10 Amazing Views in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is justifiably famous for amazing views. From Glacier Point to Olmsted Point to Tunnel View, Yosemite provides visitors with stunning, jaw-dropping scenery on a grand scale. Though these landscapes are shared again and again, they always captivate the viewer – there is never a “meh” moment with the most famous views in Yosemite. But what about the not-so-famous views? Or perhaps you have wished you could have the view all to yourself? In the list below, you’ll find the famous, the lesser-known and even some private views of the sights of Yosemite.

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1.Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2. North Dome from Housekeeping Camp
3. Half Dome from Glacier Point (How to Visit in Winter)
4. Glacier Point from Curry Village
5. Half Dome from the Curry Village Ice Rink
6. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Road
7. Half Dome from The Ahwahnee hotel room
8. Yosemite Falls from The Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
9. Half Dome from Olmsted Point
10.Yosemite Falls from rafting the Merced River

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Yosemite Waterfalls 101

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“A waterfall is water that has awakened… That awakening in the water seems to wake up something in us too.” – Shelton Johnson, National Park Service in Yosemite

Yosemite’s waterfalls are diverse and dramatic. They draw visitors to the park from around the world, and spring is the best time to witness their full power. Between March and May, the waterfalls reach their peak flow and put on a spectacular show. If you can’t marvel upon them in person today, build your excitement with a few Yosemite waterfall facts.

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Yosemite’s waterfalls are a force of…

AWE

  • The highest, the tallest…: Yosemite waterfalls claim some impressive records. At 1,612 feet tall, Ribbon Fall is the highest single drop of water in North America. The combined cascades of Yosemite Falls make it the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world. This famous 2,425-feet-tall waterfall sends 135,000 gallons of water over its edge every minute during its peak season.
  • Horsetail Fall phenomenon: Under the right circumstances, a small waterfall pouring over El Capitan appears to catch fire during the sunset. Drawing photographers and visitors from around the world, the Horsetail Fall phenomenon only occurs in years with enough snow or rain for a waterfall to flow during mid- or late-February where the sun’s angle hits it perfectly. The earliest known photograph of the firefall was taken by Ansel Adams sometime in the 1930s, but it was black and white. The first known orange glow photograph was taken by Galen Rowell in 1973.

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NATURE

  • Two types of waterfall formation: There are two types of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. In “hanging” waterfalls, the water appears to drop from the sky at the top of steep cliff faces. Bridalveil Fall (as well as Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Ribbon Fall) was formed when one side of the Sierra block rose faster than the other and the Merced River barreled down into Yosemite Valley, leaving Bridalveil Creek stranded far above the valley. The Ice Age and years of water wear have left Bridalveil Creek with an even steeper drop today. Vernal and Nevada Falls were formed differently. Glaciers from the High Sierra came down and trimmed away rock only in portions of the stairway. The tougher rocks were left behind and formed the Giant Staircase that Vernal and Nevada Falls now pour down.
  • Why some waterfalls dry up: Bridalveil Fall almost never goes dry, but Yosemite Falls only flows for part of each year. Yosemite Creek, which feeds Yosemite Falls, was almost entirely glaciated about 20,000 years ago and is now bare bedrock. During big storms, Yosemite Falls quickly swells and the water runs straight into the falls, but it doesn’t stick around for long. And since it’s largely fed by melted snow, its season typically ends when the snow is gone. Bridalveil Fall, on the other hand, has a smaller basin but has many meadows, lakes and patches of soil near the basin that contribute to a more constant flow regardless of rainfall.

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DESTRUCTION

  • Frazil ice: In winter, the mist coming off the waterfalls freezes into small crystals of frazil ice. This ice moves downstream in a slurry mixture that flows like lava. Frazil ice can become thick and act like cement, causing channels to clog up and changing the flow of the stream. Yosemite Creek at full force can flow up to 100 cubic feet per second, and when frazil ice is involved, buildings and foot bridges can be easily damaged or destroyed by the strong flow. Frazil ice has been observed in all of the valley waterfalls.
  • Danger: Sixteen water-related fatalities occurred in the park between 2002 and 2011. Waterfalls and rivers in the park draw visitors to their beauty but they can be extremely strong and unpredictable. Most fatalities occur when visitors leave the trail to take photos, wade in shallow water, attempt to cross streams or try to swim. The rocks around the rivers in Yosemite are not only water-polished but glacier-polished, so they’re especially slick.

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LORE

  • Poloti witches in Yosemite Falls: An old Ahwahneechee tale warned that the pool at the bottom of Yosemite Falls was inhabited by the spirits of Poloti witches. In the tale, a woman went to fetch a bucket of water from the creek. When she pulled it up, she found it full of snakes. Each time she scooped out water, she found more snakes. Eventually a sudden gust of wind blew her into the pool.
  • Pohono’s evil spirit: Another Native American myth tells of Pohono, an angry spirit who cursed Bridalveil Fall. Pohono is felt in the cold wind that blows around the waterfall. In the legend, a woman at the top of the fall went close to the edge to gather grass to weave a basket. Pohono placed a mossy rock near the fall to lure her near and then sent her down the falls. No one found the woman, and legend says Pohono imprisoned her spirit until she lured another victim down.

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Do you have a favorite Yosemite waterfall or story? Share with us in the comments!

Information gathered from Yosemite National Park’s Nature Notes, an interview with Greg Stock (NPS geologist), Oh Ranger, Domes, Cliffs and Waterfalls, The Waterfalls of Yosemite brochure by Steven Medley/Yosemite Association, and yosemite.ca.us.

Springtime Water Safety

In spring, Yosemite is filled with the sound of rushing water, from magnificent waterfalls, to playful river rapids. These beautiful waterways look cool and refreshing, and can also be dangerous and even fatal.

Today, the National Park Service hosted a special demonstration of swift water rescue techniques in the Merced River near Happy Isles.

Even though it was a relatively dry winter season, the waterfalls and rivers are still deceptively powerful. In fact, with the strength of the spring flow and cold water temperatures, a rescue situation can quickly become a body retrieval.

Please be safe out there!

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet downstream to protect them from rocks.

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet high and downstream to protect them from rocks and other obstacles in the water.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side.  Here rescuers demonstrate the search strategies around this fallen tree.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side. Rescuers call these hazards ‘strainers’.
Rescuers demonstrate the precautions they need to take when searching around this fallen tree.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out. Here members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird's-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out.
Today, members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Search and Rescue team!

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team!

 

Finally, if you think it can’t happen to you, take a few minutes to watch this sobering video. Yosemite is a magical, refreshing and renewing place. We hope you enjoy your visit safely!

Yosemite’s Natural Firefall – Horsetail Fall

Horsetail Fall Photo by Nancy Robbins

The Firefall is coming up soon. Are you coming to see it?

Although the firefall from Glacier Point, is now just a memory, Yosemite-lovers and photographers from all over the world gather in mid to late February for a show that is, in some ways, even more spectacular because it is all natural. When the angle of the sun is just right, and there is enough water in Horsetail Fall, and the day is clear, the waterfall turns molten in the light of the setting sun against the already shaded shoulder of El Capitan. But the perfect conditions are elusive. Will it all come together this year? And when is the prime viewing time?

Local photographer, Michael Frye, is heading up a conversation with others to calculate the dates when we’ll be most likely to see the firefall, and speculating about when it will be the most spectacular. So far, it sounds like your best bet to see the waterfall light up is between February 16 – 23, but the verdict isn’t fully in yet. Be sure to join in if you have been here to photograph the firefall, and if you haven’t been here yet, this is a great source for detailed information about the event.

You can also benefit from Michael’s expertise at one of the photography workshops in Yosemite, offered through The Ansel Adams Gallery. Michael, along with many other talented photographers in that program, offer many opportunities to hone your photography skills and experience Yosemite with a real Yosemite insider.