A UNIQUE PHENOMENON
It happens once a year and its effect attracts hundreds of tourists and photographers who want to see how during the month of February nature colors the water of a waterfall and turns it into a trail of fire five hundred meters high. This phenomenon, unique in the world, occurs when the last rays of sunset penetrate with such intensity on the waterfall that hangs over the eastern edge of El Capitan, the imposing massif in Yosemite Valley, that it ends up transforming it into a long tail magmatic.
A DEMANDING WATERFALL
This incredible phenomenon does not happen every year, in fact in 2020 it did not, and for this optical illusion to occur it is necessary that several conditions are met, all of them essential. The first is the abundance of water. If the rainy season hasn’t dumped a significant amount of water on Yosemite, the waterfall doesn’t have enough flow to be seen. Second, the light. During the days when the fire cascade takes place, the sky must be completely clear. Otherwise, the sunset rays would not be able to penetrate the way they do in the waterfall and it would not adopt that characteristic color. Finally, it is also necessary that the winter was not particularly harsh, since the low temperatures could threaten to freeze the waterfall and it would be impossible for this curious effect to occur.
THE FIRST CASCADE OF FIRE
The first record of this phenomenon could not be more literal. To do this you have to travel back in time to 1872, when James McCauley, who ran a small hotel near Yosemite, regularly went to the top to light bonfires and admire the natural scenery. When McCauley decided that he had had enough, he would put out the fire and throw the embers into the crack where the waterfall now flows, creating the illusion of a waterfall of fire, although in this case, at night. The ritual began to become famous and more and more people came to that place to light fires, until in 1968 it was banned for environmental reasons.
It was not until 1973 that the first photograph of the actual firefall was taken. It was taken by Galen Rowell and since then, a trail of photographers gathers in Yosemite almost every year to immortalize the curious optical illusion.