Tag Archives: yosemite

Yosemite park buys 400-acre property on its western border, the largest expansion in nearly 70 years

California’s Yosemite National Park just got bigger by 400 acres, the largest single addition it’s seen in the last 70 years.

Image credits Adam Kool.

Yosemite National Park is the third most visited national reserve in the U.S., featuring strikingly beautiful waterfalls and the towering relief of the High Sierras. And it just got a whole lot bigger with the acquisition of Ackerson Meadow, a 400-acre property of wetlands and rolling hills teeming with endangered wildlife on the park’s western boundary. The area was bought for the park by conservation group Trust for Public Land (TPL) for US$2.3m (£1.7m).

The land was previously used for logging and grazing cattle. TPL says that the land is “a gentler landscape than the imposing granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley, a dozen miles to the east,” with a thriving ecosystem that will be carefully preserved by park authorities. The area is known to house at least two endangered species, including North America’s largest species of owl, the great grey owl.

The land was previously owned by Robin and Nancy Wainwright, who acquired it in 2006. Mr Wainwright said that he received other offers for the land, most notably a lucrative offer from a developer which planned to build a resort on it. But, he says, you can often see bears strolling through the meadow or owls flying over the fields in spring — and he hadn’t wanted that experience to be available only to visitors who could afford to stay in a resort.

“To have that accessible by everyone, to me is just a great thing. It was worth losing a little bit of money for that,” he added.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said Yosemite’s boundary had seen some minor changes over the years but the addition of Ackerson Meadow was the largest expansion since 1949. He said that the Trust for Public Land had contributed US$1.53m for the purchase, with the rest being covered by the Yosemite Conservancy group and anonymous donors.

So hats off to the Wainwrights — the more people start appreciating what natural parks are worth, the better.

The giants with piercing yellow eyes and 5-foot wingspans have adapted so well to snow that they can dive face-first through up to a foot of it to catch the voles they hear creeping underneath.

Ornithologists remotely tracks endangered Yosemite Great Gray Owls with sound tech

The Great Gray Owls of Yosemite are a unique species, after they separated from their cousins some 30,000 years ago when an ice age forced them into isolation. Though similar to the Great Gray Owls, commonly encountered through out North America and the Asian taiga forests, the Yosemite branch is genetically distinct, but unfortunately also endangered with only 200 specimens left in the wild.

The giants with piercing yellow eyes and 5-foot wingspans have adapted so well to snow that they can dive face-first through up to a foot of it to catch the voles they hear creeping underneath.

The giants with piercing yellow eyes and 5-foot wingspans have adapted so well to snow that they can dive face-first through up to a foot of it to catch the voles they hear creeping underneath. (c) Joe Medley / U.S. Forest Service

With such a fragile population, every measure of precaution must be taken. Tracking and tagging, indispensable to conservation efforts, is extremely difficult in such situations since it traumatizes the birds, disrupting matting cycles and nesting in the process. So, this summer researchers decided to tackle the situation with a different, more innovative approach – they used remote audio recording, coupled with complex software, to track and recognize individual Great Gray Owls through out the national park.

“Even if it takes only 15 minutes to trap a bird, it’s traumatic for them in the long term,” said Joe Medley, a PhD candidate in ecology at UC Davis who perfected computer voice recognition software to track the largest of North America’s owls. “With a population this small, we want to err on the side of caution in terms of the methods we use to get data.”

Thus,  40 data-compression digital audio recorders with high gain were placed in key areas of Yosemite,  around the mid-elevation meadows typically favored by the owl known as Strix nebulosa Yosemitensis. By the end of the high tech owl spy experiment, Davis garnered some 50 terrabytes of recording – enough for seven years of continuous playing. Owl howls weren’t the only thing he ended up with though; all kinds of environmental sounds were picked up as well, from airplanes, to frogs, to shivering trees.

To solve this, Medley along with scientists at  Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, developed a specialized software called Rave Pro. The program was able to recognize and filter the  Great Gray Owls’ low-pitched hoot from the massive data, and discern males and females from juveniles. The software was even able to identify nesting females calling for food to help determine reproduction success.

“It’s capable of searching a week’s worth of data in an hour. What I was left with was owls and a host of other things that fell in the same bandwidth,” Medley said.

The researchers involved in the study hope that the same technique might be applied to observing other endangered species that are particularly sensitive to human interaction.

“These (owls) exist nowhere else in the world, and where they do occur is a pretty amazing location,” said Joshua Hull, a researcher with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and adjunct professor at the University of California, Davis. “These are going in a different evolutionary direction than the others, and we don’t know where that is right now.”


A Waterfall Catches Fire?

The famous El Capitan’s Horsetail Falls, in the National Park with the same name offered some very lucky visitors a strange scenery. El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world and the waterfall that forms on it offers one of the most spectacular views of the park.
An even more astonishing view of the waterfall is created by reflections of sunlight that illuminate the water falling below a certain angle, a very special angle. This view can be rarely seen in a period of about two weeks in late February. To photograph an event so rare, you may need to stick around for weeks, for years in a row. The reason is that the phenomenon depends on a number of quite strict natural conditions that must occur at the same time. And it all depends on pure luck.

1: The first and most important condition is for the waterfall to exist. It is made out of water resulting from melting snow and ice on top of the mountain. It melts between December and January and is quite likely that in late February there is not much snow to melt.
2: It is a highly specific angle at which sunlight must hit the falling water, so the position of the sun is condition #2. This is only possible in late February and at early dusk. If it’s a cloudy day, you only get to see a gray waterfall. Not to mention the crazy unpredictable weather also famous in the park.
3: The 3rd challange is getting an entry permit in the area in winter time, due to the road covered in great snow and dangerous hiking paths.

What’s funny is that even though nature already puts on a fantastic fire-water show at Yosemite, the park put on a similar man-made show for almost a century. In the early 1900s, David Curry wanted to attract more campers to his Camp Curry site and he figured falling fire would do the trick. It’d been done in the past — burning bark was poured from the towering Glacier Point cliff creating a lovely cascade of fire-orange flakes down the rock’s face. But Curry made this spectacle a nightly event, and it became quite popular with visitors. For better or for worse, the fire fall tradition was extinguished in 1968, when officials decided that pouring fire from a cliff wasn’t the safest thing for a national park.
Fortunately, there were others lucky enough to capture the phenomenon and share it with the world.

The fire waterfall

Image uploaded to Commons by Kelly.

Yosemite is one of the best places to visit in the whole world, and it’s been fascinating people from all over the world since it was declared a national park in 1890; huge granite cliffs, splashing clear streams, massive sequoia groves and epic waterfalls all contribute to its unique charm. Among these natural wonders, a huge granitic monolith famous among rock climbers hosts one of the lesser known attractions, please welcome the latest entry in the amazing waterfall world: the fire waterfall.

El Capitan, the 910 meters rock formation stands tall on the northern side of Yosemite Valley. Each year, ice gathers on top of El Capitan, then starts to melt into a seasonal waterfall. In the last two weeks of February, orange rays get reflected in the waterfall, making it look just like a river of lava.

Photo by Diliff.

Nicknamed Horsetail Waterfall, it descends from a bit less than 500 meters on the Eastern side of El Capitan and offers quite a view for a picnic.What’s even funnier about this is that a century ago, in the early 1900s, a man named David Curry wanted to attract more tourists. He figured hey, let’s make an actual fire and pour it down a waterfall – which is what he did. He poured bark from the top of the waterfall and gave quite a show, until this was forbidden in 1968, after officials decided this is not quite the thing to do in a natural park. Go figure.

Photo by Scfry.

But hey, the natural one is much more awesome, even if it lasts for just a couple of weeks. No reason to be discouraged though because February is just around the corner. But plan ahead, because the timing has to be just right, and the waterfall doesn’t run on a tight schedule.

The 4 most spectacular waterfalls in the world


Photo by Wolfgang Staudt

In the previous post of this waterfall series, I wrote a list of the 5 tallest waterfalls in the world. I bet some of you were surprised not to hear more famous waterfalls or to see that the ‘big boys’ are not that spectacular – not the massive amount of water you’d probably expect. So, this list just had to come. Of course this is a bit subjective, and perhaps this could have more parts. It all depends on you, so if you’re interested, just say so or leave a comment or something. So in no specific order, here they are:

  • Niagara falls


Photo by Scott Kinmartin

Niagara falls is perhaps the most known attraction of this type in the whole world. Situated on the Niagara river, this massive waterfall represents the border eparating the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York. It’s divided into two parts, the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls; The Horseshoe Falls drop about 173 feet (53 m) while the American Falls drop about 70 feet (21 m) before reaching a jumble of fallen rocks.


Horshoe falls. Photo by hole new world

The name “Niagara” comes from “Onguiaahra”, which means “Thunder of Waters”. Kinda easy to figure out why they named it this way.

  • Yosemite falls


Photo by wikipedia

Yosemite falls is definitely special, and is has a certain charm that the other huge waterfalls don’t have. It is the highest measured waterfall in North America. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it is a major attraction in the park. The total 2425-foot (739 m) distance from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls makes it go in the top 10 tallest (the order is not quite clear).

  • Victoria falls


Photo by Arnold Pouteau
The Victoria falls are situated in southern Africa on the Zambezi River. According to some measurements it is the largest waterfall in the world; also, the shape and diversity are just fantastic. The wildlife is also very diversified and easy to spot.


Photo by RemyOmar
Meaning the Smoke that Thunders, it’s based on a width of 1.7 kilometres (1 mi) and height of 108 meters (360 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world.

  • Iguazu Falls


Photo by Javier Etcheverry

Iguazu Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls may just be the most spectacular and impressive waterfall in the world. It’s located on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones on the River Iguazu. There are numerous legends that surround it. One is that a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. Enraged by this, the god split the river creating the waterfalls, condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.


Photo by Walt
In guarani language, the term “Iguazú” means “great waters”. It was discovered in 1541 by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and established in 1984 as Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There are more than 270 falls in an area where cliffs and islets are scattered in a half moon. If you go to South America this is clearly a place that’s worth going to.


Photo by routavelo