Yosemite National Park's 'Firefall' may not appear due to drought

The spectacle of the setting sun in late February that transforms a waterfall in Yosemite National Park into a glowing "firefall" may not happen this year due to a worsening drought in California.

Yosemite National Park said on its website that Horsetail Fall located on the eastern edge of El Capitan is dry as of Feb. 6, and there is no precipitation in the forecast.

The National Weather Service said about an inch of snow is possible on Monday and showers are possible on Tuesday, but it’s unclear if that will be enough water to flow down the falls.

The "firefall" effect on Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley happens during the second half of February when there is a clear sky and enough snow for the waterfall to flow, according to the park.

"It's a small waterfall that many people don't notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid- to late February, in a way reminiscent of the Firefall that occurred historically from Glacier Point," the park said on its website.

The spectacle has grown in popularity over the years, and park officials have had to issue permits for vehicles headed to the viewing area after major traffic jams in the area created significant safety problems, according to KTVU.


Earlier this month, the U.S. Drought Monitor said that California is rapidly plunging back into drought, with severe conditions now existing in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties — home to one-fourth of the state's population. The drought information resource also showed 44 percent of the state now considered to be in a moderate drought.

A drought state of emergency was lifted in California less than a year ago after a rainy winter snapped a deep five-year drought that forced water conservation, but so far this year the state has seen little precipitation.

Doug Carlson, spokesman for the state's Department of Water Resources, which carries out the snowpack surveys, told the Associated Press the dry weather is a growing concern, although reservoirs are still fuller than usual thanks to last year's rain in Northern California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.