Mirror_Lake

Mirror Lake is the last remnant of a large glacial lake that once covered Yosemite Valley.
Located in Tenaya Canyon between Half Dome and North Dome, Mirror Lake is more of
a seasonal pond fed by Tenaya Creek, which is a rushing torrent in the spring, but dries
up by late summer. It is famous for the reflection of Mount Watkins in its placid waters.

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Yosemite Valley
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Mirror Lake
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Mariposa Grove
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Assorted Plant Life

Bodie Ghost Town
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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.

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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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Ahwahnee_Hotel_X0739


Ahwahnee Hotel X0739
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The Ahwahnee Hotel is the starting point for the trail to Mirror Lake that follows
the northern wall of the valley. There are several ways to Mirror Lake, most of which
are roads or paved trails. The North Wall Trail from the Ahwahnee passes through the
forest below Royal Arches to Tenaya Creek just below Mirror Lake. If you prefer to walk
through the woods rather than on a road, the right edge of the frame is the place to start.

The Ahwahnee Hotel was built near Royal Arches at the site of a native village. Designed
by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1925, it is the premiere example of National Park Service
Rustic architecture, and was declared a National Historic Landmark. It was the most complex
trucking endeavor of its time, requiring the hauling of millions of pounds of materials over
the narrow and treacherous mountain roads. The wood-like facade is actually concrete
poured into rough-hewn wooden forms and stained, to reduce the possibility of fire.
The hotel opened in July 1927 after numerous cost overruns, and proved its worth
as it drew many influential people to Yosemite, who later helped to acquire the
funding the fledgling National Park Service needed to further its causes.

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Mirror Lake Trail 2813
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The Mirror Lake Trail in May. Granite boulders, Black Oak, Manzanita, conifers, moss and squirrels are abundant.

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Mirror Lake Trail 2820
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The Mirror Lake Trail passes an enormous granite boulder and winds through a grove of Red Fir.

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Mirror Lake Trail Sunrise X0719
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Mirror Lake Trail 3577
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The Mirror Lake Trail just after sunrise (left) and at mid-afternoon in May.
This is far more pleasant than walking down a road... wouldn’t you agree?

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Royal Arch Cascade Mirror Lake Trail 2652
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Royal Arch Cascade Mirror Lake Trail 2336
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Royal Arch Creek flows over the North rim in a 1250 foot Cascade beside Royal Arches and into the valley,
 where it continues onward, crossing the Mirror Lake Trail between the Ahwahnee Hotel and Tenaya Creek.

Royal_Arch_Creek_Mirror_Lake_Trail_2646


Royal Arch Creek Mirror Lake Trail 2646
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Royal Arch Creek just below the Cascade in March.

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Ron Crossing Royal Arch Creek 2661
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Crossing the slippery rocks at Royal Arch Creek in March.

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Sulphur Shelf Fungus Mirror Lake Trail 2349
(637 KB)

Sulphur Shelf Fungus growing on a fallen Red Fir on the Mirror Lake Trail. The fungus aids in forest decomposition.

Red_Fir_Roots_Mirror_Lake_Trail_1897


Red Fir Roots Mirror Lake Trail 1897
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Red Fir Root on the Mirror Lake Trail. The bark and cambium of this tree has decomposed to expose the heartwood.

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Mossy Rocks Mirror Lake Trail 2344
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Boreal forest moss and lichens cover boulders strewn amongst the forest litter on the Mirror Lake Trail.

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Mossy Rocks Mirror Lake Trail 2345
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Forest moss on boulders on the Mirror Lake Train in March.

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Moss Detail Mirror Lake Trail X0269c
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An extreme closeup showing detail of boreal forest moss on a boulder, taken on the Mirror Lake Trail in May. For more images of Yosemite Plant Life, see the Assorted Plants 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.

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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Lower_Tenaya_Creek_X2159


Lower Tenaya Creek X2159
(651 KB)

A 1/2 second exposure of Lower Tenaya Creek in spring flood in May. The use of longer
exposures makes moving water look progressively more misty and emphasizes the movement.

Lower_Tenaya_Creek_Sunrise_X0860


Lower Tenaya Creek Sunrise X0860
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A 1/6 second exposure of the outflow of Lower Tenaya Creek from Lower Mirror Lake
at sunrise in May, during a year with exceptional snowfall and flooding from the snowmelt.

For more images like these, visit the Yosemite Rivers and Creeks page.

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Mirror Lake Guardian Driftwood Knight X0870
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A piece of driftwood naturally shaped in the form of a Chess Knight
guards Lower Mirror Lake during an exceptional spring flood in May.

Mirror_Lake_Guardian_Driftwood_Knight_2355


Mirror Lake Guardian Driftwood Knight 2355
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Mirror Lake Guardian Driftwood Knight 2359
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Detail of the driftwood Guardian Knight of Lower Mirror Lake, taken on a bleak day in March.

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Mirror Lake Guardian Driftwood Knight X0274
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The Guardian Knight of Lower Mirror Lake, protecting his charge from the spring flood in May.

Mirror_Lake_Guardian_Driftwood_Knight_Autumn_X6335


Mirror Lake Guardian Driftwood Knight Autumn X6335
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The Guardian Knight of Lower Mirror Lake is still on the job in October,
although he is now only guarding a sandbox as the lake has dried up.

In some years, the amount of snow melt in the wilderness above Yosemite increases through
late May and the level of flooding increases with it. In years with less snowfall, the water levels
can begin to drop noticeably as early as mid-May to June, and by summer the creeks are dry.

Lower_Mirror_Lake_Ahwiyah_Point_2854


Lower Mirror Lake Ahwiyah Point 2854
(451 KB)

Lower Mirror Lake and Ahwiyah Point below Half Dome in the late afternoon in May. Notice the sand bar at the lower left.

Lower_Mirror_Lake_Ahwiyah_Point_3610


Lower Mirror Lake Ahwiyah Point 3610
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Lower Mirror Lake and Ahwiyah Point in the late afternoon four days later. Note that the level of the water has dropped.

The two images above show Galen Clark’s “natural” dam, built in 1889 at the Mirror Lake
outlet to retain water. Until 1971, Mirror Lake was also dredged to reduce the depth of the
sediment which was gradually silting up the lake, but since then the lake has been allowed
to gradually silt up and naturally become extinct. Mirror Lake will eventually be a meadow.

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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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Mirror_Lake_Boulder_Ahwiyah_Point_3614


Mirror Lake Boulder Ahwiyah Point 3614
(539 KB)

The Lower Mirror Lake Boulder, dappled with shadows and light, and Ahwiyah Point in the late afternoon in May.

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Mirror Lake Boulder Half Dome Ahwiyah Point 2867
(486 KB)

Ahwiyah Point and Half Dome overlooking the Boulder in Lower Mirror Lake, late afternoon near sunset in May.

In some of the Indian legends, such as the legend of Tis-sa’ack, Mirror Lake is referred to by
the name Ahwiyah, but the Indian name most often used was Kekotooyem (Sleeping Water).

An enormous rockfall from Ahwiyah Point in March 2009 dropped 115,000 tons of material
into Tenaya Canyon below, knocking down hundreds of trees and burying hundreds of feet
of trail on the southern part of the loop trail. No one was hurt in what was the largest rockfall
event in Yosemite NP since the 1987 Middle Brother Rockfall. The loop trail was reopened in
October 2012 (trees and rocks removed, retaining walls were built and the trail was realigned).

Mirror_Lake_Boulder_Ahwiyah_Point_X2161


Mirror Lake Boulder Ahwiyah Point X2161
(648 KB)

Mount Watkins (left) and Ahwiyah Point overlook the Boulder in Lower Mirror Lake,
late afternoon in May during a year with exceptional snowfall and resulting flooding.
Note how high the water is on the boulder (over two feet of extra rock is submerged).

Mirror_Lake_Ahwiyah_Point_Last_Light_Autumn_X6343


Mirror Lake Ahwiyah Point Last Light Autumn X6343
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Ahwiyah Point and Mount Watkins overlook the Lower Mirror Lake sandbox at last light
in autumn. By October, Mirror Lake is completely dry until the first heavy rains fill it again.

The soft subdued light on the landscape and the pink and blue sky make a wonderful scene.

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Mirror Lake Boulder 2386
(771 KB)

The Mirror Lake Boulder in March.

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Mirror Lake Boulder 2874
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The Mirror Lake Boulder in May.

The Mirror Lake Boulder was a popular subject amongst my students for several reasons:
shadows and light, reflections, water line measurement, and because it is a cool looking rock.

Mirror_Lake_Boulder_2857


Mirror Lake Boulder 2857
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The Mirror Lake Boulder reflected in the placid waters of Lower Mirror Lake, late afternoon in May.

Mirror_Lake_Boulder_at_Dawn_X0698


Mirror Lake Boulder at Dawn X0698
(756 KB)

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Mirror Lake Boulder at Dawn X2072
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Above are shots of the Mirror Lake Boulder on two successive years with a high snowfall
and a tremendous amount of resulting flooding when the snow melted. Both of the shots were
taken in the early morning in May (the one on the right was taken about 50 minutes earlier).

Mirror_Lake_Boulder_3615

Mirror Lake Boulder 3615
(987 KB)

Mirror Lake Boulder in the late afternoon in May during a year with a lower level of snowfall.
If you want to do studies of shadow and light at Mirror Lake, the best time is late afternoon.

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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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Mirror_Lake_Mount_Watkins_4054


Mirror Lake Mount Watkins 4054
(698 KB)

Mirror Lake
(Kekotooyem, or Sleeping Water)

Mount Watkins is reflected in the placid waters of Mirror Lake at mid-afternoon in May.

Between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago, as the glaciers receded, the entire Yosemite Valley
was covered by a glacial lake, filling the elongated basin scooped out by the Yosemite Glacier.
This lake was 100 to 300 feet deep, and much of the water was delivered by the Merced River
and Tenaya Creek. As the lake receded the valley took on the characteristics of a flood plain,
and this process is still occurring in Tenaya Canyon. There were four lake basins in Tenaya
Canyon, of which one remains to a certain extent. Mirror Lake is a remnant of that ancient
glacial lake, although the lake itself does not have a glacial origin (the basin was formed
by rock avalanches similar to the recent rockfall from Ahwiyah Point mentioned earlier).

Mirror_Lake_Mount_Watkins_4057


Mirror Lake Mount Watkins 4057
(402 KB)

Mount Watkins and Ahwiyah Point reflected in Mirror Lake in the mid-afternoon in May during a year with normal flooding.

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Mirror Lake Mount Watkins X2172
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Mount Watkins and Ahwiyah Point reflected in Mirror Lake, late afternoon in May during a year with exceptional flooding.

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Mirror Lake Mount Watkins X2170
(733 KB)

The renowned reflection of Mount Watkins in Mirror Lake in the late afternoon in May,
during a year with an exceptional snowfall and the resulting flooding from melting snow.

When the waters which run down from the Yosemite Wilderness and Tenaya Lake reach
Mirror Lake, which was formed by landslides (like the Ahwiyah Point Rockfall) crossing and
damming up Tenaya Creek hundreds of years ago, they drop much of the sediment they carry.
Mirror Lake is gradually silting up from the sediments deposited during the spring runoff and is
eventually going to become a small pond. After its extinction Mirror Lake will be a meadow.

Mirror_Lake_Mount_Watkins_X0876


Mirror Lake Mount Watkins X0876
(978 KB)

Mount Watkins reflected in Mirror Lake in mid-morning in May.
The light begins to get harsh at 9:30 (light is softer in the afternoon).

In the 1860s, Captain William James Howard built a summer house on the shore of Mirror Lake.
A dance floor extended out 60 feet over the water, and Mirror Lake House became a night spot.
It was reached by a one mile toll road from the valley. This road was bought up by the Yosemite
Commissioners in 1879. The road was made toll-free, and they removed Mirror Lake House.

When it was recognized that sediments were reducing the size of the lake, the first dam was
constructed in 1884. Later, a retaining dam was built on Tenaya Creek above the lake, but it
soon became obvious that this was only a short term solution. Under Galen Clark, in 1889 a
low dam was built at the outlet to Lower Mirror Lake to retain water. The lake was dredged
to remove sediment and acquire granitic sands for sanding roads until 1971, but since it
has been allowed to silt up to allow the natural processes to create a meadow. Soon,
Mirror Lake will be a memory and it will always look somewhat like the image below.

Mirror_Lake_Mount_Watkins_Autumn_Dusk_X6331


Mirror Lake Mount Watkins Autumn Dusk X6331
(586 KB)

Mirror Lake and Mount Watkins at dusk in October, when the lake is dry.
This is nearly the exact same scene as in the previous image (X0876).

This is similar to the way Mirror Lake will appear when it finally becomes extinct.

Upper_Mirror_Lake_3623


Upper Mirror Lake 3623
(712 KB)

A wide angle of Upper Mirror Lake, with Mount Watkins.

Upper_Mirror_Lake_Half_Dome_X0538


Upper Mirror Lake Half Dome X0538
(709 KB)

Half Dome at sunset from Upper Mirror Lake.

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Upper Mirror Lake Half Dome 4065
(532 KB)

A view of Half Dome from Upper Mirror Lake, mid-afternoon in May.
This is definitely not the best angle of Half Dome, but it is still pretty nice.
Half Dome is displayed on the Yosemite Assorted and Glacier Point pages.

Upper Mirror Lake in May is mosquito heaven. They have conventions
there where they discuss the best way to get under hikers clothing and
other subjects of interest to mosquitos. When not attending lectures, the
mosquitos practice their technique on any unprotected hikers nearby.
Mosquito repellent and mosquito-proof clothing are a good idea.

The section of Tenaya Canyon above Mirror Lake is called the Bermuda Triangle
of Yosemite National Park. The canyon is narrow, and once you get above the loop trail
there are no foot trails. In spring and summer there is quite a lot of water in the creek, and
in several spots you have to cross the creek and small waterfalls over slippery rocks.
There have been accidents, mysterious disappearances, and even some deaths.

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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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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Rivers and Creeks page

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Valley Assorted page

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Yosemite Select page

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