When is a waterfall not a waterfall? The next time you’re in Yosemite, stop at the turnout where Cascade Creek meets Big Oak Flat Road and see if you can figure out why this impressive cataract doesn’t merit an official “waterfall” designation. It certainly isn’t for lack of verticality. Or drama. From the bridge on Big Oak Flat Road, Cascade Creek appears to spring full-speed from the heavens before taking a little twist and exploding into a network of violent, staircase cascades and disappearing beneath the bridge. You can cross the road and continue following the whitewater to its convergence with Tamarack Creek and its disappearance around a bend. I guess a waterfall by any other name looks just as sweet.
On the other hand, after again experiencing the annual circus that is Horsetail Fall in February, keeping the Cascade Creek waterfall/cascade relatively anonymous may just be a good thing for those of us who already appreciate it. I find it kind of amusing to compare the always photogenic, in-your-face Cascade Whatever to Horsetail Fall, which usually requires binoculars to locate, even if you know exactly where to look. When I get my groups on location at one of the Horsetail Fall viewing locations (including the picnic area directly beneath the fall), I typically spend at least five minutes helping everyone locate the fall: “See that tall tree at the edge of the parking lot? Follow it all the way to the rock outcrop at the top of El Capitan. Okay, now follow the top of El Capitan to the left until you get to a tree–Horsetail Fall comes straight down from there. See it?” By the time they find it I’m exhausted and they’re puzzled: “Is that what all the excitement’s about? Really?”
Of course when the light’s right, Horsetail Fall doesn’t need much water to become a breathtaking spectacle, and I’ll never tire of showing others the Horsetail “Firefall” effect for the first time. But honestly, given the shear drama and variety of compositions possible, I have a lot more fun photographing Cascade Creek. But let’s just keep it our secret.
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