Oprah Goes Camping in Yosemite!

A memo from National Parks Director Jonathan B. Jarvis shares:

“On October 29 and November 1, Oprah Winfrey will devote two entire shows to her overnight camping trip in Yosemite National Park earlier this month. Ms. Winfrey’s visit originated with a letter of invitation from Park Ranger Shelton Johnson. While in the park, Shelton shared his Buffalo Soldierpersona – Elizy Bowman – at an evening campfire chat with Ms. Winfrey and others staying at the Lower Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley.

While the shows highlight Ms. Winfrey’s visit to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Tunnel View, her mule ride, and fly fishing on the Merced River, she also raises the question of why there aren’t more visitors of color in national parks.

We all struggle with this question – and what to do about it.

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.

Photo by Dudley Edmondson

Coming on the heels of Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary, these broadcasts promise to take the national parks to heights of visibility rarely seen before, particularly in mass media and pop culture.

At the national level, we are working with the Yosemite staff to create opportunities to leverage the broadcasts and deliver a National Park Service invitation to visit the soon-to-be 393 national parks and learn about these places owned by all Americans.

I encourage all of you to use this opportunity to reach out to your communities. For example, you could host viewing parties with the show as a discussion starter on how to increase the diversity of our visitors or hold “how-to” events over the weekend of October 30-31 to teach the basics of hiking, camping, and visiting for first-timers.


While we literally had years to prepare for the America’s Best Idea broadcast, there is now little more than a week to prepare for these episodes that will reach more than 30 million viewers and millions more through Oprah.com.

I am confident that our innovative and creative employees will rise to the occasion and create immediate opportunities for all Americans to connect with the national park idea.”

The Outdoor Afro community is all aflutter about this news, as a major goal of this site is about changing perceptions of who engages with the outdoors. It is especially important that women of color be shown engaging with natural spaces in a positive context, so that others can see the possibility and benefits of building a relationship with treasures such as our national parks — which belong to everyone.

We hope this won’t be the last time we see Oprah camping! Can’t wait to hear your comments about the show!

8 Thoughts on “Oprah Goes Camping in Yosemite!”

  • This is too awesome! I don’t usually watch Oprah but I will on this occasion! It’d be more awesome if she could highlight diversity of professionals in the outdoors too so that people can not only visit but they understand that it can be a job too!

    • I know Zuri! Oprah can influence ordinary people to consider positive engagement with the outdoors, especially our national parks: SCORE!

      She is also featuring Shelton Johnson who is Yosemite’s only African American Park Ranger — so glad for him, professions in the outdoors, the Parks, and the movement as a whole for this wonderful opportunity!

    • Totally Evonne — and you would make the perfect guest to share all you have done over the years to connect people to the outdoors.

  • I’m a frequent visitor to Yosemite National Park and sadly I’ve seen very few African Americans or Latinos. So I really appreciate what Oprah is doing to raise the visibility of this wonderful resource that belongs to every American without exception.

    Robert Montgomery

    • I agree with you Robert. And there are many, many national parks that are accessible to nearly everyone. I am so glad to see this increased visibility for our natural treasures! Thanks for your comment!

  • I missed the show.W Oprah’s mission to encourage more Black people to consider outdoors, camping and engaging our parks or was it to simply do an exposure trip?? I too would like to see us take advantage of more outside activities to broaden our intellect and understanding and improve our health.

    • Yes! I think the show accomplishes both visibility and great marketing for ideas and brands we can really trust. It also does the job well of making visible what was not apparent before — African American women enjoying the great outdoors! Thanks for your comment!

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