Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada of California, it is a major attraction in the park, especially in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.
The total 739 metres (2,425 ft) from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls qualifies Yosemite Falls as the sixth highest waterfall in the world, though with the recent discovery of Gocta Cataracts, it appears on some lists as seventh.
Although often referred to as a "two-stage drop", the falls actually consist of three sections:
In years of little snow, the falls may actually cease flowing altogether in late summer or fall. A very small number of rock climbers have taken the opportunity to climb the normally inaccessible rock face beneath the falls, although this is an extraordinarily dangerous undertaking; a single afternoon thunderstorm could restart the falls, sweeping the climbers off the face.
The Lower Falls are easily accessible near the Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley. The top of the Upper Falls may be reached via a steep, strenuous, and usually crowded 5.63 kilometres (3.50 mi) hike beginning near the Sunnyside Walk-in Campground. The Upper Falls may also be reached via several routes from the Tioga Road to the north.
The Ahwahneechee people of Yosemite Valley called the waterfall "Cholock" and believed that the plunge pool at its base was inhabited by the spirits of several witches, called the Poloti. An Ahwaneechee folktale describes a woman going to fetch a pail of water from the pool, and drawing it out full of snakes. Later that night, after the woman had trespassed into their territory, the spirits caused the woman's house to be sucked into the pool by a powerful wind, taking the woman and her newborn baby with her.