Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it is a major attraction in the park, especially in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.
The total 739 metres (2,420 ft) from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls qualifies Yosemite Falls as the sixth highest waterfall in the world, though with the recent discovery of Gocta Cataracts in Venezuela, it appears on some lists as seventh.
Although often referred to as a “two-stage drop”, the falls actually consist of three sections:
Upper Falls: The 1,430 ft plunge alone is among the twenty highest waterfalls in the world. Trails from the valley floor and down from other park areas outside the valley lead to both the top and base of Upper Yosemite Falls. The upper fall is formed by the swift waters of Yosemite Creek, which, after meandering through Eagle Creek Meadow, hurl themselves over the edge of a hanging valley in a spectacular and deafening show of force.
Middle Cascades: Between the two obvious main plunges there are a series of five smaller plunges collectively referred to as the Middle Cascades. Taken together these account for a total drop of 670 ft, more than twice the height of the Lower Falls. Because of the narrow, constricted shape of the gorge in which these drops occur and the lack of public access, they are rarely noted. Most viewpoints in the valley miss them entirely. Several vantage points for the cascades are found along the Yosemite Falls trail. Several hikers climbing down from the trail towards the cascades have required an expensive helicopter rescue due to steep and slippery terrain and features.
Lower Falls: The final 320 ft drop adjacent to an accessible viewing area, provides the most-used viewing point for the waterfalls. Yosemite Creek emerges from the base of the Lower Falls and flows into the Merced River nearby. Like many areas of Yosemite the plunge pool at the base of the Lower Falls is surrounded by dangerous jumbles of talus made even more treacherous by the high humidity and resulting slippery surfaces.
In years of little snow, the falls may actually cease flowing altogether in late summer or fall. A very small number of rock climbers have taken the opportunity to climb the normally inaccessible rock face beneath the falls, although this is an extraordinarily dangerous undertaking; a single afternoon thunderstorm could restart the falls, sweeping the climbers off the face.
The Lower Falls are easily accessible near the Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley. The top of the Upper Falls may be reached via a steep, strenuous, and usually crowded 3.50 mi hike beginning near the Sunnyside Walk-in Campground. The Upper Falls may also be reached via several routes from the Tioga Road to the north. (from Wikipedia.org)
I had hiked Half Dome the day before and today was happy to be chillin’ with family and friends down along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. This area is called swinging bridge, though the bridge there doesn’t swing much. Perhaps an old bridge that is no longer there had a little more swing to it?? Anyways, this was a perfect place to spend the better part of the day barbecuing, biking to nearby scenic spots, playing with our nieces and nephew, and simply enjoying the river. This view is from the bridge and I liked it very much. I mean, come on – it’s incredible! I waited for the afternoon clouds to form and then used my dark filter to lengthen the exposure along with a nd grad – and voila! – here it is, one of my favorite images from the trip!
I’m not sure if I was just coming off the high from climbing Half Dome the day before or being wooed by the river, but I soon got in my mind that I had to swim across this – the Merced River. It certainly wasn’t for others. That was actually the main deterrent – the number of people that were around and on the bridge throughout most of the day. There would generally be a couple dozen people lingering around most of the time and I didn’t want this to be a “stunt”, but I decided I had to do it regardless and I’d have to just block them all out. Most every sane person would tell you the water was “freakin’ cold”! In fact, coming down from Half Dome the day before we stopped around Little Yosemite to enjoy the river for a spell and I put my head in the water for 10 seconds only to get severe brain freeze. Yes, you could say it was VERY cold, but my experience with cold water is that you can’t tell yourself it’s cold – so I blocked those thoughts out and rephrased them in my mind to use words like refreshing and invigorating.
I tried to recruit another to take on this challenge but couldn’t find anyone to make that tweak in their mind from cold to refreshing! I was on my own. It’s fine, no one has ever died from 90 seconds of cold water, I told myself. As the time neared and I stripped down to my board shorts, I tried to remain focused and just not think much about it. I got Rebecca setup with the camera so she could take pictures (this could be great stock) and then headed over to the beach to the left of this scene. The idea was to swim from there, straight out into the middle of the river and let the current take me under the bridge and exit a little down river by the bbq area. I didn’t wait long and I ran into the water and began to swim quite hard. The refreshing and invigorating water stung my skin and where I initially wanted to keep my hand down and stroke, I quickly found that I had to breathe more. Putting my head up, I saw that the current was taking me, maybe a little quicker than anticipated, toward the middle pylon of the bridge and a log jam-up. I stroke harder and missed it by a couple of feet. By the time I was 3/4 of the way across, I was getting tired and my freestyle stroke turned to a sidestroke, and of course this happened right where there was a circular current in the river that was stopping my forward momentum. I was ready to be out! 20 seconds more of strong swimming and I was at the edge. My skin felt like it was on fire and I had a bit of a headache – but no goose-bumps! That’s because I never told myself it was cold.
Later I began to recollect, a thought from deep within my memory banks (or made up completely..), that my brother had swam across this river as a boy. I would have been too young to attempt it at the time, but I wondered if this were why I had felt such a strong desire to swim this. To match him on something that I couldn’t have done at the time. I’m still not sure if I am remembering this right or not – I’ll have to ask him, but I thought it interesting anyways. What compels us to do the things we do? Are all our thoughts and compulsions rooted in some previous experience?
Anyways, it was a wonderful experience and a challenge. I find when I’m in nature I come up with these challenges for myself more frequently and naturally than I do in the “real world”, and that is certainly one of the things I love about nature. I am absolutely positive in saying – I am happiest while in nature!