Once-A-Year ‘Firefall’ Lights Up Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall

If you happen to be anywhere in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park, you won’t want to miss the spectacular “firefall” which is now lighting up Horsetail Fall. This event occurs only once each year for a couple of weeks during the middle of February, and the spectacle is such that when you gaze upon the rock face of El Capitan, it appears as though bright molten lava is pouring down the mountain like a waterfall. Only in this case, it is a firefall.

Science Alert report that the photographer Roy Lee was so intrigued after witnessing the firefall at Yosemite National Park last year that he returned again this month to snap more photographs. Lee has added many of these photos to his Instagram account so that others may see the beauty of Horsetail Fall’s firefall.

Roy Lee has cautioned others who will be visiting Yosemite to make certain that they are extra cautious due to road conditions brought on by excessive rainfall recently.

“This trip almost didn’t happen due to the crazy road conditions at Yosemite. There has been so much water that a lot of the roads were closed due to mudslides. For those that plan on going to see this, be careful since there has been so much water that some of the roads are falling apart.”

For those curious as to the origin of the firefall terminology, the history behind this phenomenon is that it was derived from an actual event which regularly occurred at Yosemite National Park during the years 1872 and 1968. While a real event, the firefalls of the past were artificial, rather than the natural one which occurs each year in February now.

During this past event, the owners of the Glacier Point Hotel would cast glowing embers straight down the side of Glacier Point cliff, a sheer drop of 3,200 feet. This older version of the Yosemite firefall used to entertain and amuse hikers and campers in the valley below but was stopped as so many visitors arrived to watch the spectacle that the meadows were severely trampled.

El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. Visitors can watch the ‘firefall’ here at Horsetail Fall until the end of February. [Image by Ben Margot/AP Images]

The once-a-year firefall spectacle that you can still see these days at Yosemite is a purely natural event and one which takes places only if the right conditions are in place and the sun cooperates. The New York Times describes how this phenomenon will only occur if the skies are clear and the mountains contain enough water to fuel the falls. And if there is any mist, that is even better as far as photography is concerned.

National Park officials say that water will flow over Horsetail Fall during the winter and early spring period, but only if enough snow has accumulated at the top of El Capitan.

“On sunny afternoons in mid- to late February, the setting sun can cause it to glow orange.”

With this most recent February firefall at Yosemite National Park, many people made long journeys to witness the spectacular event. Pamela Marcelino, from San Francisco, made the trek down to Horsetail Fall and found herself in the company of 150 other photographers. Marcelino described the moment when onlookers stood poised, with cameras in hand, ready to snap away.

“You just wait for that moment, holding your breath.”

The molten lava red-orange glow slowly arrives at Yosemite and, after peaking, dissipates after just 10 minutes.

Have you witnessed the firefall at Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall and what did you think of seeing the view in person?

[Featured Image by Ben Margot/AP Images]

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