Yosemite’s Waterfall Glows Like Fiery Lava In The Evening Sun


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockFeb 25 2016, 22:48 UTC
74 Yosemite’s Waterfall Glows Like Fiery Lava In The Evening Sun

@vjamesphot/Instagram and

Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall flows with spring water from winter until spring. However, during certain evenings in February – if the conditions are just right – the Horsetail Fall appears to glow an orangey-red like a lava fall.

The fiery glow is simply an illusion caused by the sunlight reflecting off the mist of the waterfall. However, you still have to be incredibly lucky to catch this effect. The 300-meter (1,000-foot) waterfall only glows if the light conditions are ideal during a brief window of the sunset. Furthermore, you aren’t even guaranteed water will be flowing to reflect the light.


Yosemite is no stranger to "firefalls." Almost 150 years ago, hotel owners in the park used to chuck burning embers of red fir bark off a ledge near Glacier Point to create the effect of a flaming lava fall. Perhaps by no surprise, the practice was banned by 1968 as it was seen to be an artificial distraction from the natural beauty of the park, The New York Times reports.

Countless photographers have documented the odd beauty of the firefall. It’s even reported that iconic photographer Ansel Adams, who spent many years wandering Yosemite, snapped a firefall in 1940. This year is no different, with crowds of happy snappers lining the park to catch the perfect moment. Here are some of their best works:


*** Night On Earth *** As you may know this past weekend I was in #YosemiteValley in hopes of catching the great #Firefall phenomenon that occurs only about 10 days a year when the setting sun illuminates Horsetail Falls for a few minutes, giving the impression of lava flowing down the side of El Capitan. Conditions did not come together on Friday, but Saturday night was truly special. I saw what I believe was "Firefall Actual" :) the orange glow on the Falls was truly stunning to see in person. Also stunning was how crowded it was. 1000s of photographers packed along the coast, many who camped out from 8am in the morning. Luckily i had my waders with me on this trip so I simply stepped a bit into the Merced River for this view :) Shot alongside and met up with some amazing photographer folk this weekend including: @kurtzmanos @77slade @laly0021 @taylorgrayphoto @mazmanphotography @jennkichinko @jude_allen @csharrison and @_jonathanmitchell_ and 1000s of others!

A photo posted by Vincent James (@vjamesphoto) on Feb 23, 2016 at 5:12am PST


Witness the "Firefall"

A photo posted by wayne (@potatounit) on Feb 22, 2016 at 10:00pm PST



Main image credit: Vincent James - Instagram - Facebook - Website

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  • lava,

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  • yosemite,

  • waterfall