Big Oak Flat is on Highway 120, one of the main routes to Yosemite. The little town was first known as Savage Diggings, after James Savage, early-day miner, soldier and trader. Savage is best remembered as the first Caucasian to see the Yosemite Valley when he trailed a group of Native Americans to their secluded paradise.

The town's current name derives from the big oak that once stood here. Depending on which early-day account one reads, the diameter of the tree was estimated at 11 to 13 feet. It was killed by miners who dug under and around the tree to a depth of five feet, killing the tree. Much gold was found here—an estimated $28 million worth. A few stone and adobe buildings dating from the 1850s remain. One of them, pictured below, is the IOOF Hall, built in 1853.

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