Charles L. Weed, Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California, 1865

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park

       This is a photograph by Charles L. Weed of Mirror Lake in the Yosemite Valley in 1865. At the top of this photo, the beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen standing enormously over the Yosemite Valley. On the top of the mountains, trees and shrubs can be seen together living in harmony as sunlight falls down on them. In the middle of the photograph, a forest of pines grows providing cover for various animals that thrive throughout the valley. 


       Just below the forest of pines, Mirror Lake shows just how majestic it truly is. The water is so still, it gives an almost perfect reflection of the top of the photograph. Even the cracks and bulges of the mountain can be seen in the reflection. The only imperfection of the reflection, is the light ice where the pine forest meets the lake.  The reflection of the trees and mountains appear to be diving deep into the lake. The black and white photo doesn’t capture the light blue sky that would be reflected between the mountains and above the pines.This picture portrays beauty and calm in harmony and is one of the reasons for this location's early fame which is now part of Yosemite National Park. However, this snapshot in time only shows a little into how this place came to be and what it has become or becoming today.




       I was created a long time ago when glaciers roamed the world. The world was so cold prior to my beginning but, without the cold, I may have never come to be. As the glaciers flowed past where I now sit, landslides flowed in their wake. As the glaciers melted away, I was slowly being created. The weight of the glacier sinking the ground. The landslides allow the ground to fall deeper to where water can fill the sunken ground. As the world continued to warm, more and more rain came down filling the hole created by the glaciers and landslides that I now thrive in. The world was beginning to grow as my very existence was coming to be.


      The mountains already stood tall when I first saw them. I could feel the excitement from them as they now could see their peaks on my surface for the first time.  From my view, the mountains looked like they kissed the sky. As time passed, there were small changes at first. Grasses began filling the valley and surrounding me. I was afraid at first, hoping the grass wouldn’t overtake me as it did the valley. Small shrubs and mosses began growing after the grass.. Slowly, a few flowers began growing and that was when I knew major changes were going to becoming.


     Trees started to come in starting small and spread out from each other. The trees grew tall and strong leaving shade over parts of me. The trees did not come close to the height of the mountains. Unlike the mountains, the trees will always be able to see themselves on my surface. Their excitement is for their existence and new found life. On a windy or stormy day, trees can be heard crying from their reflection being gone. The mountains will send down rocks in anger at the sky from taking away their image. While all of these changes above my surface were occurring, changes below my surface were also beginning but hidden by the picture on my face. So many species of fish live under my surface. During hot days when the sun is heating me, the fish will stay in the shade provided by the trees. The fish don’t always live with me as they sometimes move using the creek that is connected to me. The world around me is beginning to work together in harmony. 


       Over a long time, many species came to inhabit the valley with me. It was smaller animals at first and then larger ones came after. The bears were the first species I can remember that fished. They didn’t do this very often, but it was an amazing thing to witness the first time I saw it. A bear who looked strong enough to break a tree in half waited patiently at my waters edge. I was curious to why it was just sitting there hovering its face over me. Out of nowhere, the bear drags its paw violently fast and holds up a fish. This was truly an amazing thing to see.  More often than not, I am only accompanied by the bears when they need a quick refreshment. Bobcats I rarely see because they normally visit at night along with the coyotes. I can hear their cries in the valley from time to time. The big horn sheep almost never come to visit as they stay higher up out of the valley. It’s safer up there for them away from the bears and bobcats. However, on a quiet day, you can hear two of them banging heads as the sound echoes across the valley.


       Much time has passed since I was created. Many species have come and moved on and even died off sadly. My main company is fish and small animals. The fish are not that talkative and don’t do very much. They just swim and blow bubbles every now and again. Sometimes a carp or bass will begin whipping their tail at my surface. That only stirs up ripples that cause the picture on my surface to disappear for a short time. This is when I started noticing changes of myself. They are only very small changes. I could start to notice that the creek that connected to me was slowly depositing sediment into me. I could sense that the creek would stop this process if it could, but it had no say in the matter. This was only a small change that didn’t necessarily make me worry. A little more time passed when I began to notice a new species. 


       At first, they were like any new species. There weren't many of them at first showing up here and there as scavengers. They would even occasionally bathe and swim in me. Then I noticed them doing things that others did not. They would occasionally cut down a tree and build structures that they would sleep in. This species also introduced me to fire. I later came to find out that fire was no match for me. As time passed, this species grew largely and I came to know them as humans. They didn’t live near, but I see a few each day and as time passed, I would begin to see more humans as time went on. This species was a pleasant surprise that I came to love as they would swim with the fish in me. 


      Then came my name, Mirror Lake. The humans gave me my name, and eventually one built a house on my shores that was named after me. During the day time, humans came to see me and they stayed during the night for the house which played loud music making the valley more alive at night than before. Deep down though, I knew none of this would last. My time in this world was slowly starting to tick down. Those little changes that were brought in from the creek was starting to show me my future. I was becoming more shallow. My edges didn’t reach as far as they once did. The sediment being deposited into me was slowly beginning my transformation to something else. I was known as Mirror Lake. How could I not be a Lake? As long as it took me to get my name, I knew I wouldn’t be that forever. 


       It was then, that the humans began realizing what was happening to me. I was becoming more of a seasonal lake. I was becoming less of a lake in the late fall and winter, and more like myself in the spring and early summer. The humans then tore down the house that was built on my shores. This was when they built the first dam. Initially it worked and I was overjoyed. The mountain's excitement was high again believing they would always be able to see their reflection. The trees were no longer fearful that they would have to know what it’s like to not see themselves on my surface. 


       After awhile, the same process as before began to happen. My edges began to shrink and I became more shallow. The humans then built a second dam. Again, this was a short term fix that couldn’t stop this natural process that was happening to me. This was my destiny and I could feel that the mountains and trees knew it too. The humans built a third natural dam that didn’t help. The humans began doing a technique called dredging where they would clean out my bed which also only slowed down my time to reach my destiny. 


       I truly appreciate what the humans have tried to do for me. They have given me more time than what I was originally given. This bond with the humans has been like nothing I’ve experienced before. They come from all over the world to see me. My destiny has different plans for me. I nor the humans can change what that has instore for me. I am no longer a lake, I am now a seasonal lake. I am halfway through my transformation. At my end, I will become a meadow, I will no longer reflect my surroundings beauty back to them. The mountains mourn that they will no longer be able to see their sides and peaks. The trees will eventually know what life will be like without me. I am on my way to becoming a distant memory and I think the humans know it’s time to let this process overtake me. I don’t want to stop being a place of joy for the humans and animals that have come to know me. I don’t want to stop being me or what I am. However, I have outlasted many species. I have lived a long life. The trees are not older than me, but will be here when I’m gone. The humans will be here when I’m gone. I am Mirror Lake.

       This Picture is of modern day Mirror Lake. The reflection is still there of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Pine forest has grown since Charles L. Weed’s photo in 1865. This picture portrays what has become of Mirror Lake since the 1865 photo. This photo shows the vegetation growing tightly as it appears to be shrinking Mirror Lake. The “Lake” in this photo appears to be more of a pond or a creek. On the left side of the photo you can see the land reaching out to the middle of the water. That land seems unclear to whether or not it is man made or natural. The way the rocks are positioned would lead one to assume it is man made. The pine forest that takes up much of this photo is still thriving. The cloud right beside the mountain can slightly be seen in the reflection on the water. The vegetation growing up the mountain can be clearly seen in the reflection from Mirror Lake.

       This picture shows such a clear reflection of the environment. The black and white photo does not do Mirror Lake justice in it’s true beauty. It is sad to see this lake slowly disappearing in this photo. This picture shows beauty and destruction in the same photo when compared to Weed’s photo. It portrays beauty in the calm waters of Mirror Lake with a perfect reflection. The destruction in the photo can be seen as the lake does not appear to be a lake. If one wishes to see the last of this majestic lake, they need to plan a trip soon. 




1.) “Mirror Lake California Fishing, Camping, Boating.” AllTrips - Yosemite National Park,

2.) “Different Types of Animals You'll See On a Hike In Yosemite: Scenic Wonders Yosemite Cabins & Vacation Rentals.” Yosemite's Scenic Wonders,

3.) Samco, Jeff. “Yosemite Nature Notes 46(2) (1977).” Yosemite Nature Notes 46(2) (1977), "Mirror Lake: A Tale of Fulfillment,",

4.) Charles L. Weed, Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California, 1865

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