Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide Project
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Sierra Business Council have partnered with the National Geographic Society to capture the history and heritage of the Sierra Nevada region through this interactive Web site and print map. History buffs and adventurers, backpackers and foodies, birders and sightseers can discover unique destinations based on recommendations from those who know best—residents of the Sierra Nevada.
© Dean Pennala and Inyo County
The Sierra Nevada has long been a place of human drama and aspiration. For centuries, the rugged landscape provided sustenance for the region’s Native Americans and mountain communities. However, at the turn of the 19thcentury, their lives were forever changed by fortune seekers arriving from around the world in search of gold. In the early 20th century, farmers traveled from Japan and Europe to grow fruit. Later, World War II veterans established some of the country’s first ski resorts. Ever since, entrepreneurs, nature lovers and explorers have made lasting impressions on the range. On Main Street or in the backcountry, it’s easy to meet the people of the Sierra, whether they play piano at a historic hotel or lead tours through limestone caverns and old mines. Some sell vintage bottles in Murphys or hold traditional pow-wows on the Modoc plateau; others build hiking and mountain biking trails, work to restore high Sierra meadows, dine on local gourmet foods in an old barn in Sierra Valley, or strum the washtub bass in Bridgeport.
A community’s livelihood is often born of the land. Among the farmlands of the western foothills, persimmons are grown on a parcel an immigrant grandfather scrimped to buy a century ago. Every autumn the family hand massages and dries persimmons in order to make a traditional Japanese delicacy called hoshigaki. At the Feather River headwaters in Sierra Valley, a family produces cold weather vegetables on their hundred year old farm to sell to local families. In the central and southern foothills, wine grapes are being raised on old cattle ranchlands. In the town of Springville, a working cattle ranch and nature preserve protects historic sites, hosts green weddings, and promotes outdoor education exercises that expand the mind.
Caretakers, curators, and sometimes curiosities themselves—Sierra Nevada residents honor and savor the past while inviting us all to share in the future of this remarkable “Range of Light”.
What is Geotourism?
Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place's character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place. Through this site we invite you to visit and experience the distinctive landscape and communities of the Sierra Nevada. Visit National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations to find out more about Geotourism and discover other places where local communities have come together to encourage responsible tourism.