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Yosemite Waterfall Unique Phenomena: Vibrant Light Show at Horsetail Fall

Feb 20, 2016 07:30 AM EST
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"Firefall" at Yosemite
Lava? Yosemite National Park's Horsetail Fall has been looking different.
(Photo : Flickr: Ambitious Wench)

Amateur and professional photographers alike recently flocked to Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains to witness a yearly phenomena that has been called a "firefall." 

Although the orange-red glow cascading from Yosemite's Horsetail Fall looks a lot like lava, it is actually a natural effect that occurs when the sun sets at just the right angle and illuminates the waterfall. This happens for only a couple weeks in mid-to-late February, according to Yosemite National Park. 

However, the vibrancy of this iconic firefall is largely dependent on the perfect weather conditions. This means that there must be an abundant snowfall in the winter to accumulate a large enough snowpack to feed the waterfall, which tumbles 1,570 feet down the east face of El Capitan. Temperatures during the day must also be warm enough to melt the snowpack and keep the waterfall flowing. Lastly, the sky must be clear of clouds at sunset, so that the sun's rays can shine down on the waterfall.

Mark Willard, one of the many visiting the firefall this year wrote on his Instagram: "Because #YosemiteValley got a lot of snow this year, the strong flow from Horsetail Falls made this a fantastic year for #Firefall and tonight's show definitely did not disappoint," according to Fox News, Denver

For the best view of the spectacular firefall, Yosemite rangers recommend the park's El Capitan picnic area, located in central California near the border with Nevada. 

The first-known photo of Yosemite's natural firefall was taken in 1973.

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