Tuolumne County, California, United States
Tueeulala Falls is one of two major waterfalls in the Hetch Hetchy Valley which can be seen from the Hetch Hetchy Dam. The USGS has marked the falls as occurring along an unnamed seasonal stream about half of a mile west of Wapama Falls but this is incorrect. Tueeulala Falls actually occurs along a seasonal channel of Falls Creek, the main portion of which produces Wapama Falls just to the east. When Falls Creek is swollen with snow melt, some of the excessive volume of the creek spills into a second channel about a quarter mile upstream of the top of Wapama Falls. This second channel runs for approximately 3/4 of a mile to the southwest where it then turns south and plunges a nearly sheer 880 feet over the sheer cliff to the west of Wapama Falls.
Because Tueeulala Falls is fed solely by Falls Creek, one of the largest tributaries of the Tuolumne River, it's seasonal characteristics behave quite differently than an independently fed stream. Falls Creek can swell to immense size in the spring that large quantities of water can spill into the Tueeulala Falls channel, allowing it to turn into one of Yosemite's more powerful waterfalls. However, as the snow melt subsides and the volume of Falls Creek drops, Tueeulala Falls will diminish in flow faster than practically any other major waterfall in the park. In most years the falls are dry by July but they have been known to flow through July during years with exceptionally heavy snow, and dry out entirely by the end of May in low snow years.
Both Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls have been said to have been truncated by the construction of the O'Shaughnessey Dam and Hetch Hetchy Lake. While it is certainly true that the lake flooded portions of Falls Creek below each of these waterfalls, neither Tueeulala Falls nor Wapama Falls were altered or shortened in any way by the construction of the dam. Estimates of the height of the falls have often stretched as high as 1,200 feet but this is simply a gross exaggeration. Topographic data is pretty clear on the height of the falls being between 850 and 900 feet.
History and Naming
Tueeulala Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
Hetch Hetchy Valley is said to have been discovered by westerners in 1850 by a hunter named Nathaniel Screech (some sources credit discovery to his brother Joseph), though Native Americans had used the valley for summer hunting and gathering grounds for perhaps 5000 years prior. Tueeulala is a name from the Miwok Indians, but the meaning of the word is not immediately clear. John Muir made considerable and very favorable notes about Tueeulala Falls in his book "The Yosemite" after his visit in 1871, so the name was recognized and in use prior to that at the least.
Unfortunately when we surveyed the falls in May of 2013 - a low snow year - it was nearly dry so we can't necessarily make a fair assessment to the true nature of the falls at it's best. Even with just a trickle of water it was still moderately noteworthy, but in comparison to the gargantuan Wapama Falls right next door, Tueeulala Falls becomes an afterthought under such conditions. When it's flowing heavily though, it is absolutely comparable to the other big falls in Yosemite Valley - Ribbon Fall and Bridalveil Fall can be made as direct and rather favorable comparisons. Ultimately, this is a bonus waterfall to see en route to Wapama Falls, so if it's flowing, great! If not, then just keep on going down the trail until you find one that is.
For the most part a longer focal length is needed when photographing Tueeulala Falls. The view where the widest possible lens will be needed is where the trail crosses the stream, and it shouldn't be necessary for anything more than 28-35mm or so to frame a shot well in here. Other vantages will require a longer zoom for a well-framed shot. Spray may be a considerable problem when the falls are flowing heavily, but later in the year when the water level drops it won't be an issue. Like nearby Wapama Falls, Tueeulala Falls faces south and will see direct, even sunlight throughout most of the day.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: 37.96404, -119.77279 Elevation: 5075 feet USGS Map: Lake Eleanor 7 1/2"
Tueeulala Falls is found in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park. From Groveland take Highway 120 east for just over 22 miles, or from the Big Oak Flat entrance station to Yosemite National Park go west for one mile, to Evergreen Road and turn north, following signs pointing to Hetch Hetchy. Follow the road for 10 miles to Camp Mather, then turn right at the T-intersection - still following the signs - for another 6 miles to the parking area at the O'Shaughnessey Dam. The bottom of Wapama Falls can be seen in tandem with Tueeulala (if it's flowing) from the dam over a mile and a half distant. Closer views require a moderately easy hike which begins by crossing the dam and heading through a tunnel blasted through the cliff. About a mile in to the hike, head right at the junction and continue another nine-tenths of a mile to the small wooden footbridge which spans Tueeulala's stream where the falls (or a dry cliff as it may be) can be seen above.View this location in Google Earth Tueeulala Falls is marked with the large icon in the center of the map. Up to ten additional waterfalls (if any) may be marked as well, with links below.
Other Nearby Waterfalls
By The Numbers
The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.
The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.
The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.
Num of Drops
The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.
The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.
Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.
The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.
The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.
The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.
The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.
The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.
The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.
If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.
A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).
A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.Close
CatalogedWaterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
ConfirmedConfirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
UnconfirmedUnconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
UnknownWaterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
InundatedInundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
SubterraneanThough not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
DisqualifiedWaterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
PostedPosted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.