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Yosemite NP/"Elmer" calls


Yosemite Sam wrote at 2006-07-12 19:33:02
I lived in Yosemite Valley from 1945 to 1960. I believe your 2nd answere is the best.  Looking for a lost boy in one of the camp grounds.

I remember calling "Elmer" in 1950!

Blue genius wrote at 2008-07-24 17:48:34
The real answer is theory 2. There was a lost boy in camp 14 named Elmer was lost in the woods. His frantic mother was calling out his named and the rest of the camp started to help. (There wasn't many people then so the camps weren't full so the word spread quickly) Elmer was found but the next night they made a joke out of it and started to call his name and every day at dawn this yosemite tradition keeps on.

pea wrote at 2008-09-02 15:44:20
Elmer was a handy man in the Park...he would go around finding things to improvise with any potential repairs that might be needed.  At one point, Elmer lost his leg in an accident...and was in need of another one.

It is said that Elmer would go out at night looking for another leg, to replace his own.

He finally found a leg to match his own and in the dead of night stole it from another.

This is why, when calling out for Elmer in the may hear someone else in the park crying out "Gimme' back my leg..."  We  have heard the response, many times....

Jessie Jones wrote at 2008-11-22 01:59:39
I was there every summer in my early teens, the story told to me was that a man called Elmer,invited

many friends from the valley below to join him at his barbecue, something happened and his friends could not make it up the mountain. Elmer so mad at friends for not showing and not knowing the reason why, pushed his fire over the mountain, and left

never to be seen again.  His friends calling out to him every night, then started this great firefall.

Darren wrote at 2009-05-30 15:56:37
I found an answer to this question on this website:

This is what it said:

Searching For Elmer

One of the true stories of Yosemite is as follows: For years when you went to Yosemite when dusk was upon the Valley you would hear everyone calling "Elmer" The call was made over and over with people answering from different parts of the camp. There were so many versions about how this tradition started, but Earky and I know exactly how it started.

We had gone to Camp 14 one evening for the program. After the Firefall everyone was starting back to his or her camp. A little boy named Elmer was lost and a frantic mother kept yelling his name over and over again. All the campers got in the act of trying to find this little lost boy and everyone was yelling the name "Elmer". Elmer was found, but his name lived on. From that night forward Elmer was the game we all played. How that little boy must have hated it. We haven't camped for several years now, so I don't know if the tradition is still going on. It was up to at least 1995 and this event happened over 60 years ago.

rudy wrote at 2010-07-21 23:17:24
oh just got back from camping at yosemite the best time of my life but to answer the question is everyone still yelling elmers name ohhhhh they are everynight 1or2 will start then everyone is it is a legend of yosemite that will never go away and yes the bears are thier too everynight it was a blast...

T Woods wrote at 2010-08-03 17:42:14
Your 2nd answer option is correct. A lady was looking for a son one night after the firefall and others joined in. He was found safe and sound! Every night after that others who didn't know the reason the name Elmer was being called began calling Elmer again, and it has continued every night. I know 1st hand from a dear lady who went To Yosemite every July for a week growing up. She was there the night elmer was lost and was there many nights after that and every night when people camping continued to call elmer.

DE DE DI DI wrote at 2011-04-28 01:53:44

Dawn wrote at 2012-02-02 20:01:40
We also grew up thinking "Elmer" was the lost boy. And to answer the question "Do they still call for Elmer @ sundown?" Yes they do!!! We make a point of going to Yosemite twice a year last time being October 2011. We are returning in May 2012 to keep the tradition going that started in 1964. At that time the "fire" did "fall" , you could park your car in the Mirror Lake parking lot and walk out into MIRROR Lake itself in the summer and with HALF DOME not only directly above you it was "mirrored" in the lake as well. There were no shuttle buses, bears did scavenge the garbage dumps adjacent to CURRY VILLAGE and it was nothing to see a mother bear with her cubs up the tree eating what ever they had stolen from us. HAPPY ISLES had a nature museum where you could learn about Yosemite and its animals and how to take care of this beautiful creation.  What memories!!

Jim Brown wrote at 2012-06-23 23:46:15
Well my family used to go to Yosemite every summer back in the 60's, and I always thought they were yelling Wilbur. Anyway, I never heard any of these stories, but they seem like good urban legends.

Barbara Mossberg wrote at 2012-11-05 00:45:49
I also was camping in Yosemite since 1950 and the calling of Elmer! was a nightly ritual. We all joined in. It was a jokey but marvelous kind of establishing our community of fellow souls experiencing the park together; we all share in the common experience of a family member being lost and empathizing with the frantic mother!

cattlejoe wrote at 2013-09-10 03:49:55
Just got back form Yosemite August 2013. Told my daughter to yell Elmer around 9 pm (firefall time) and sure enough people joined in! I have been going to Yosemite since I was around 10 years old. I will be 65 this November. Elmer is a  such a great tradition!

Yosemite Girl wrote at 2014-06-23 09:18:06
so funny!a ranger told me that elmer was a mortician from san francisco.Hw was camping in the valley and a lady camper fell in love with him.but he didn't feel the same,so he packed up and left yosemite without telling anyone and the lady went through the valley shouting his name,searching for him!my great grandmother used to tell the story of elmer the bad bear,another elmer story.Elmer was a bad bear that the rangers kept taking up into the high country cause he was being bad in the valley.he kept coming back.then supposedly the rangers took elmer up to glacier point and pushed him off the edge,killing him.supposedly the elmer calls were protesting his many stories of elmer,its funny to hear stories of elmer i never heard before.

Rich Barna wrote at 2015-06-12 00:08:10
I have been camping in Yosemite for many years. I loved the story sooo much I just wrote a children’s book about it. The Story of Elmer in Yosemite. Check it out! - See more at:

rendobot wrote at 2015-07-02 05:09:11
This was the worst part of our camping trip in the park.  Trying to rest after hiking, playing and relax by the campfire - only to hear really horrible competitions back and forth between campers yelling Elmer over and over and over.  It was really just the worst.  I hear these "good memories" stories and I think it make this beautiful place go down one notch for our otherwise perfect experience.  Elmer needs to get lost.

Lorene wrote at 2015-08-19 23:27:31
I grew up in California and went to Yosemite every year while we lived there.  We always yelled Elmer, at the time I was told it was to help a little boy find his way back to camp.  The last time I was there was in 94.  Glad they are still doing it!

Richard Barna wrote at 2015-09-04 18:07:43
I spent a year going through the stories and legends. And the best I can find Elmer was a young boy who got lost from camp 4. The chant picked up when his frantic mother started calling for him. I loved the story so much that I wrote a children's book about it. It is called the Story of Elmer in Yosemite. It is available on amazon and Barnes and Noble. if you are interested check it out!  

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MaryJo Mellado Willey


I have been going to Yosemite National Park since I was 10 years old (back in 1970), and consider one of my favorite places in the world. I have camped there, stayed in cabins, Housekeeping, and the tent cabins in Curry Village. I have gone on various hikes, and visited different sites.

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