Dry Yosemite National Park

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.

missing Yosemite falls

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 dry at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Upper falls not flowing

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:

Mirror Lake Yosemite without water

Yosemite Mirror Lake dry

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.

Yosemite Falls

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.

Yosemite Falls through pine trees

Yosemite Falls Upper and Lower

Bridalveil Fall Yosemite

Bridalveil fall is one of the prominent landmarks you will see if you enter Yosemite National Park from the south end and stop at Tunnel View. Bridalveil Fall is 617 feet (188 meters) high and flows year round, although the rate of flow changes from season to season. Ostrander Lake which is just under 10 miles away is the primary water source of Bridalveil Falls.

It is a short hike from the parking lot up to a view point of Bridalveil Fall. The few times I have visited, there has always been enough wind to make photo taking at this view point problematic as the mist from Bridalveil Fall quickly covers the lens of the camera. There are, however, other points along the path were nice photos can be taken if this happens to be the case when you visit as well:

Bridalveil Fall Yosemite National Park

There are a couple of foot bridges that offer good views of Bridalveil Fall and also are interesting in their own right. The river that forms at the bottom of Bridalveil Fall also offers a number of wonderful opportunities for interesting photography:

Bridalveil Fall river Yosemite National Park

The Ahwahneechee Indian tribe that used to live in Yosemite Valley believed that a vengeful spirit named Pohono (Spirit of the Puffing Wind) dwells within Bridalveil Fall and guarded the entrance to Yosemite Valley. Although Pohono was a vengeful spirit, the Ahwahneechee Indians didn’t see Bridalveil fall as all evil. They thought that inhaling the mist of Bridalveil Fall would improve one’s chances of marriage.

Tunnel View Yosemite

If you enter Yosemite National Park from the south along California State Route 41, the first grand view of Yosemite Valley that you will see will be at Tunnel View. Tunnel View is located directly east of the Wawona Tunnel as you exit the tunnel and emerge into Yosemite valley. The view is spectacular with the southwest face of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall all part of the scenery. Definitely worth the stop to get your first peak of the wonders that you are going to have the opportunity to explore closer as you drive down into Yosemite Valley:

Yosemite National Park Tunnel View

Bridalveil Falls from Tunnel View

El Capitan from Tunnel View Yosemite National Park