Kowana Valley Folk School

About Us

“Kowana” is the Miwok Indian word for music. When we came upon this lovely mountain valley and became the new stewards of the land, we decided to name it in honor of those that stewarded the land for so many years before.

Coming down out of the snow to spend their winters here, the Yosemite Miwok Indians ground acorns, hunted with obsidian arrows, and left their mark in the form of deep grinding holes, obsidian flakes and arrowheads , and darkened soils where their village was.

Later, in the 1850s, the goldrush came and this valley became a supply spot run by a businessman named Alexander G. Black for the gold seekers hoping to make their fortune. In 1856, a gold seeker by the name of Jean-Nicolas Perlot who knew the Indian trails and the way to the great valley of the Yose-mites, was commissioned by William Coulter of Coulterville to open a trail for tourists to make the journey. While they could get to Kowana Valley by stagecoach, beyond this point the path was no more than a few feet wide in spots, and  too narrow for a stagecoach.  It was only for the hardiest of  travelers.

Named the Coulterville Free Trail, it was the first route into Yosemite Valley. It was the route that John Muir took on his first trip into Yosemite, and “Blacks” (now Kowana Valley) was a place he got his mail during his time in Yosemite Valley.   Black operated his hotel here, from 1858 till around 1870.

By then, the Big Oak Flat Road and the road that now goes through Wawona opened up to travelers who could travel by stagecoach, and the Coulterville trail and the hotel here fell into disuse.

Various families homesteaded here over the next century or so, and was once again mined in the 1950s.

In the mid 1990s, Richard and Lynn Ferry happened upon this remote gem on a long forgotten road in the middle of the Sierras.

18 years later, a dream was realized, a place to bring people where they could truly relax and take a big breath, experience a sense of community, immerse themselves in the arts, and leave the noise and distractions of everyday life behind.