After a very dry February the weather pattern has changed, with a series of storms dumping large quantities of rain and snow on California this weekend. Yosemite Valley received almost four inches of rain since Friday as a wet “atmospheric river” lined up to hit the northern and central parts of our state.
It was a warm system, with snow levels over 8,000 feet during most of the storm. The dry, sunny weather over the last month had already created exceptionally high flows in Yosemite’s waterfalls for this time of year, but all that rain over the last few days gave them an extra boost. I drove up to Yosemite Valley this morning and found the waterfalls roaring. They looked more like May than March. And there were small, ephemeral waterfalls everywhere.
Before the storm started to clear this morning I photographed Lower Yosemite Fall in soft light, and then as the sun began breaking through I decided to stay and photograph the upper and lower falls. The sun reaches this waterfall earlier in the morning during March than it does in April or May, making the light much more interesting. You don’t get many opportunities to photograph it this time of year with so much water – and with mist around the upper fall. Here’s one of the photos from this morning.
Another storm is predicted to arrive tonight, but this one should be much colder, with snow levels dropping down to 4,000 or even 3,000 feet. That could mean snow for Yosemite Valley for the first time since January. Can’t wait!
— Michael Frye
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Ha! Somehow I knew you would visit the park today to take some beautiful and strategic photos after this most recent storm (with more to come)! Your Yosemite Falls photo captures the power and massive volume of water that most folks don’t get to see, even in person, unless they are there at the right time of the year. The noise of the falls is deafening and it’s impossible to get close to them without getting thoroughly drenched.
I’ll never forget my day visit in March 1997 when the Park reopened after being cleaned up for 2.5 months following the amazing January storm. I couldn’t wait to be mesmerized by the various falls in the park; they did not disappoint. But, it was the incredible devastation that I wasn’t prepared for the day I went. The images will always remain in my memory because I felt like I was somewhere else on the planet. It’s amazing how nature somehow manages to take care of itself and restored this gem of a National Park to its ethereal glory.
Thanks for the continued, pictorial joy!
Thanks Ann. The falls are amazing, especially with a lot of water. And I’m glad you remember the flood – that was quite an amazing time in the park’s history.
In my dozens and dozens and dozens of visits to Yosemite over the years, I don’t ever recall that much water in the Falls during the first week of March. Once again, your photographic timing is exemplary.
Alyn, I don’t recall seeing that much water in early March either, but I’ve actually seen a similar flow in early December once after a big rainstorm. That flow didn’t last long, but this time it’s March, and there’s a lot of snow up higher that will continue to melt and provide good flow. The water levels will go down, since temps are supposed to drop tonight, but I expect we’ll have higher-than-average flow for awhile.
Having spent many many years in Yosemite (MY favorite place on Earth) your photo captures the memories in my mind perfectly ! From a young child watching the fire ball being dropped from Glacier point to all other changes made to the park until current. I so love your photos that capture the love of my life !!
Thanks so much Collette! I’m glad these photos can bring back some good memories for you.