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Preferred Structure Name:
Glacier Point Road Guardwalls w/ Embankments
Structure Number:
Other Structure Name(s):
Other Structure Name(s)
No records.
Yosemite National Park
Historic District:
Historic District
Glacier Point Road Historic District
Structure State:
Structure County:
Pacific West
Pacific Great Basin
Administrative Unit:
Yosemite National Park
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Determined Eligible - SHPO
National Register Date:
National Historic Landmark?:
Significance Level:
Short Significance Description:
Glacier Point Road Historic District:
SHPO – DOE 09/27/2007
Significance Level: Local
Significant for Criteria A and C
Period of Significance: 1882-1936
Long Significance Description:
The Glacier Point Road system is a cultural landscape located within Yosemite National Park. The landscape encompasses both the currently used Glacier Point Road and Old Glacier Point Road. The landscape is significant for its association with the development of tourism and scenic preservation and the development of transportation in Yosemite National Park (Criterion A). It is also significant for its association with the design style of naturalistic landscape architecture put forth by the NPS during the 1930s (Criterion C). It is recommended eligible for the NRHP under Criteria A and C as a historic district with local significance. The property includes 140 contributing features, at least 50 non-contributing features, and 12 unknown features.

Glacier Point Road is an intact example of an early park scenic road constructed using the first national NPS standards for road building. Glacier Point Road retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The road’s naturalistic character is apparent in the extant landscape characteristics and features, namely the road’s response to natural systems and features, spatial organization, topography, vegetation, land use, circulation, structures, views and vistas, small-scale features, and associated archeological resources, such as an example of the earliest type of park roads. For these reasons, Glacier Point Road is an excellent example of the type of road designed during the pinnacle of NPS rustic landscape design in the 1930s.
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year CE/BCE
End Year
End Year CE/BCE
Designer Occupation
Bureau of Public Roads
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
Road Retaining Wall
Primary Current Use:
Road Retaining Wall
Structure Contains Museum Collections?:
Other Functions or Uses:
Other Function(s) or Use(s)
Historic or Current
No records.
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
Special Feature
Structural Component(s)
Short Physical Description:
2 walls separate the turnouts at El Portal View, miles 1.85 & 1.90. Cutstone & mortar wall along downslope side of road. Approx 130-140' in length & 1-1/2' high. Approx 3-6 inches in height forms a foundation for parapet. Downslope side of wall is 3-4' in vertical height.
Long Physical Description:
Two low rock walls separate the turnouts at El Portal View. These walls were constructed when this section of road was built, from 1932-1933, and are depicted on the designs for the road with construction revisions shown (Appendix B1). The guardwalls represent an example of the standard NPS stone guardrail, Type No. 1, cross section “A” (Vint 1929). The 1929 standard designs for guardrails are reproduced in Appendix D. The two guardwalls are identical in construction. Wall No. 1 (Mile 1.88-1.90) is separated from Wall No. 2 (Mile 1.93-1.96) by a paved turnout approximately 140 feet in length. Dry laid rock embankments were constructed below the downslope side of the walls. These embankments are non-standard features for this type of guardwall, and appear to be some combination of the standard stone guardwall and an adaptation of the standard “cement rubble masonry walls” illustrated in the standard design drawings included in Appendix B1. They were built at the same time as the guardwalls (depicted on design drawings as “hand-laid rock embankment”), and are consistent in materials and design with the upper portion of the walls. The guardwalls are constructed of roughly shaped, mortared cobbles two to three courses thick on the road side and three to four courses high on the bank side, with no crenellations (Figures
21 and 22). The rough appearance of the cobbles retains a rustic style. Each wall is approximately 130 feet in length, and curves back from the road at either end. The walls are approximately 25 inches in height above the road surface and include a stone curb extending from the base of the wall. The curbs are approximately 3- to 7-inches high, varying due to the thickness of the adjacent asphalt. The downslope sides of the walls are about 3 to 4 feet in vertical height above the sloping stone embankment wall. On the downslope side of the guardwalls, dry laid rock embankments support the roadway and guardwalls for almost the entire length of both walls, a total of approximately 250 feet of embankment (Figures 23 and 24). The embankment supporting Wall No. 1 is approximately 10 to 25 feet in height, and the embankment supporting Wall No. 2 is approximately 6 to 15 feet in height (Unrau 1990:39, 46). The rocks that make up the embankments are generally larger and rougher in appearance than the rocks that form the upper walls, but they are carefully laid to form a smooth face. Both walls are intact, although some rocks have come loose from the parapet and there are cracks in the masonry. The southern end of Wall No. 1 has partially dislodged stones. Wall No. 2 shows some evidence of patching. The rock embankments at El Portal View are largely intact, although some stones are loose and some are missing from the embankment below Wall No. 2. A great deal of attention was paid to design of the outer (downslope) side of these walls and embankments, likely because they are clearly visible from the adjacent parking areas. The guardwalls and rock embankments are character-defining features of the road.