Mariposa Grove bids farewell to tram service

As of Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, the tram service in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park ended forever. In accordance with the provisions of the Mariposa Grove Restoration Plan, which will take two years to implement, the open-air tram has been dropped from the services that the National Park Service will provide.

Since 1865, tours have been conducted through the Mariposa Grove via horse-drawn carriages, stagecoaches, Model T’s, flatbed trucks and the open-air tram service that operated from 1970 until this last week. Generations of visitors drove wagons and automobiles through the grove and the Wawona Tunnel Tree before it toppled over in the winter of 1968-69. Shortly thereafter, access to private vehicles was prohibited from driving through the grove.

Joe Nelson, the tram’s most recent driver, began working as a shuttle driver for Delaware North in June of 2013, transporting visitors from the General Store in Wawona to the Mariposa Grove. He became a tram driver during his second season and had the distinct pleasure of operating four tours a day through the grove.

“During the summer of 1968, when I was 14, my family came to Yosemite from Florida, and we were among the last group of visitors to the park who were ever allowed to drive our car through the grove and the Wawona Tunnel Tree before it fell the following winter,” Nelson said. “Of all the places we saw that summer: Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, and Sequoia, Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove left the deepest and most lasting impression on me, thus was my impetus to return to the area as an adult when I moved here from Florida in 1999.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 3:15 p.m., Nelson gained the distinction of being the last person in the 150-year history of Yosemite National Park to drive a tram tour through the Mariposa Grove.

- Staff Report