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Oprah Visits Yosemite National Park

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Oprah Winfrey will feature her visit to Yosemite National Park on her show this Friday and next Monday. Photo via www.oprah.com

In a blast of media exposure that just must rival, if not surpass, Ken Burns' documentary on the national parks, Oprah Winfrey is about to devote two shows to her visit to Yosemite National Park.

The talk show host, who wonders why more African-Americans don't visit national parks, went camping at the invitation of Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson, an African-American who has worked both to preserve the memory of Buffalo Soldiers and to lure more African-Americans to the parks.

On Friday and next Monday Ms. Winfrey will showcase the visit she made to Yosemite earlier this month.

Ranger Johnson, who was featured in Ken Burns National Parks: America's Best Idea, invited Oprah to visit the park several years ago. During her trip to the park the ranger, leading an evening campfire program at the Lower Pines Campground in the Yosemite Valley, told the story of a detachment of Buffalo Soldiers -- African-American Army cavalry troops -- patrolling the Yosemite backcountry on horseback.

The two shows will feature Oprah's visit and activities such as fly-fishing and a mule ride. Oprah also questions why there aren’t more visitors of color in national parks. Ranger Johnson has been working on this issue for a long time.

"All Snoop Dogg has to do is go camping in Yosemite and it would change the world," said Ranger Johnson in a San Francisco Chronicle article last year. "If Oprah Winfrey went on a road trip to the national parks, it would do more than I have done in my whole career."

The ranger was clearly excited by Oprah's visit and called it a seismic event. See his youtube interview.

In a memo published in Outdoor Afro, a blog that strives to reconnect African-Americans with nature, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said that, "Ms. Winfrey’s visit and the popularity of her show offer the National Park Service an unprecedented opportunity to reach a vast audience of potential first-time visitors and to start a conversation with them."

Oprah's shows will reach more than 30 million viewers and many more on her website, Oprah.Com.

Watch the show on Friday 29, read a review on the Traveler this weekend, and join the conversation.

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Comments

I have it on good authority that both the staff of Indiana Dunes, as well as a few of their partner organizations, have invited Oprah on many occasions over the past 10 years.


What a stunning revelation, and hopefully a powerful movement in the future.

Ms. Winfrey’s admission was so moving, I had to write about it quite at length:
How Divided We Remain

Props to Ranger Johnson for all his work.


I went to Yosemite this past summer for the first time. I made my reservation one week before going, so it is not always impossible to score a campsite. BTW, I went in July.


Rick B:
I guess Everypark USA is either close to or remote from SOMEbody.

Sure. Yosemite is a pretty short trip from large population centers in Modesto and Fresno.


I guess Everypark USA is either close to or remote from SOMEbody.


Anonymous:
Oprah could have done more good by visiting a park that is closer to home - Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Yosemite is a great place, but if you want to encourage people to visit their national parks, don't pick one that is remote and hard to get to as your example. Indiana Dunes is in view of Chicago, it's free, you can get there on public transportation, and it is visited by lots of African Americans!

Oprah Winfrey made this trip after a direct invitation from Yosemite park ranger Shelton Johnson.


Oprah could have done more good by visiting a park that is closer to home - Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Yosemite is a great place, but if you want to encourage people to visit their national parks, don't pick one that is remote and hard to get to as your example. Indiana Dunes is in view of Chicago, it's free, you can get there on public transportation, and it is visited by lots of African Americans!


I had the chance to see the Oprah show, it was a delight. Oprah and her very nice friend did a great service for America today, they went on a camping trip to an iconic National Park, and did it with fun and good humor. Yes, it is hard work to go camping, but you get the hang of it after awhile, provided of course that you can find a campsite in our more popular parks. Ranger Sheldon Johnson was excellent, he is an exceptional Park Ranger. I want to support Tarsha Scovens comment, I reacted to Oprah's show much as she has. Just a few years ago I was invited to testify at a Congressional Parks Sub-Committee hearing held in Yosemite on the very issue of camping and weather to restore the sites or not. Most of the testimony revolved around contracting out the campgrounds, those few citizens that wanted to speak on behalf of the camping community were last on the list and were pretty much cut-off. But what struck me the most was all there congressmen in attendance, spent most of the three days they were there, at the Ahwahnee Hotel, $400.00 a night. To Oprah's everlasting credit, she went out in the campground, experienced the thundershowers, mosquitos, etc. I have now become a fan of hers and will be watching Wednesday.


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