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Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 37.7311 N 119.6275 W
No:509        (list of all attractions)
Values:Geology, Visual
Address:North America, United States, California, Yosemite National Park, northern side of Yosemite Valley, south-eastern wall of El Capitan
UNESCO World Heritage status:Part of "Yosemite National Park", 1984, No.308.
Total height:˜ 630 m
Highest drop:480 m
Width:some meters
Average annual flow:Flows only for a few weeks in year
Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley, California
Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley / E. Howe, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Images of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley create a sensation in social networks almost every year. For a few days in a year in February it shines in the light of the setting Sun and, it seems, it even emits an eerie light!

Horsetail Falls in Yosemite Valley, California
Horsetail Fall / Anita Ritenour, / CC BY 2.0

Small but very tall

Horsetail Fall is formed by a small stream which for most part of the year is dry or just a meagre trickle. But for a few weeks in the late winter - early spring it turns into a spectacular waterfall. If there is enough water, it even divides into two parallel streams. The western stream is a bit higher - its main drop is 480 m tall, while eastern stream (a bit more powerful one) has a 470 m tall drop.

After the main drop both streams join and continue to fall down a steep terrain for another 150 m, thus bringing the total height of waterfal to whooping 620 - 630 m.

Horsetail Falls, California
Horsetail Fall illuminated by the Sun / Rachel Chang, / CC BY 2.0

Such figures are very impressive even if waterfall flows only for a short time during the year. But... it is located in Yosemite Valley - one of the most beautiful places in the world with several world-class waterfalls (see Yosemite Falls) and the small Horsetail Fall is rather insignificant if compared to these giants.

Wonder of nature

Nonetheless for a few days in the year Horsetail Fall becomes a world-class "star". Around the February 17 - 19 the setting Sun sends a beam of light exactly to this waterfall. As the Sun is setting down, the surroundings become dark but the waterfall for some 10 minutes shines like a stream of fire.

The unique properties of Horsetail Fall have not been mentioned until the recent times. The first known colored image of this phenomenon was taken in 1973 by Galen Rowell. Since then more and more people are coming to appreciate this wonder of nature. Not every year is lucky - sometimes there is almost no water, sometimes the sky is grey. But no one should complain - anyway they are in one of the most beautiful places in the world - Yosemite Valley.


See Horsetail Fall on the map of California!


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