In the Yosemite National Park in California, there is an unmissable event every year. In February, one waterfall in particular seems to catch fire from the sun’s rays. This is a completely natural phenomenon called “firefall”, a contraction of the English terms’ fire ”and“ waterfall ”.
An impressive optical illusion
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the eastern state of California (United States). Covering a total area of 3,081 km², this park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Its most famous landmarks are the Half Dome – a granite dome at an elevation of 2,693 meters and El Capitan, a vertical rock formation 900 m popular with climbing enthusiasts. However, Yosemite Park is also very popular for its many waterfalls.
One of these falls particularly attracts the attention of tourists once a year, namely that of Horsetail. The latter falls from a height of 610 m since the formation of El Capitan. As the Smithsonian Magazine in an article from February 19, 2021, each year in February an optical illusion occurs also rare impressive.
At dusk, the sun’s rays give out the waterfall the appearance of a lava flow. However, this optical illusion appears when certain conditions are met, namely mild temperatures, fairly substantial snow cover and a clear sky.
Limited access due to the coronavirus
In February 2020, more than 2,000 visitors had been able to admire the waterfall ablaze for a few minutes each evening. Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has since forced the authorities to take special measures. Indeed, it has become impossible to accommodate so many people on the site. This year, the curious must therefore buy their ticket online, but also walk more than two kilometers to have the opportunity to observe the waterfall. Indeed, the authorities have severely restricted access to the car park.
You should know that Horsetail Waterfall has been nicknamed “firefall” since 1973. That year, photographer Galen Rowell captured the first images of this surprising optical illusion. However, its nickname comes from a tradition of park officials that ended in 1968. Indeed, they created an artificial lava flow by pouring embers off Glacier Point, a scenic viewpoint located on a bluff overlooking Yosemite Valley.
Here are some impressive images released by CBS in 2019 showing the famous “firefall”: