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Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls, as seen from the valley floor
larger version

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it is a fantastic and breathtaking sight best viewed in the late spring.

The total 2400 foot distance from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls would qualify Yosemite Falls as the eighth highest waterfall in the world if it was one continuous drop. Although often referred to as a "two-stage drop", the falls actually consist of three sections:

  • The 1300 foot plunge qualifies the Upper Falls alone as one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Trails up from the valley floor and down from other regions of the park outside the valley proper 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[?], hurls itself over the edge of a hanging valley in a spectacular and deafening show of raw natural force.

  • Between the two actual well known and obvious main plunges there are a series of rapids and small plunges generally referred to as "the cataracts". Taken together these account for another drop of almost 700 feet, nearly twice the height of the lower falls. Because of the layout of the area, the lack of any major drops in this section and the lack of public access they are all too easy to overlook. One looking up or over from most viewpoints in the valley misses them entirely. Best vantage points for the cataracts are found along the Yosemite Falls trail. But be warned: Numerous individuals climbing down from the falls trail towards the cataracts for a better look end up requiring an expensive helicopter rescue[?] due to steep and slippery terrain and features.

  • The final 400 foot drop of the Lower Falls, adjacent to an easily accessible viewing area provides countless park visitors with a fairly close look at this spectacular waterfall. 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 due to 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 foolhardy undertaking; a single afternoon thunderstorm could restart the falls, sweeping the climbers off the face and into oblivion.

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