Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Prime Time for Waterfalls?

(An old article – posted here so as not to lose it during the site transition.)

Seen at Yosemite Blog:

The Modesto Bee: “With his camera perched on a tripod and pointed at Yosemite Falls, Vaughn Hutchins didn’t have to think very long when asked about the perfect time to photograph one of North America’s tallest waterfalls.

‘Right now,’ he said Thursday, glancing at the puffy, wind-blown clouds drifting elegantly in and out of Yosemite Valley.

Hutchins, 52, of Eureka and many other Yosemite aficionados know the waterfalls are peaking more than a month early this year because of the skimpy snowpack.

Indeed, this may be the earliest peak since 1919 for 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls, say park officials.

Their message to Yosemite fans: Don’t wait until Memorial Day to see the falls this year.”

Sounds like it may be time for my annual Yosemite Valley waterfall pilgrimage sooner rather than later.

Timing visits to the Valley falls is an interesting subject. I’ve seen many people in the Valley later in the summer – July, August, and even September – who were disappointed to find that the falls did not look like what they had seen in photographs. In my experience, typical years bring the most impressive display in May and perhaps the beginning of June, though this can vary quite a bit. In very wet years the display can last longer, and this year I think that later than May will be too late. (Not that there aren’t plenty of other reasons to visit the Valley…)

One issue to keep in mind is that some of the falls, in particular Yosemite Fall and Bridalveil Fall, are fed by runoff from relatively low basins just north and south of the Valley. The snow melts out of these mid-elevation areas surprisingly early, and is often almost completely gone before the peak season begins. (Nevada and Vernal Falls are fed by the Merced River, which has its source at the Sierra crest.)

Not so well known to Valley visitors is the fact that there can be some very beautiful seasonal falls much earlier in the season, particularly during late winter and early spring melt periods. These occur as the low level snow melt reaches its peak.

With luck, you may find me in the Valley soon trying to catch this years likely-fleeting waterfall display.


April 17, 2007 - Posted by | Yosemite

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