Yosemite "natural firefall"

Discussion in 'Nature' started by dan_megna, Dec 19, 2001.

  1. Does anyone know a source for determining when during the month of
    February the "natural firefall" occurs on Horsetail Fall in Yosemite?
    I've heard the light creates this "firefall" for only a few days
    during the month but I can't seem to find a source to help me pin it
    down. As much as I'd like the adventure, I don't think my wife would
    appreciate me spending the entire month in the valley stalking an
    orange waterfall. Then again, it sounds like a pretty darn good plan!
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Get a copy of Michael Frye's The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite, ISBN 1-930238-00-2, a real bargain at $7.95. It practically contains all the info a nature photographer needs about Yosemite. On page 12, it has a good description of "firefall" of the Horsetail Fall. The phenominon typically occurs in the last two weeks in February.
  3. I 2nd the book recommendation. Or, give Galen Rowell a call.
  4. I would advise you to stick to Michael Frye''s book. Galen's is
    more of a "Why I'm such a damn great luminary and
    photographer" kind of book. Michael's book actually deals with
    photography in Yosemite.

    Second-third weeks in February is when I've seen horsetail run.
    If it's too cold, you'll get nothing!
  5. I have heard "last two weeks in Feb" myself, been there then twice now and not seen a hint of it. :) Horsetail is an "ephemeral", meaning it does not always run, and in my case it was indeed not running, both times.

    Some of the NPS rangers know of it, others do not, so it is not very well known.

    Late Feb is a good time to visit the valley, though. I have been there in May and it was a madhouse, wall-to-wall people. It must be horrible in the summer (I stick to the high country in summer).
  6. According to Michael Frye, Horsetail Falls relies on snow melt from a very small area up on El Capitan, probably less than a square mile. While the storm that's moving through California now may help, at last check it wasn't very promising -- the area that feeds it was completely dry. The level of the falls in general was high as it is normally this time of year, but a bit lower than usual.
  7. Actually I have booked a trip up for 5 days last week in April - will the falls still be running then ?

    Anyone ever been up there at that time of year that can offer me some advice ?
  8. This is a response to an old post, but it may still be of interest.

    I live year round in Yosemite Valley... so if you will be visiting Yosemite, please feel free to contact me.

    About Horsetail Falls, if you can match your trip to Yosemite to the weather, that would be your best bet for catching the "natural firefall". The weather should be clear to partly cloudy and around Febuary 20th... or you can just plan on Feb 20th and hope for the right weather.

    The last post (above mine) asked about Yosemite and the last week of April: PERFECT TIME! The Valley isn't crowded and pretty much ALL the waterfalls have water going over them... if we have a fairly heavy rain, that week, then there will be more waterfalls than you can take photos of!

    David wildography@yahoo.com
  9. I was lucky enough to see and photograph the "firefall on El Capitan", in 1978, under the perfect circumstances described at: Yosemite's Natural Firefall, where the best of six or so photos I quickly snapped can be seen. All I know for sure is that it was on one of the last two Sundays in February that year, and it was blind luck --- I was leaving the Valley at dusk (now it's a one-way entrance road) after a weekend of XC skiing beyond Badger Pass, and saw it through an opening in the trees. I was so startled, and had no idea what I was looking at, that I almost drove off the road into the Merced River. Knowing I had no time to spare, I braced the camera against available tree trunks and snapped some photos. Other years I have been there at the same time and seen little or nothing --- it requires several days of unseasonably warm weather, to create much of a Horsetail Falls in winter, and the "alignment" with the setting sun can only be perfect for a couple of days. I am hoping to go up again this year, but I think that matching the extraordinary event of 1978 will be very difficult. Nonetheless, even a "partial" or small "firefall" is very beautiful.

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