Roseville photographer captures Horsetail Falls

By: Jim Webb, special to the Press Tribune
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Editor’s note: Roseville photographer Jim Webb shared his photos from a recent visit to Horsetail Falls. He shares his experience here. Do you have memorable photos you’d like to share? Send them to

Galen Clark’s book, “Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity,” published in 1904, does not provide any information about the phenomenon we today call “Horsetail Falls.” As a boy I’d seen photographs of the Glacier Point “Firefall” in Yosemite National Park, and dreamed of visiting the park one day and seeing that. But park officials stopped the event sometime in the 1960s, and I never had the opportunity.

Recently, however, I learned that every year in February a natural phenomenon occurs for about two weeks in the park. If there is sufficient water (often there is not), and if there is clear sky (Yosemite is frequently overcast in February) at sunset, the thin mist of water spilling over the east face of El Capitan “catches fire.” It lights up pink at first, then orange, then almost red. In total silence it comes and goes almost before you realize it. The late photographer Galen Rowell first photographed this event in 1972.

If you look up “Horsetail Falls” you will see many photographs of it, so these photos are not unique. That’s OK. The experience of seeing the magic of the falls made the drive from Roseville and back well worth it.