Wet Firefalls



What is that flowing over the cliff? Why does that look like lava?! The firefall is a waterfall, not lava, so, don’t worry! The illusion of fire falling over a cliff in Yosemite Park is pretty interesting. The way the fall is formed is when the sun reaches a certain point in February, and shines onto the waterfall. I became interested in the firefalls when I took my science test. Mrs.Spruell had a magazine you could read when finished with the test, and I found interest in a tiny article I found labeled ‘Firefalls!’. I was so interested that I figured I had to write about it, and that I hopefully will visit on day. The fall lasts for only 10 minutes, but 10 minutes of glorious sights is what you see. “When the fall started glowing, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Stated photographer Sangeeta Day on Facebook.

The most recent firefall was on February 19, 2016. Every year, dozens of photographers hurry to the best spot around to watch this magnificent sight. There are two spots for the firefalls. One fall is in Glacier Point, where in 1872 James McCauley built a campfire every night during the summer, at the edge of Glacier Point to entertain his guests that stayed at Glacier Mountain House Hotel. James was the owner of the hotel, and figured that the home-made falls would attract guests, which it did. After lighting a fire, James would kick all of the hot embers down the cliff, making it look like fire was falling. McCauley’s sons started asking visitors in Yosemite Valley for firewood donations, so in the summer nights James could make larger, crazier fires to make the original fire fall illusion, even larger.


In 1897, James McCauley was expelled from Glacier Point, and the traditional Glacier Point firefall came to a stop for 25 years! Several years later, David Curry, The owner of Yosemite Valley Hotel, heard his guests talking about the long missed firefall, and he decided that he should start a fall on special occasions. After Curry’s employers built a very large fire, David would yell with a booming voice, “Hello Glacier Point!” After receiving a hello in response, he would yell, “Let ’er go Gallagher!” And the embers would be pushed over the edge.


Another popular fall is Horsetail Fall. This fall, on the other hand, is natural. If there is not enough snow and sunlight to melt the waterfall in February, and if the sky is not clear, and it is cloudy, the fire fall will not happen. The sky needs to be clear and sunny, otherwise the sunlight will not shine onto the sun, and light up the fall. As addressed earlier, if all conditions are perfect, the fall will light up in a beautiful sensation, and yet another year, a fire fall of history is made.