Never having been to Yosemite National Park, I decided to start doing research in anticipation of taking a trip there. Being a lover of waterfalls, from what I could tell, this could be one of the coolest places on earth. With this is mind, 2 problems became evident-time of year and drought conditions. Going there in May of 2017 solved both problems!
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the park, with a span of 2425 feet from the peak of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. This is clearly one of the greatest attractions in the entire Yosemite Valley! Amazingly, I could hear it before seeing it.
From talking to the rangers, it was clear that May of 2017 was the best opportunity to see all the falls in this national treasure in 20 years due to one of the biggest storms to hit California this decade. Drenching rains and heavy mountain snow pounded the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite Valley in February 2017. By the time we got there, a lot of the grounds were still soaked with many trails closed. The waterfalls, on the other hand, were replete with mountain runoff-fantastic! Traditionally, in a usual year with normal weather conditions, all the waterfalls in the park are reduced to a trickle by summer and fall. I wouldn't have liked that.
There are 3 sections to the falls that include Upper Yosemite Fall, Middle Cascades and Lower Yosemite Fall. The Upper Fall has a 1430 foot plunge that is among the 20 highest waterfalls in the world. The source of water emanates from the meandering current of Eagle Creek Meadow. Rapids funnel through Yosemite Creek and then over the precipice in an awe-inspiring show of force.
In between the Upper and Lower Falls, a series of 5 smaller plunges exist, but are difficult to see from the normal vantage points. These are collectively referred to as the Middle Cascades, and account for a descent of 675 feet, twice the height of the Lower Fall. The optimal place to view these are found from the Yosemite Falls Trail, a potentially hazardous route due to its steep trajectory and slippery terrain.
The Lower Fall has the easiest access along a short path from the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Every morning while in the park, I would wake up, look out the window to get a feel for the lighting conditions, pack up my camera and head to the viewing area at the base. The cacophony of the water crashing down the 320 foot drop as it meets the nearby Merced River is loud and exciting.
The name Yosemite is steeped in myth and legend. As the story goes, the formidable tribe of the Ahwahneechee inhabited this area from time immemorial. The Great Spirit had lead them there initially, and the high mountain walls provided them with security from the attacks of other mountain tribes.
One day, according to oral history, a young brave traveled to the Lake of the Sleeping Water in search of fish. While on his expedition, he was met by an enormous grizzly bear, touching off an epic battle from which the Indian survived, though severely wounded. As a result, the young chief became known as Yosemite, the Ahwahneechee term for the large grizzly bear.
After having spent 5 days in Yosemite National Park, It would seem that I was able to get a good smattering of viewing perspectives and lighting conditions of the Yosemite Falls. It is always amazing to me that there are such majestic natural phenomena in this world. My advice to people who like waterfalls: come to the park in the spring-bring your camera!