I stopped by to visit Yosemite National Park a couple of weeks ago, and for the first time, I ran into a dry Yosemite. When you see all those spectacular photos of Yosemite Falls, you might forget that the beautiful scene isn’t constant. Depending on the amount of snowfall the region receives during the winter, it’s not uncommon for Yosemite Falls to go dry in the late summer or early autumn. While the valley is still spectacular, for anyone who has visited when the falls is flowing (or for anyone that was expecting to see the falls not realizing that it sometimes stops), there seems to be something missing.
While there is a bit of water in the river, it is far less than I had ever seen in my previous visits. Normally you would see the upper falls flowing over the ledge in the above photo adding one more piece of beauty to it. Instead, all you can see is the stain on the rocks from where the falls normally flows:
Yosemite Falls isn’t the only natural wonder which is affected. Most of the water falls coming into Yosemite valley were completely dry or just a trickle of water. The rivers and streams that flow through the valley are greatly diminished or completely dry. And a hike to see Mirror Lake found that when the lake isn’t there, it’s a lot harder for it to reflect like a mirror:
A storm just went through California and I suspect that the falls, lakes and rivers are now once again flowing (or should be very soon). I often get asked whether I get bored visiting National Parks again and again, and the answer is a resounding “No.” National Parks aren’t stagnant like the photos in books or the picture postcards. They are always changing and can look dramatically different depending on the time of year that you visit. That makes them exciting to visit each and every time, but it also means that if there is a particular natural wonder that you want to see, you need to take the time to make sure that it’s there when you plan to go. While I prefer Yosemite when the water is flowing, I am glad that I had the opportunity to see it dry — and get a new perspective of this spectacular valley.
I was looking at some videos of national parks when I stumbled across this video of a German man who apparently decided that it would be a good idea to tightrope across the top of Upper Yosemite Falls a couple of summers ago. Luckily he had the sanity to place a safety line to the tightrope which he ended up needing. Even with the safety line, my teeth were clinched the entire time watching this…
If you go to Yosemite, one of the highlights of the trip will be seeing Yosemite Falls. It’s highest measured waterfall in North America with a drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters) and the sixth (sometimes now listed as seventh with the discovery of Gocta Cataracts) highest measured waterfall in the world. While it appears from Yosemite Valley that Yosemite Falls consist of a two-stage drop of Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls, there is actually a Yosemite Falls Middle Cascades which consists of five smaller plunges. These are rarely mentioned because they can’t be seen from Yosemite Valley (although they can be seen when hiking the Yosemite Falls trail up to the Upper Yosemite Falls). The Middle Cascades plunge 675 feet (206 meters) which is more than double the drop of Lower Yosemite Falls.
There are a number of vantage points in Yosemite Valley where it’s possible to get a photo of the entire Yosemite Falls which make a spectacular sight.
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Yosemite was to get the chance to see frazil ice. Yosemite Creek is famous for frazil ice, but the temperatures have to be perfect for it to form. It needs to be a clear, cold night where temperatures get down into the 20s or lower so that the mist from Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls freezes to the rocks on the way down. Then the day needs to be sunny and warm enough to melt that ice that froze overnight so that it falls off the sides of the waterfall walls and into the river forming a type of slush in Yosemite Creek. This slushy mess is called frazil ice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to see any frazil ice on my visit, but here are a couple of videos that show why I was hoping to see it (and why I will be going back until I get the opportunity to witness frazil ice)
One of the most spectacular sights in Yosemite is Yosemite Falls which can be seen from a number of spots on the Yosemite Valley floor and makes for breath taking photos. The Yosemite Upper Falls drops 1,430 feet (440 meters), and just the Upper Falls section ranks as a top 20 waterfall in the world. There are hiking trails from the valley floor to both the top and base of Upper Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Upper Falls usually has water flow year round, but there have been occasions when it has gone dry in the past.