Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Timeline of John Muir’s Life

Through his tireless advocacy and his writings, Muir helped preserve the Yosemite Valley, led the fight against the Hetch Hetchy dam – the first nationwide battle of the environmental movement – and was the force behind the creation of the National Park Service. This chronology of Muir’s life plots a history of his travels, career in writing, conservation efforts, and political victories for the National Parks. See many of these moments reenacted in John Muir in the New World.

April 21, 1838 – Born in Dunbar, Scotland to Daniel Muir & Ann Gilrye Muir.

1841 – Begins school in Dunbar, at age 3.

Spring 1849 – Muir leaves Scotland and arrives at Fountain Lake (now Ennis Lake) Wisconsin with brother, sister and father. Remainder of family arrives later that year.

1853 – Muir develops interest in mechanical invention at age 15.

September 1860 – Leaves home; exhibits inventions at State Agriculture Fair in Madison. Muir meets Mrs. Jeanne C. Carr and James Davie Butler at age 22.

January 1861 –  Muir enrolls at University of Wisconsin.

Winter-Spring 1861 – Muir leaved the University and teaches public school in McKeebey District near Madison.

March 1862 – Muir returns to the university.

June 1863 – Leaves University, intending to enter medical school; returns to Fountain Lake farm to await a draft call and to work for sister Sarah and husband David Galloway.

July 1863 – Muir embarks on a geo-biological walking tour into Iowa with two friends.

March-September 1864 – Muir goes on a botany expedition through lower Canada.

September 1864 – Begins work as mechanic at sawmill and rake and broom factory operated by William Trout near Meaford, Canada.

March 1866 – The rake and broom factory Factory burns, destroying John Muir’s field journals and putting him out of the job.

May 1866 – Muir returns to US; finds job at carriage plant in Indianapolis.

1867 – An eye accident at carriage plant causes temporary blindness.

April 1867 – Muir’s eyesight recovers. He decides to commit his life to nature study.

September 1867 – Begins 1,000-mile walk to Gulf of Mexico.

Fall 1867 – Muir encounters a long illness in Florida; convalesces near Cedar Keys.

January 1868 – Arrives in Havana, Cuba, where he spent four weeks.

March 1868 – Brief stay in New York en route to San Francisco via Isthmus of Panama. Muir arrives in San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama route to the West Coast.

John Muir (portrayed by Joe Butler) in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media

John Muir (portrayed by Joe Butler) in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media

April-June 1868 – Muir takes his first visit to Yosemite via Pacheco Pass, Snelling and Crane Flat.

Summer 1868-Spring 1869 – Begins job as sheepherder for John Connel, alias Smokey Jack. Muir takes up serious study of Sierra Geology and botany.

June-September 1869 – Herds sheep for Pat Delany in Tuolomne Meadow region.

November 1869-October 1870 – Muir hikes, climbs and studies Sierra Nevada range.

July 1870 – Tours upper Yosemite.

August 1870 – Meets Professor Joseph LeConte; joints ten-day excursion to Yosemite high country, Bloody Canyon, and Mono Lake.

October-December 1870 – Returns to work for Pat Delaney along the Tuolomne River near LaGrange.

January 1871 – Resumes work as sawyer for Hutchings in Yosemite.

May 1871 – Emerson visits Muir in Yosemite Valley.

July 1871 –  Unhappy with Hutchings’ treatment, Muir quits his job.

July-August 1871 – Exploring expedition to Mono Lake and High Sierra back to Yosemite.

August 1871 – Muir begins an intensive glacier study as preparation for book proposed for Boston Academy of Sciences.

September 1871 – Muir’s first article on glaciers sent to New York Tribune.

Fall 1871 – Numerous short trips to study glacial evidence in Yosemite high country, including trip to Mt. Lyell and head of Merced River.

November 1871 – First trip down Tuolomne River to Hetch Hetchy.

Winter 1871-Spring 1872 – Rooms at Black’s Hotel; works on manuscript drafts.

March 1872 – Muir family sells Hickoy Hill farm and moves to Portage.

April 1872 – Muir builds log cabin in Yosemite Valley.

July 1872 – Meets Asa Gray, considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century, in Yosemite Valley.

August-September 1872 – Muir takes a fifteen day trip to Illilouette Basin.

September 1872 – Nine-day trip with Merrill Moores to Hetch Hetchy. Later Muir meets William Keith; joints him in excursion to Mt. Ritter.

November 1872 – Keith takes Muir to Bay Area; Muit meets Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, other notables.  Has first California photograph taken by Rulofson.

December 1872 – Returns to Yosemite Valley; winter excursions to Glacier Pt., Tenaya Canyon. Muir continues his work on glacier articles.

June-July 1873 – Six-week trip to High Sierra, Tuolomne Canyon.

October-November 1873 – Climbs Mt. Whitney from East; visits Mono Lake.

November 1873-August 1874 –   Moves to Oakland to write; lives at home of J.B. McChesney; meets John Swett. Muir works on Sierra Studies.

October-November 1874 – Trip to Lake Tahoe and Mt. Shasta; climbs Shasta; spends week in snowstorm at 9,000 ft. elevation.

December 1874 – Muir completes the Shasta trip.

May 1875 – Trip to Yosemite high country.

July 1875 – Trip to southern Sierra.

August 1875 – Muir follows Merced River.

September 1875 – Muir takes a three-month trip with his mule “Brownie” through the South Sierras.

January 1876 – First public lecture in Sacramento at Literary Institute.

January -February 1876 – Joins William Keith in first Sierra forest conservation effort, lectures, writes articles and lobbies Sacramento.

Summer 1876 – Tours Sierra mountains for San Francisco Bulletin.

June 1879 – Muir lectures on glaciers at Sunday school convention in Yosemite.

July-Sep 1880 – Muir takes his second trip to Alaska.

May-October 1881 – Muir takes his third trip to Alaska on U.S.S. Corwin.

Spring 1887 – Muir accepts an offer to edit and contribute to Picturesque California.

July-September 1888
– Muir take s a trip with William Keith to Shasta and the Puget Sound. Muir climbs Mt. Rainier.

June-August 1890 – Muir embarks on his fourth trip to Alaska.

Reenactment of John Muir with a Sequoia tree in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media.

Reenactment of John Muir with a Sequoia tree in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media.

September-October 1890 – Sequoia and General Grant Parks created without Kings Canyon.

October 1890 – The Yosemite National Park bill passes Congress.

November 1890 – Muir campaigns to include Kings Canyon into Sequoia National Park.

June 1892 – Helps organize the Sierra Club to unite West Coast conservationists.

1892-93 – Muir backs intensive lobbying efforts to fight Caminetti Bill.

December 1893 – Muir becomes active in campaign to create Mt. Rainier National Park.

March 1895 – Caminetti bill, which proposed to cut down the boundaries of Yosemite National Park, is defeated in Congress.

June 1896 – Due to a premonition of mother’s illness, he travels to see her before she dies. He then travels east to receive degree from Harvard.

July 1896 – Muir joins the Forestry Commission in Chicago. He goes to Black Hills, Yellowstone, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

August 1896 – Muir takes his Fifth Trip to Alaska.

August-September 1896 – Muir returns to the Forestry Commission at Crater Lake. He tours southern Cascades, Santa Lucia coast range, Grand Canyon, and South Sierras.

August-September 1897 – Muir goes on his sixth trip to Alaska.

July-November 1898 – Muir takes a 5-month trip east to many forests with Forestry Commission.

May-August 1899 – Muir takes his seventh trip to Alaska with the Harriman Alaska Expedition.

May 1903 – Muir embarks on a three-day trip to Yosemite with President Theodore Roosevelt.

May 1903-May 1904 – Twelve-month trip around the world.  Joins C.S. Sargent and son. Visits London, Paris, Holland, Berlin, Russia, Korea, Japan, China.  September 1904 Sargents return and JM continues Alone to India, Egypt, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Philippines, and Japan.

1906 – Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove are added to Yosemite National Park.

John Muir (portrayed by Howard Weamer) in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media.

John Muir (portrayed by Howard Weamer) in Yosemite. Photo by Bob Roney © Global Village Media.

June 1907 – One month trip with Sierra Club to Yosemite high country and Hetch-Hetchy.

June-July 1908 – Muir goes on a three-week trip with Sierra Club to southern Sierra mountains.

August-September 1908 – Muir takes a three-week stay at Pelican Bay, Oregon as guest of Edward Henry Harriman, a colleague from his Alaska expeditions. Here, Muir dictates his autobiography.

February-March 1909 – Muir goes on a six-week expedition to Arizona and southern California.  He is joined by John Burroughs at Grand Canyon. John Muir and Edward Henry Harriman go to Lower Colorado River to study flood control problems.

April 1910 – Muir completes My First Summer in the Sierra.

April-June 1911 – Muir takes a three-week trip east on Hetch-Hetchy and person business. He travels through New York, Washington, Boston, and finally New Haven where he receives and honorary degree from Yale University.

October 1912 – Muir takes a Two-week trip to Yosemite Valley for the National Parks Convention.

November 1912 – Muir begins work on Alaska Journals.

May 1913 – Muir receives an honorary degree from the University of California.

December 24, 1914 – John Muir dies in Los Angeles, California.