Watch The Sun Turn Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall Into A Flowing Golden Firefall

The world is full of spectacular phenomena, from those caused by weather patterns, to the flora and fauna of the natural world. In the USA, the middle of February marks the start of firefall season at Yosemite National Park – and yes, it is just as spectacular as it sounds.

Shreenivasan Manievannan captured incredible time-lapse footage of the firefall on Thursday, February 22. Perfect weather conditions allowed the sun to turn the water flowing over Horsetail Fall off the eastern edge of El Capitan into a stream of golden lava, as it cascaded over the 650-meter-high point (2,130 feet).


According to the Yosemite website, the original firefall was just that, as the owners of a nearby hotel pushed a real bonfire over the edge of Glacier Point within the park in 1872. The practice continued, with people coming in to watch the burning embers tumble down the cliff face.

Long-exposure photograph of the firefall with real embers.
Image credit: Scfry via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

In 1968, the practice was ended for safety reasons and concern for the forest by the director of the National Park Service, George Hartzog. Fortunately, a photographer called Galen Rowell spotted the first natural firefall in Yosemite in 1973, and captured a color photograph. 

While Horsetail Fall is perhaps considered less impressive than some of the more well known parts of the National Park, the stream is fed entirely by snowmelt, which means the firefall can only be witnessed during February, when the ice thaws but before the summer dries up the fall completely. 

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