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Eagle Rock Found!

by Gerald F. Wieczorek


As a member of the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied rock falls in Yosemite Valley since 1980, I have spent considerable effort locating the site of John Muir's Eagle Rock Avalanche. A previous (1991) description by Ron Limbaugh reprinted from the John Muir Newsletter, , Vol. 1, No. 4, Fall 1991) of my early work was printed in the John Muir Newsletter, under the title, "John Muir and the 1872 Earthquake: Where was Eagle Rock?" by Ron Limbaugh (1991).

Since 1991, I have determined and published (Wieczorek et al., 1992) the answer to this dilemma of finding the location of John Muir's 1872 Eagle Rock Avalanche.

The following is copied from p. 24 of this cited reference:

"This dilemma of the location of Eagle Rock was resolved by examining unpublished notes, letters, and journal articles from the archival mircrofilm collection of Muir's writings. In an unpublished journal description, Muir included additional details that he later edited and omitted parts of for publication. In the following citation, Muir crossed out the words in parentheses and added words shown in brackets for context:

"Yesterday (March 26) at half past 2, AM I was suddenly awakened out of a sound sleep by the movements of my Cabin, back of Blacks Hotel."

"Turning in the direction of the huge uproar I saw (that) the Eagle Rock [was] falling. (This rock) [It] was 1500-ft-high + (was) capped by a large stone somewhat like an eagle with wings outspread ready to take [for] flight. It did take flight (last) [that] night."

"A second [severe] grand shock occurred about half past 3 o'clock which caused a second rock avalanche in the same (direction) place as the first, that is, back of the Hutchings hotel."

Reprinted from the John Muir Papers, Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Libraries, Copyright 1984 Muir Hanna Trust and published with permission.

The Hutchings' Hotel (Hutchings' House or Upper Hotel) that Muir refers to was located at the site of Old Yosemite Village, which was between the present Chapel and Sentinel Bridge. In the spring of 1872 Muir was staying in a cabin behind Black's Hotel (located just southwest of BM-3965 and east of "Footbridge" on pl. 1). This location matches the description of a "half mile" or 0.8 km from the Hutchings' Hotel on the south side of the valley. the site of the release point of the rock fall would have been to the north of Union Point or Moran Point, and the talus deposit would be that behind the site of Old Yosemite Village.

If you have any additonal questions on this subject, I can be contacted by email or by telephone at 703-648-6788.

Wieczorek, G.F., Snyder, J.B., Alger, C.S., and Isaacson, K.A., 1992, Rock falls in Yosemite Valley, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 92-387, 38 p., 2 appendixes, 4 plates, 1 disk.
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Gerald F. Wieczorek
U.S. Geological Survey
National Center, MS 926A
Reston, VA 20192


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