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Ribbon Fall
   Mariposa County, California, United States

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This waterfall has been surveyed, mapped and measured in person by the World Waterfall Database.
Photo of Ribbon Fall With a sheer drop of 1,612 feet Ribbon Fall is the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the United States, and is among the tallest sheer waterfalls on the planet. Ribbon Creek drains an area of about 4 square miles immediately to the west of El Capitan, the collective waters of which intersect Yosemite Valley about 3,000 feet above the valley floor. As the creek runs off the edge of the valley, it carries down a slightly corkscrew-shaped plain of rock which causes the falls to twist off axis and fall to the right of its original course. The stream stays in contact with the cliff face for perhaps the first 200-300 vertical feet of the falls, and then free-falls for over one thousand feet before it sprays onto a steep skirt of the cliff face and veils the final distance to the bottom of the cliff. This contact with the cliff disqualifies Ribbon Fall from being considered a truly free-falling waterfall in that it does retain some contact with the cliff face, however the fall is entirely uninterrupted (i.e. there are no pools or pauses in the fall), so it is still appropriate to consider it to be the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the country.

Ribbon Fall occupies a deep alcove directly to the west of the massive granite monolith El Capitan and because the falls cannot be easily seen from many of the signature views around Yosemite Valley, they are not regarded nearly as highly as Yosemite Falls or - especially - Bridalveil Fall which is situated directly across the valley. But also because Ribbon Creek drains from such a small area, it retains a consistent flow for only about half of the year, usually peaking in volume between mid April and mid May, and then quickly diminishing and running completely dry by July at the latest in most years (if not earlier).
Seasonal Discharge
This waterfall occurs along a stream that is known to vary greatly in volume and as a result may not flow consistently year round or may dry out completely during certain periods.


HISTORY AND NAMES


  • Also Known as: Lung-yo to-co-ya, Pigeon Creek Fall, Virgins Tears
  • Ribbon Fall is the Official name of this waterfall

Lafayette Bunnell reports the Native American name for Ribbon Fall to be Lung-yo-to-co-ya, which literally means "Pigeon Basket", likely an homage to bird nests which could be found in the vicinity of the falls. Because of this native title, Bunnell attempted to apply the name Pigeon Creek Fall. Later, the falls were commonly known as Virgin's Tears as a somewhat tasteless comparative to neighboring Bridalveil Fall. At a further later date James Hutchings interpreted the name of the fall to mean along the lines of "the graceful and slender one", and it is said to be this interpretation which inspired the name Ribbon Fall (again using the singular form on the suffix).

Our thoughts


Ribbon Fall isn't even remotely the main attraction in Yosemite Valley - or even one of the many main attractions for that matter. But Ribbon Fall is also a very striking waterfall when it's flowing and if its flowing well (as seen in some of the recent years when Yosemite has received well above average snowpack) it can be downright spectacular. If you plan on visiting Yosemite before July, do not pass up the opportunity to seek out this waterfall - just be prepared for a less than stellar performance unless you time your visit perfectly with the peak of snow melt season.

Location and directions


Ribbon Fall is located directly west of El Capitan on the north wall of Yosemite Valley within Yosemite National Park. The best views of the falls are from Southside Drive about 1/5 of a mile east of the junction with the Wawona Road at a large pullout where both Ribbon Fall and Bridalveil Fall can be seen. Ribbon Fall can also be easily seen from Crocker Point, Dewey Point and can partially be seen from Valley View along Northside Drive.

Ribbon Fall is shown in the center. Additional nearby waterfalls (if any) can be found in the list below.

Additional Nearby Waterfalls


Name of Waterfall Distance
Horsetail Falls 1.12 mi / 1.8 km
Eagle Creek Cascade 1.27 mi / 2.04 km
Bridalveil Fall 1.34 mi / 2.14 km
Fireplace Creek Falls 1.99 mi / 3.19 km
Columbia Cascade 2.26 mi / 3.62 km
Widow's Tears 2.32 mi / 3.71 km
Silver Strand Falls 2.48 mi / 3.98 km
Cascade Creek Falls 2.9 mi / 4.64 km
Fissure Falls 3 mi / 4.79 km
Sentinel Fall 3.09 mi / 4.95 km

 

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Photo of Ribbon Fall Photo of Ribbon Fall

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Photography tips


Because there is no trail to the base of Ribbon Fall, few people ever see it from below but it is possible to get there with some effort. Actually shooting the falls from below is another story. Because the falls essentially dissolve into a fine mist which drifts its final way to the valley floor and one must look almost straight up to view the falls from its base, the creative applications are limited. The falls face south and will see direct, even sunlight late morning to late afternoon hours. Part of the falls will be sunlit until nearly sunset, but the base of the falls will fall into shade by the late evening.

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