Water Ways, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite's beauty is a sight to see for yourself. El Capitan and Half Dome are very impressive but the waterways are probably one of the big draws for visitors. Be advised that during late summer and autumn (or fall) these are very dry which can lead to some disappointment.
Fondest memory: The views of Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge are magnificent.
The Merced River runs through portions of Yosemite. You can catch your first glimpse of this mighty at times river while driving along highway 140 to the Arch Rock entrance.
The Merced is a popular spot for white water rafting. In the heat of a 100 plus summer afternoon, it also looks like a tempting place to swim, although, if I remember correctly, that is not allowed.
Favorite thing: Siesta Lake is located on the western end of Tioga Road just past Crane Flat. At this lower elevation away from the mountains, the lake appears to be drying out and becoming a marshy area. This process is a typical result of the conditions in Yosemite, with the exception of areas in higher elevation.
Favorite thing: Merced River widens and winds in Yosemite Valley, creating several sandy beaches on the Valley floor. Its calm water reflects the surrounding domes like a mirror. The photo shows Sentinel Beach and Swinging Bridge in early morning shade.
Favorite thing: Merced River is a true Sierra river. It originates from the Sierra snows above 11,000 feet. After many rapids and waterfalls, including the famous Vernal and Nevada Falls, it widens a bit and slows down after entering Yosemite Valley. Still, once in a while Merced River wakes up claiming its right by flooding all over the Valley. In January 1997, due to heavy rain, warm temperature, and heavy snowpack, the River rose to a level never recorded since the gauging station was installed. The whole human settlement in the Valley (the Lodge, the Village, etc.) was completely submerged. Today, around Happy Isles you can still see the 1997 water level mark to remind us who's in charge.
Favorite thing: While Merced River cuts through the famous Yosemite Valley, South Fork Merced River is its main tributary running through the Wawona area. It merges into Merced near El Portal just outside the Park's west entrance. In the Wawona area there's a beautiful covered bridge over the River (see my Pioneer Center tip in the Must See section). It's much less visited than Merced in the Valley, and is great for people seeking solitude.
Favorite thing: Jump off the Valley shuttle at stop 17, and follow the easy, paved, half-mile walk to Mirror Lake. It's the most north-eastern corner of the Valley. Here you stand right beneath Yosemite's icon Half Dome. If one of the Half Dome hikers drops a shoe from the top, it may just fall on your head (after travelling 5,000 feet in the air of course). It's also the best (and maybe the only) spot to view North Dome from the Valley floor, as seen in photo.
Favorite thing: The sleepy but sometimes churning Merced River is the central conduit for Yosemite Valley, but often overlooked by the majority of visitors. Indeed, when 3,000-foot granite chaperones are tossing whole rivers over their shoulders, the conventional stream far below is not likely to draw attention. This waterway however cruises between all the major attractions, and should itself be made a part of your album. When perfectly calm, and when the light is right, she reflects the surrounding spectacles well enough that you might admire the real image with its counterfeit. Otherwise she is a sleepy stream, inviting you to paddle through the paradise around you.
Everywhere you go in the valley there is water running. It is so very green and alive. No wondering it is raining now, it must rain a lot here to make it this way!