Yosemite_Waterfalls

The waterfalls of Yosemite Valley are among the most spectacular in the world.
Iconic symbols of beauty, they thunder over towering cliffs well over 1000 feet tall
into the awe-inspiring grandeur of the most beautiful valley on Earth. This page
details several of the most impressive of these falls, including Bridalveil Fall,
Nevada Fall, Vernal Fall, Yosemite Falls and more, taken over six years.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

Yosemite Section Index
 

Yosemite Select

Yosemite Valley
Valley Views
Yosemite Assorted
Mirror Lake
Rivers and Creeks

Waterfalls
Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Rim
Glacier Point and Washburn Point
Taft Point

Yosemite Wildlife
Deer and Birds
Squirrel and Marmot

Yosemite Plant Life
Mariposa Grove
Sequoia National Park
Assorted Plant Life

Bodie Ghost Town
Mono Lake
Mariposa

A 75 image Overview of the Yosemite Portfolio

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Discovery View (Wawona Tunnel View) and Valley View
El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, and other Scenery
The exquisitely beautiful Mirror Lake in Tenaya Canyon
The Merced River, Tenaya Creek, Yosemite Creek and more

Bridalveil, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and selected images of Yosemite Falls
Detail shots, vignettes and scenic images of Yosemite’s signature waterfall

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Yosemite National Park’s two most famous rim views
Taft Point Fissures and spectacular views from 3000’ over Yosemite Valley

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Mule Deer in the Valley meadows, Hummingbirds, Steller’s Jays, etc.
Golden-Mantled Squirrels, Ground Squirrels and a Tioga Pass Marmot

An Overview page with sample images from the following pages:
Images from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Images from nearby Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks
Lupines, Dogwood, Snow Plants, Thistle, Forest Moss and Lichen

50 images of the gold mining boom town north of Mono Lake
A highly saline lake in the Eastern Sierras with otherworldly scenery
A Cigar Store Indian, a Thunderbird Totem, and antique Farm Machinery

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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Yosemite Valley Dawn Mist X0333
(286 KB)

Mist blankets Yosemite Valley at dawn in this scene taken in spring from Discovery View
(also called Tunnel View as it is the first view of the Valley after exiting the Wawona Tunnel).

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Bridalveil Fall Dawn Mist X0331
(314 KB)

Bridalveil Fall thunders over the edge of a hanging valley next to Cathedral Rocks on the right. Half Dome is on the left.

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Bridalveil Fall Half Dome X0255
(460 KB)

Bridalveil Fall erupts from the hanging valley beside Cathedral Rocks at mid-afternoon in May (from Discovery View).

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Yosemite Valley Salmon Sunrise X0797
(374 KB)

A beautiful salmon-tinted sunrise from Discovery View in May illuminates El Capitan on
the left, Half Dome in the center, and Bridalveil Fall below Cathedral Rocks on the right.

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Yosemite Valley Tunnel View Sunset 2546
(552 KB)

Discovery View (Tunnel View) just before sunset in March. The flow over Bridalveil Fall
is considerably less as the snowmelt has just begun. On the left is El Capitan, on the right
are the Cathedral Rocks. You can easily discern the typical U-shape of glacial valleys in both
the hanging valley on the right from which Bridalveil Fall erupts, and in Yosemite Valley itself.

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Bridalveil Fall Half Dome Sunset 2535
(614 KB)

Detail of Bridalveil Fall and the hanging valley next to Cathedral Rocks
just before sunset from Discovery View in March. Half Dome is at center left.

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Bridalveil Fall from Tunnel View 2895
(552 KB)

A telephoto detail shot (200mm) of Bridalveil Fall at sunset.
Taken in March from Discovery View (Wawona Tunnel View).

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Bridalveil Fall Sunset 2855
(531 KB)

Bridalveil Fall at sunset in March from Northside Drive. Cars at the bottom provide scale.

Bridalveil Fall (Pohono, or “Spirit of the Blowing Mist”) drops 620 feet onto rocks below, then descends
300 feet in a series of rapids to the valley floor. The name was suggested by Warren Baer, the editor of the
Mariposa Democrat, for its lacy appearance in summer. James M. Hutchings, who led the first tourist party
in the Valley in 1855 and became one of the first white settlers in Yosemite, also claimed to have named it.

The winds which swirl around Bridalveil Fall seem to have no relationship to wind elsewhere in the valley.
In some Paiute legends, Pohono is an evil spirit who lives in the mist, guarding the entrance to the valley.
He lured people to their doom, holding their spirits in the mist until they lured another person into the fall.
In other legends, the Pohono spirit is a Lady of the Blowing Mist, who causes the rainbow in the mist to
lure people to the falls where she can take them into her watery world, from which there was no return.
Yosemite Paiutes said that inhaling the mist from the waterfall would improve the chance of marriage.

Early settlers translated Pohono as the “Spirit of the Puffing Wind”, but the Yosemite Paiutes say that
the proper translation is “Spirit of the Blowing Mist, who is evil”. They would quickly walk past the falls.

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Cathedral Rocks Autumn X6404
(534 KB)

Cathedral Rocks and the Merced River in Autumn. Bridalveil Fall is just a trickle in October,
but unlike many of the other waterfalls in Yosemite it flows all year because it is fed by a large
basin with lakes, marshes and meadows which hold groundwater. There is far less soil in the
watersheds that feed Yosemite Creek, Tenaya Creek and others, and they run dry by autumn.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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Bridalveil_Fall_1636


Bridalveil Fall 1636
(622 KB)

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Bridalveil Fall 1637
(651 KB)

Bridalveil Fall in summer, when the flow is significantly reduced, can be blown sideways by the winds which swirl in the area. Sometimes the stream never reaches the ground as it turns completely into mist. These images were taken 10 seconds apart.

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Bridalveil Fall Spirit Faces 2257
(370 KB)

Spirit Faces at Bridalveil Fall (see below), taken from directly below the fall in the mist and wind near sunset in March.

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Bridalveil Fall Spirit Faces Sunset Rainbow 2513
(457 KB)

The Spirit Faces and a double Rainbow below Bridalveil Fall at sunset in March, taken the following day.

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Bridalveil Fall Spirit Faces Sunset Rainbow 2061c M
(1250 x 1750, 831 KB)

(the larger, linked version of the image does not have the gold outlines)

The faces are reputed to be those of Chief Tenaya and his youngest son of the Ahwahneechee tribe (the people of the Ahwahnee, or Yosemite Valley) who occupied the Valley until a sickness killed most of the tribe in the late 1700s. Chief Tenaya’s father took the remainder of the tribe and joined the Mono Lake Paiutes, where he married a Mono Paiute woman. Chief Tenaya (Ten-ie-ya) was born from this union, and he lived among the Mono Paiutes until a medicine man told him fifty years later that the sickness was gone and that he should return to the valley. He took 200 people with him back to Yosemite.

Later, when the Mariposa Battalion moved the tribe to the Fresno Reservation in response to numerous raids on white settlements and the threat of war, Tenaya and most of his people fled back to the Valley 15 miles before they entered the reservation (only 9 guards were left as provisions were running low). Men from the Mariposa Battalion returned to the Valley, and captured Chief Tenaya, his sons, and the Ahwahneechee with them. Three of Tenaya’s sons were first captured near the formation which is called the Three Brothers. One guard, who was waiting for an opportunity to strike at the Indians, watched the prisoners slip their bonds, waited until they were successful, then fired at two of the brothers as they tried to escape, killing Tenaya’s youngest son. He was castigated by the rest of the Mariposa Battalion for this act, and he was shunned afterwards, but Chief Tenaya cursed the men of the Mariposa Battalion, saying he would return to the Valley as a spirit among the rocks.

What has not often been discussed are the reasons for the Indian raids on white settlements. The miners took Indian lands for their mining claims and ran all of the Indians off of the land, cut down the Oak trees which produced the acorns that were a staple food for the Indians, and killed or drove off all of the deer. Some White immigrants from slave-holding states also forced Indians into slavery to work their mining claims (before California became a ‘free’ state), and others invaded Indian homes and took young women (willing or not) for servants or wives. In retaliation, and to get compensation for these outrages upon their domain, property and customs, the Indians stole horses and mules from settlers, killing them for food for their families, who were often near starvation because of the acts of the white settlers. They made raids on trading posts and took blankets, clothing and provisions, and often killed those in charge.
                                                                                                                                                             —  from Galen Clark’s accounts  —

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Bridalveil Fall X0262
(514 KB)

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Bridalveil Fall X0518
(475 KB)

Bridalveil Fall from the parking lot in the late afternoon in May. Sometimes, when the wind, temperature and humidity are all just right, the temperature can fall rapidly below the dew point and a cloud can form in front of Cathedral Rock. The image above on the right shows this phenomenon, which can also be seen near sunset at Half Dome (see the Yosemite Assorted page).

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Bridalveil Fall into the Fire 2504
(584 KB)

Bridalveil Fall dropping into a rainbow at its base, from the parking lot near sunset in May.

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Bridalveil Fall Sunset 2531
(578 KB)

A rainbow colors the cliff behind Bridalveil Fall, taken from the parking lot at sunset in May.

When conditions are right, the low glancing light as the sun falls below the rim on the opposite side of the Valley can cause a rainbow to climb up the face of Bridalveil Fall. Sometimes the rainbow is at the base of the falls as seen from a distance, and at other times it moves between the lower third and upper third of the falls, sweeping back and forth with the mist. Below are several images of the sunset rainbow at Bridalveil Falls.

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Bridalveil Fall 3339
(612 KB)

Bridalveil Fall with a light rainbow across the center of the fall in the late afternoon in May.

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Bridalveil Fall Sunset 3875
(544 KB)

Bridalveil Fall with a rainbow arcing down from the upper third of the fall, taken from the parking lot near sunset.

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Bridalveil Fall Sunset Rainbow 2266
(423 KB)

Bridalveil_Fall_Sunset_Rainbow_2272


Bridalveil Fall Sunset Rainbow 2272
(440 KB)

Near sunset, with dark clouds almost covering the sky in May, a small opening in the clouds
allowed a beam of light to strike Bridalveil Fall, drenching the waterfall in color. Spectacular.

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Bridalveil Fall Sunset Rainbow 3318
(617 KB)

Bridalveil_Fall_Sunset_Rainbow_3895


Bridalveil Fall Sunset Rainbow 3895
(538 KB)

Bridalveil Fall dances into a magnificent arc of color near sunset.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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El Capitan Ribbon Fall Valley View X2377
(585 KB)

Ribbon Fall, El Capitan and the Merced River in May during a year with exceptional snowfall.

Just to the west of El Capitan is Ribbon Fall, one of the tallest sheer-drop waterfalls on Earth.
Ribbon Fall drops 1612 feet, and is the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in North America. It is on
the north wall directly opposite Bridalveil Fall. The Paiute name for the fall was Lung-yo tocoya,
which means Pigeon Basket. This name caused Lafayette Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion
to call it Pigeon Creek Fall. James Hutchings translated the name as “long and slender” for
the tourist parties he led in the early years, and named it Ribbon Fall. Ribbon Fall is an
ephemeral fall that dries up as soon as the snow has melted in early to mid-summer.

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Ephemeral Fall Ice Cone 4604
(540 KB)

Another ephemeral fall at the edge of El Capitan Meadow, just west of Sentinel Rock in March. Note the ice cone below. Mist from the fall freezes overnight from winter through early spring. Ice cones can be seen at Yosemite Falls and Ribbon Fall.

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Nevada Fall Washburn Point 3808
(569 KB)

Nevada Fall (Yowiye, or Twisting Water) is a 594 foot waterfall at the western end of Little Yosemite Valley, below Liberty Cap. The fall has a notably bent shape, caused by a 200 foot free-fall to the slickrock slope where it continues to the base.

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Nevada Fall Vernal Fall Glacier Point 3819
(621 KB)

Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap framed by conifers on the far right side of Glacier Point. At the top of the frame are the Cascade Cliffs of the Little Yosemite Valley and the Clark Range of the High Sierras.

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Nevada Fall Vernal Fall Glacier Point 2656
(591 KB)

Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall in spring from Glacier Point. The volume of water over these falls is substantial. The tiny specks to the right of Vernal Fall are people, providing scale. Vernal Fall was named due to the mist turning the vegetation green.

Nevada Fall (Yowiye, or Twisting Water) is a 594 foot waterfall at the western
end of Little Yosemite Valley, below Liberty Cap. The fall has a notably bent shape
caused by a 200 foot free-fall to the slickrock slope where it continues to the base.
Dr. Bunnell suggested the name Nevada because it is the closest waterfall to the
crest of the Sierra Nevada, and because Nevada means Snowy in Spanish.

Vernal Fall (Paiute names: Yanopah, or Little Cloud and Pywiack, or Shining Rocks) is a
 317 foot waterfall downstream of Nevada Fall on the Merced River. Both are accessible
from the Mist Trail, which begins at the Happy Isles trailhead above Curry Village.

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Yosemite Falls Glacier Point 2664
(554 KB)

A detail shot of Yosemite Falls in spring from Glacier Point.
Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in the world at 2425 feet.

Other than the Yosemite Falls Trail, Glacier Point is one of the few places from which you can
view the Middle Cascades of Yosemite Falls, a group of smaller falls and a cascade between the
Upper Fall and the Lower Fall. These smaller falls total 675 feet of drop, twice that of the Lower Fall.

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Vernal Fall Washburn Point 3811
(570 KB)

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Vernal Fall Glacier Point 2670
(524 KB)

Detail of Vernal Fall in May at the height of the spring flood, taken from Washburn Point (left) and from Glacier Point (right). Again, the tiny specks to the right of the fall are people. This is a very powerful waterfall which has claimed many lives from people who have climbed into the water above the falls or over the rail next to the brink of the fall. The series of waterfalls seen above Vernal Fall at the top of the right image (2670) is known as the Diamond Cascade, which drops over the Silver Apron (at the top left) into the magnificent Emerald Pool. Some who have entered the Emerald Pool have also been swept over the fall.

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Merced River Vernal Fall Mist Trail X2144
(445 KB)

Vernal Fall and the torrential Merced River from the footbridge over the Merced on the Mist Trail in May.

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Merced River Vernal Fall Mist Trail X2131
(406 KB)

Vernal Fall and the Merced River in May, with Liberty Cap in the background, from Lady Franklin Rock on the Mist Trail.

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Merced River Vernal Fall Mist Trail X2122
(565 KB)

The Merced River thunders past the rocks below Vernal Fall, from the footbridge on the Mist Trail in May.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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Upper_Yosemite_Fall_Frozen_at_Sunrise_2591


Upper Yosemite Fall Frozen at Sunrise 2591
(576 KB)

Upper Yosemite Fall from Cook’s Meadow at sunrise in March.
The spray from the waterfall has frozen on the cliff face overnight.

Yosemite Falls is the signature waterfall in Yosemite NP and one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.

Yosemite Falls is composed of six separate drops in three sections: the Upper Fall is 1430 feet tall,
the Middle Cascades (three falls and a cascade) drops 675 feet, and the Lower Fall drops 320 feet.
Yosemite Falls, considered the most beautiful in the USA, is visible from many places in the Valley.

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Upper Yosemite Fall 2181
(509 KB)

Upper Yosemite Fall in March from Leidig Meadow. At the bottom of the frame is the 50 foot fall at the base of the Middle Cascades, exiting the gorge above Lower Yosemite Fall. The Middle Cascades are in a deep gorge and can only be seen from the Rim Points or from the trail to the top of the falls.

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Upper Yosemite Fall 3724
(564 KB)

Upper Yosemite Fall from the side, taken from the edge of Cook’s Meadow in May. Yosemite Falls erupts from a hanging valley which was formed when the creeks that feed the falls could not keep up with the Merced River erosion and the grinding caused by the glacier which cut the valley.

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Upper Yosemite Fall Vignette X2288
(604 KB)

Upper Yosemite Fall, framed by foliage from Cook’s Meadow in May.

Yosemite Falls are most spectacular in late May, when runoff from the snowmelt
is at its peak. In some years, the flow is so great that it floods the valley meadows,
creating opportunities for spectacular reflections such as those seen further below.

Because much of the Sierra Nevada range, including the Yosemite Wilderness areas
above Yosemite Falls, is composed almost entirely of exposed granite with little soil to
retain moisture, the snowmelt runs off very rapidly. Once the summer rains have stopped
the flow in the creeks dries up quite rapidly. Some of the creeks are completely dry by late
September or October, and Yosemite Falls is often completely dry by October. Occasionally,
during years with a dry winter followed by a dry summer, the falls can be dry by late summer.

The dry watercourse of Yosemite Falls in October is shown on the Taft Point page.

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Lower Yosemite Falls Trail X0640
(643 KB)

The Western Approach to Lower Yosemite Falls in May. The Western Approach begins in a parking lot off the loop road.

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Yosemite Falls Forest Vignette X0418
(505 KB)

Yosemite Falls from the Western Approach, vignetted by the forest at mid-morning in May.

There are two ways that people generally get to Lower Yosemite Fall. The Western Approach, shown above, begins in a parking lot off Northside Drive east of Columbia Rock and traverses a short paved trail through the forest to the base of the falls. Those who prefer a walk through the woods take the Eastern Approach Trail, which is a 3/4 mile paved trail from the Ranger’s Cabins above Yosemite Village, past moss-covered trees and boulders to the footbridge across Yosemite Creek where it meets the Western Approach at the base of the Lower Fall. Images of the Eastern Approach are on the separate Yosemite Falls page.

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Lower Yosemite Fall 2455
(413 KB)

Lower Yosemite Fall in late afternoon in March.

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Lower Yosemite Fall 2219
(456 KB)

Lower Yosemite Fall at mid-afternoon in March.

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Lower Yosemite Fall X0633
(344 KB)

Lower Yosemite Fall at mid-morning in May. Note the higher flow of water and the cloud of mist below the fall. Getting clean shots from within the mist cloud can be quite challenging.

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Lower Yosemite Fall X0631
(337 KB)

For clean shots: take a test shot, then set a manual exposure to avoid overexposing highlights, then turn around, wipe your lens, turn around, shoot immediately, turn, wipe your lens, etc.

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Yosemite Falls John Muir Cabin Site 2211
(548 KB)

Yosemite Falls in March from the John Muir Cabin Site. John Muir woke to this view for two years from 1869-1871.

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Yosemite Falls John Muir Cabin Site X0651
(602 KB)

Yosemite Falls taken in late morning in May from the John Muir Cabin Site using a polarizing filter set to 50% to increase contrast and color saturation (and to darken the sky).

John Muir (1838-1914) was a naturalist and author who founded the Sierra Club.
His writings and his activism were the major force which helped to create legislation
to preserve Yosemite National Park, Sequoia NP, and many other wilderness areas.

More images from the John Muir Cabin Site are on the Yosemite Falls page.

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Yosemite Falls Leidig Meadow 3720
(605 KB)

Yosemite Falls, taken from Leidig Meadow in March.

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Yosemite Falls Leidig Meadow 3378
(795 KB)

A dead tree provides a foreground subject for this shot of
Yosemite Falls from Leidig Meadow on a bleak day in May.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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Yosemite Falls Cook’s Meadow 2991
(820 KB)

The majestic beauty of Yosemite Falls rising above mounds of grass in Cook’s Meadow in March.
The wedge-shaped feature below Yosemite Point, to the right of the Upper Fall, is called the Lost Arrow.
There is an Indian Legend (considered fictitious) associated with the Lost Arrow (click this link to read it).

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Yosemite Falls Cook’s Meadow Dawn X0379
(479 KB)

Yosemite Falls in superb dawn light from Cook’s Meadow.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Dawn X0381
(466 KB)

Yosemite Falls reflected at dawn, just before sunrise in May.

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Yosemite Falls Cook’s Meadow Sunrise X0842
(583 KB)

The Dead Tree in Cook’s Meadow provides a foreground subject for Yosemite Falls at sunrise.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Dawn X0351
(531 KB)

Yosemite Falls is reflected in the flooded Leidig Meadow at dawn in May, during a year with an
exceptional snowmelt. Note the extend of the flooding in the image above, compared with the two
images which are shown below. The flood waters in this image reach to the base of the Fir tree.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Dawn X0557
(487 KB)

In this image, taken at dawn two days after the previous image, Yosemite Falls
is reflected in flood waters which cover Leidig Meadow to the edge of the tree line.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection X2106
(618 KB)

This image shows a reflection of Yosemite Falls in the flooded Leidig Meadow the
following year, five days earlier than image 0557. The snowfall that year was more
extensive, and the snowmelt flooded the valley earlier than in the previous year and
kept the valley closed later into the spring than usual due to the flooded valley roads.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Leidig Meadow X2059
(387 KB)

Yosemite Falls reflected in the flood covering Leidig Meadow in late morning in May, one day before the previous image.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Sunrise X2331
(546 KB)

Yosemite Falls reflected in Leidig Meadow at sunrise three days later. Note the extent of flooding beyond the Fir tree.

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Yosemite Falls Reflection Sunrise X2332
(735 KB)

Yosemite Falls reflected in the flooded Leidig Meadow just after sunrise,
during a year with an exceptional snowmelt that inundated Yosemite Valley.

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Yosemite Falls Sunrise Swinging Bridge X0580
(596 KB)

Yosemite Falls reflected in the waters of the Merced River at sunrise, from Swinging Bridge.
Swinging Bridge is a great place to view Yosemite Falls at sunrise, even when there is no flooding.

More images of Yosemite Falls are displayed on the separate Yosemite Falls page.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Yosemite Collection page where a Gallery can be selected.

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There are 15 Galleries in the Photoshelter Yosemite Collection

For convenience, Galleries containing the images of Wildlife, Plants,
Sequoia National Park, Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake and Mariposa
have been copied to the Yosemite Collection from their normal locations.

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Falls page

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Select page

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Section Index page

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