The top of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park
A summertime spectacle dating back to 1872 where burning hot embers spilled from the top of Glacier Point to create a 3,000ft glowing ‘firefall’
Disappeared due to tourist damage
For nearly a century, a nightly ritual took place atop this cliff. Staff from the old Glacier Point Hotel would create large fires, burning them down into piles of red-hot embers. In a controlled and choreographed manner, two men with metal plates welded to long steel poles would shovel them off the precipice so that the falling embers appeared to someone watching from the valley as a waterfall of fire.
Though many histories have been attributed to its source––from a form of communication that Native Americans used across the valley, to a way for settlers to dispose of their trash––for most of its 86-year lifespan the Firefall was a manmade form of entertainment witnessed by thousands of park guests
PERSONAL STORY Provided by Gary Pack - Photographer
The last time I saw the Firefall at Yosemite I was probably eight years old. We had just finished a presentation by the Park Ranger when all got quiet and I stood there with goose bumps listening to a beautiful female voice singing the Indian Love Song that echoed through the valley.
I had never heard that song before but if I close my eyes real tight I can still hear it today.
About half way through the song the Firefall began from very high above us. I was awestruck at this incredible sight and sound and will never forget it.
WHY HAS IT DISAPPEARED?
In January 1968, the National Park Service ordered that it be discontinued due to the overwhelming number of visitors it attracted. Artist Adam Frelin decided to recreate the dazzling display by re-enacting the Firefall in 2012. See below for his story.
- Be sure to research places before you visit. You may be visiting an environmentally sensitive area, in which case you must take extra care to stay on footpaths and follow signs.
- There are often site-specific recommendations/practices that can vary from one location to the next. However, at a minimum, visitors should put the 7 Leave No Trace principles into action:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimise Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
- Visitors should learn about the park they intend to visit and should be prepared for the conditions they will experience. They should have the necessary equipment, clothing, first aid, etc. to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit, while also being prepared to minimise their potential impacts.
- Even though the Firefall is no more, there are many natural wonders to discover in the National Parks: “The Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah are simply amazing. I’ve been to many national parks, and the rock features at Bryce are unparalleled. Another iconic natural wonder is the famed Yellowstone geyser Old Faithful in Wyoming. It is a must see for any national park visitor.” Ben Lawhon, MS | Education Director, Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics.
- Tips on how to lessen your impact on the environment - wwf.panda.org
- The Leave No Trace Seven Principles - lnt.org
- Adam Frelin: Firefall, 2012 public performance - adamfrelin.com