Sierra Club succeeds in its campaign to preserve San Gorgonio Primitive Area in Southern California -- and works to protect Olympic National Park in Washington State.

1948-12-28 00:00:00

Glacier View Dam Defeated

The Sierra Club successfully opposes construction of Glacier View Dam, which would have flooded 20,000 acres of Glacier National Park.

1950-07-01 00:00:00

Grand Teton National Park Enlarged

At the Sierra Club’s urging, Grand Teton National Park is enlarged to include Jackson Hole National Monument.

1950-07-01 00:00:00

Atlantic Chapter Formed

The Atlantic Chapter becomes the first Sierra Club chapter outside of California and includes New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Georgia, Rhode Island, Vermont, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, and the District of Columbia.

1952-11-06 13:09:28

First Executive Director Hired

David Brower becomes the Sierra Club’s first executive director.

1953-07-01 00:00:00

Olympic National Park Expanded

47,000 acres are added to Olympic National Park in Washington State at the urging of the Sierra Club and other concerned citizens and groups.

1955-07-01 00:00:00

"This Is the American Earth" Exhibit

A photographic exhibit called “This Is the American Earth” is assembled by Ansel Adams and first displayed at the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. It later tours the country and inspires the Sierra Club’s successful series of "Exhibit Format" books.

1956-12-01 00:00:00

Dinosaur National Monument Dam Defeated

The Sierra Club participates in a successful campaign to prevent dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument.

1958-02-01 00:00:00

First Service Trips

The Sierra Club's Outing Committee organizes the first service trips, where participants work on trail maintenance and other public-service projects.

1960-01-01 00:00:00

"This Is the American Earth" published

Inspired by the success of the earlier traveling exhibit, the Sierra Club publishes "This Is the American Earth," the first in a series of "Exhibit Format " photographic books.

1960-01-01 00:00:00

Sierra Club Foundation Established

The Sierra Club Foundation is established. The Sierra Club Foundation works to educate, inspire, and empower humanity to preserve the natural and human environment by (1) providing resources to the Sierra Club and other nonprofit organizations for charitable programs that protect and restore the environment; (2) raising funds, donated for tax-exempt charitable purposes; and (3) preserving, enhancing and administering these funds so that future generations will inherit a healthy planet with wild places left to explore.

1962-01-01 00:00:00

Point Reyes National Seashore Established

The Sierra Club assists in establishing Point Reyes National Seashore in California and Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.

1964-01-01 00:00:00

Wilderness Act Passed

The Wilderness Act is passed by Congress after a long campaign by the Sierra Club and others.

1966-06-09 07:07:39

Effort to Dam the Grand Canyon Stopped

In 1966, the House of Representatives considers the Marble Canyon and Bridge Canyon dams, which would flood part of Grand Canyon National Park. Sierra Club leaders draft what will later be known as the “Grand Canyon Battle Ads,” a series that runs in the New York Times and other newspapers. The first ad blares: “Now Only You Can Save Grand Canyon From Being Flooded…For Profit,” and takes aim at the White House, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, and Congress. The most famous Grand Canyon ad reads, “SHOULD WE ALSO FLOOD THE SISTINE CHAPEL SO TOURISTS CAN GET NEARER THE CEILING?” The following year, plans to dam the Grand Canyon fall apart.

1967-02-01 00:00:00

First Sierra Club Calendars

The Sierra Club publishes its first calendars, which will go on to be bestsellers for the next 50 years.

1968-09-15 21:23:46

Redwood National Park Created

The Sierra Club leads effort to create Redwood National Park and assists in a successful fight to expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

1970-01-01 21:23:46

National Environmental Policy Act Passed

Efforts of the Sierra Club and others lead to passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) effective January 1, 1970. The act also establishes the President's Council on Environmental Quality to advise the president in the preparation of an annual report on the progress of federal agencies in implementing NEPA.

1970-06-20 21:23:46

Sierra Club Membership Passes 100,000

Sierra Club Chapters now cover all 50 states, and Sierra Club membership passes 100,000.

Sierra Club History

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