22 September 2012

Horsetail Fall – Fantastic Firefall of Yosemite

Is there a fire on this mountain? Or is it some kind of volcanic eruption? The answer is neither. To paraphrase Dave Bowman from 2001: A Space Odyssey - something wonderful is about to happen.

For a few days every February, Horsetail Fall comes to life. A seasonal waterfall which flows only in the late winter and early spring, those short February days bring about a transformation. The waterfall is lit up by the setting sun and ignites in to a fiery spectacle.

It is a display which only the patient few get to see – a natural phenomenon which only happens at a certain time on just a few days each year.  As spectacular as it is now one can only wonder at the effect it must have had on the first people to see it, thousands of years ago.

Throughout the last two weeks of February, when the Californian sun shines over Yosemite Valley, water cascades down the granite wall of El Capitan, a near vertical rock formation extending about 3,000 feet (900m) from base to the summit.

It is then that the firefall marvel takes place. However some years the firefall does not take place even on these few special days when the water and the sun are at the just the right angles. This is because clouds and squalls happen often during the winter months, and sometimes California has thirsty years. The Horsetail firefall can only be witnessed infrequently, and timing is of the essence.

First Image Credit Flickr User Daleberts