California’s Yosemite National Park spans nearly 1,200 square miles of diverse terrain including towering granite peaks, verdant valleys, wildflower-covered meadows, and breathtaking waterfalls. Avid hikers spend a lifetime hiking its trails and barely scratch the surface. Now, thanks to record snowpack last winter, dozens of “secret” waterfalls are emerging throughout the park.
On May 1, the California Department of Water Resources measured the existing snowpack in the Sierras. They found the northern reaches had the wettest year (October through September) ever recorded. The southern Sierras tracked 180 percent of average, while the central zone boasted 202 percent of its annual average.
Of course, all this water needs to go somewhere. Because it naturally seeks the quickest run from mountain peak to sea, the massive amount of water is finding typically inactive channels and creating “secret” or ephemeral waterfalls. Add to that unseasonably warm temperatures which are rapidly melting the snowpack and the results are spectacular. Hundreds of rare — in some cases, never-before-seen — waterfalls are raging throughout the park. Given that most have never run before, many are unnamed.
Park ranger, Scott Gediman, noted: “In my 20-plus years here, I have never seen Yosemite Falls flowing at the velocity it has. There’s just water everywhere.” During his recent interview, Gediman stood at 4,000-foot elevation in awe of numerous falls cascading more than 3,000 feet down the walls surrounding him. Many named waterfalls that have been dry for years are now active, including Royal Arches Fall, Horsetail Fall, Sentinel Fall, Ribbon Fall, and Staircase Fall. Yosemite officials are confident these “secret” waterfalls will last until at least the first week of June.
In the last year, U.S. National Parks have already received a huge boost in visitors with some boasting the largest numbers on record. However, this has also created a logistical nightmare for officials. Traffic flow in some parks ground to a standstill and, in some instances, visitors were turned away outright because the roads simply could not handle the flow. Yosemite Park officials are advising tourists to wait to visit the falls until after Memorial Weekend. By then, the park plans to have completed several large parking lot and road construction to ease traffic demands.