Project goal: Save heirloom apple trees in Yosemite Valley and preserve a visible legacy from the park’s early years.

Why this work matters: In the 1850s, Yosemite homesteaders planted orchards to grow produce for the people and livestock that were surging into the newly publicized part of the Sierra. Today, those still-standing orchards are recognized not just for their rare heirloom fruits, but also as links to the park’s pioneer past.

Curry Orchard, in eastern Yosemite Valley, is part of the Camp Curry Historic District, one of several areas in the park designated as “worthy of preservation” by the National Register of Historic Places. The apple trees that once flourished in that historic orchard, however, have fallen into poor condition after decades without concerted horticultural care. Unpruned branches and dead limbs sag over the Curry Village parking lot. The unwieldy overgrowth limits space for vehicles, creates a safety hazard, and impedes efforts to harvest apples before the fruit lures black bears into the parking area. 

The orchard is degraded, but not doomed. This project builds on a 2019 donor-supported analysis that identified Curry Orchard as one of the park’s most historically significant orchards — and as a resource ripe for restoration. Using a technique known as restorative pruning, a team of National Park Service arborists will stabilize, shape and strengthen the trees by carefully clipping branches and removing dead and broken limbs.

How your support helps: Your gifts will catalyze arborists’ efforts to reinvigorate century-old apple trees and restore the historical character of a 19th-century orchard, which will improve safety in the Curry Village parking area, create opportunities to educate visitors about life in the Valley in the 1800s, and even improve the park’s ability to deter Yosemite’s bears from seeking food in a high-traffic area.

Partnering with Yosemite National Park and John Muir National Historic Site.

Scott Carpenter

Cultural Resources Program Manager, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"Apples are long-lived trees, but need care to keep them viable. Absent restorative pruning, the orchard will continue declining and likely lose integrity as a contributing resource to the National Register-listed Camp Curry Developed Area."