The water flowing from Horsetail Falls glows orange when illuminated by the setting sun during the Firefall phenomenon in Yosemite National Park on February 15, 2023. On rare occasions each year in mid to late February, Horsetail Falls’ unique lighting effect can be seen. to see when the sky is clear and the water flows.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

A spectacular “fire” in California’s Yosemite National Park wowed nature lovers on Wednesday as the setting sun lit up the falls like a ribbon of fire.

For several weeks each year, the last rays of daylight hit Horsetail Falls, igniting the water like a river of lava flowing down a mountainside.

The phenomenon, which lasts just a few minutes at sunset and attracts tourists from all over the country, relies on a rare combination of ideal conditions.

“When the sun sets at the right angle, it reflects on El Capitan,” Yosemite National Park public relations officer Scott Gediman told AFP.

“It’s the combination of the sun reflecting on the water, the clear sky, the flowing water. When it all comes together, it’s magical.”

People look at Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park in California
People watch the “firefall” of Horsetail Falls near El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on February 15, 2023. The phenomenon only occurs for a few days in February each year when several weather and climate conditions are right.


California, along with most of the western United States, is governed by a perennial drought which greatly depletes her rivers.

But the generous showers that started the year — causing deadly flooding in some places — left the state in much better shape, and the watercourses are flowing.

California’s signature blue skies appeared Wednesday, meaning visitors to Yosemite who happened to be in the right place at the right time got a chance to see the fiery falls.

“The pictures I’ve seen are just beautiful,” said amateur photographer Terry Cantrell, who traveled from Fresno. “Everybody wants to have their own, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The long wait and frigid temperatures were worth it for fellow photographer Whitney Clark of San Francisco.

“Based on how the sun sets against a mountain or a rock, it creates a really nice fire effect for photographers and you can get a beautiful shot,” she said.

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