One very interesting event held at Camp Curry was the nightly
“firefall.” From its initiation in 1872, at 9 pm each night, workers above the
camp at Glacier Point would begin an orchestrated display of pushing burning
embers over the edge to cascade down toward the rocks behind Camp Curry. The
spectacle resembled a “waterfall of fire.” Witnesses who saw the spectacle when
they were children have told me that it was surreal. Watching the glowing
embers cascade down the granite looked like a fairytale. The firefalls were
stopped in January, 1968, when the Park Service decided that this show was not
in keeping with the mission of the organization. The meadows were being
trampled by hordes of spectators, and thefts increased during show hours. You
can briefly see the firefall in action, in the 1954 movie “The Caine Mutiny.”

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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7 Responses to Firefall

  1. Charles B says:

    I remember the Firefall, it was quite a sight to see. I took a slide of it. Thanks for the memory Rick.

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      You were lucky to have seen it. I moved to CA in ’75 and it was long gone by then. A different era for sure.

  2. Dave says:

    I saw the firefall when I was a kid. And yes it was breathtaking. Too bad they had to stop it.

  3. David Butler says:

    When the rest of the park finally burns (eventually it will),

    Will we still say, I’m glad X burned down?

    Once it burns, it will take 20 years to rebuild, if it ever does.

    Just like they still fighting over the 97 flood as your previous post states.

    I’m very okay with building in the park in a respectful manner than conserves the park but allows for the public to enjoy!

  4. Maureen L says:

    Although the Curry Company folks claimed that the red fir bark they used for the fire didn’t require cutting any trees, we all know that forest floor detritus is an integral part of the Yosemite biotic community. And I’ll bet the ecosystem under the falls suffered, too.

    I am glad the firefall is gone. To me, it goes with the era of golf course and airfield at Wawona and dance halls in the park. Singing “Indian Love Call” during the firefall doesn’t strike me as something to celebrate.

    I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about such things, but I’m glad the hotels at Glacier Point burned down, and likewise for Albert Snow’s hotel near the base of Nevada Falls.

    No, I didn’t ever see the firefall. But I think there are enough splendid things to see and enjoy in Yosemite.

    You can see what Park Service Director Herzog had to say about stopping the firefall in the Ken Burns national parks series.

    Also, I don’t hold with the Park Concessionaire and the NPS using the name “firefall” for the splendid sunset on Horsetail Falls in February!

    • Sönke says:

      You must have read my mind before writing your comment. VERY well said, Maureen! Very well…

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      Well it is what it was. It’s part of the history and I object to modern people calling the Horsetail Falls “the firefall.” It ain;t – it;s the glow at Horsetail in my book.

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