Yosemite Waterfall to Turn to 'Fire' This Week

Horsetail Fall blazes in winter sunset
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2012 1:31 AM CST
Photogs Fired Up for Yosemite 'Lava'
The firefall is shown from Glacier Point in Yosemite..   (AP Handout Photo/Yosemite National Park Service, Bethany Gediman)

A confluence of just-the-right weather conditions at the perfect time of day—and year —can turn a Yosemite waterfall into a cascade of fire—at least, that's what it looks like. Sometime in mid-February the setting sun lights up one of the waterfalls of the national park in California so that it looks, for a flash, like molten lava spilling over the face of the sheer rock peak El Capitan. Outdoor photographer Galen Rowell first captured the phenomenon in 1973. Now an army of shutterbugs wait at Horsetail Fall, hoping to catch it on film again.

"Horsetail is so uniquely situated that I don't know of any other waterfall on earth that gets that kind of light," photographer and Yosemite book author Michael Frye tells AP. "If you hit it at just the right time, it turns this amazing color of gold or red-orange." Photographers must be situated at the right spot and angle at sunset when the sky is clear. The skinny funnel of water plunges free for some 1,500 feet before it hits the granite cliff and spills another 500 feet. But it only exists a few weeks at this time of year, and only when there is adequate snow or rain. The fall will likely continue to flow only until Friday, park officials predict. (Read more Horsetail Fall stories.)

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