To make the Firefall project complete, I am encouraging readers of this history to submit their own remembrances, contributions, and suggestions.
I'd like to make the history a thorough one, and it certainly could not be complete without the contributions of those who have witnessed the Firefall firsthand, or of those who have
followed its story and have interesting additions they'd like to share. I hope you enjoy these contributions as much as I have.
Click here if you wish to contribute to the Yosemite Firefall project.
When I was young the parks used to throw a ball of fire from the top of Glacier Point. The spectacle was the Yosemite Firefall, a nightly tradition in
Yosemite National Park. It is sad that it ended as have so many things from my childhood and way TOO MANY PARKS HAVE CLOSED.
San Jose, California
June 4, 2013
Since I was a very young boy in the early 60s, I have only a few vague memories of our comping trip to Yosemite. I remember sitting around a group campfire, singing funny songs,
and my aunt Naomi doing all the motions to "Little Chief Tanaya, sitting on a fiyah, and he began to cry, (doing the 'indian' sound while tapping your mouth
with your hand), Poor little Indian guy!".
I remember walking through a meadow and everyone calling "Elmer!, Elmer!", and my mom explaining they were calling bears. My best memory is sitting with a group of
campers, watching a slide show or movie outdoors anticipating the firefall that was to come. During the firefall (or just before) a beautiful soprano voice sang America the
Beautiful, which sent chills through me and moved me deeply. It may have been the first time I heard that song, and to this day, I think of those firefalls when I hear it.
May 28, 2013
It's Mother's Day today, May 12, 2013, and I just want to tell the world how lucky I am to have had a young mother that took my sisters and I camping to
Yosemite all by herself in the early 60's. She had never camped in her life, and went about buying a tent, sleeping bags, and a camp stove for the adventure.
She says she had to ask the campers next to us how to start the stove, but we all managed to wrestle with the tent. Dad was a Commander in the Navy, and was
protecting us in his way, so mom could be the mom she is to this day.
My favorite memories are of the evenings in Camp Curry listening to the Indian Love
Song as the embers floated down the mountain side during the fire-fall.
Thank you Mom and Dad, I love you.
Candy A. Caporaso Montgomery
May 12, 2013
As so many other people here have said I also was a young child when I got to see the fire falls! It was so beautiful and yes I too will always remember it and
wish that I could experiance it again!
One other memory I have of Yosemite was when I was about 18 I had gone there with a friend. We were standing at the base of one of the smaller waterfalls with
a group of people. Everyone was very quiet and soaking in the natural beauty and sounds of the waterfall. Except the one guy with his transitor radio tuned to
some baseball game. I was annoyed by it and by the looks of the other peoples faces I could tell they were annoyed also. Thankfully one brave man told him to
either turn it off or put his earphone in! He turned it off. Everyone was still quiet but you could tell they were cheering on the inside. Good job guy!
April 27, 2013
My parents brought me to Yosemite when I was a
child in the sixties to see The Firefall, something
they had both remembered with fondest
memories from their childhood. It changed them.
It changed me.
I lost my Father years ago. My Mom succumbed to Alzheimer's last year; but one
thing she always spoke of, even with her rampant memory loss, was how much she loved The
Firefall. She would recount the experience to me in detail all she remembered, with an innocent
smile upon her face, as if she were witnessing it again for the first time. That has to speak to the
importance and the impact that this wonderful
spectacle had upon all whom were fortunate
enough to witness it.
I am so sad that my family
will not be able to experience one of the most
ultimate events of my, and countless others,
young lives. I love you Mom.
April 14, 2013
I remember seeing the fire fall when I was 5 years
old. I will never forget it, while sitting with my
parents and siblings. It was something I will
always remember and tell my children whenever
we visit the park.
El Monte, California
April 3, 2013
My mother, at a young age worked for Camp Curry during the summer months. She was an aspiring young opera singer. She would sing for the crowd each night.
During the day would clean cabins. I have great memories of hiking, camping, and skiing in the park. Most hiking trips began by staying at Glacier Point.
For a couple of days getting used to the elevation change. Ate a number of home made pies there at the motel. I would often stand at the railing, imagining
my mother singing up to me. Treasured Memories!
March 10, 2013
We camped in Yosemite Valley several times each summer in the early 1960's, starting when I was 6 or 7. When we got old enough, we'd camp for a couple of
weeks in the middle of summer and often take friends from our neighborhood. We'd ride bikes down to Yosemite Village to get groceries or ice for Mom, and
spend the afternoons swimming in the Merced in Camp 7.
Back then, campers would sort of put their tents anywhere, and it was pretty crowded, but that was okay with us. We spent our mornings in Junior Rangers,
hiking up to the top of all the falls. Dad would come out on the weekends and we'd ride the mules up to Half Dome.
The firefall was really special. We'd walk down to the meadows around Yosemite Village with Mom, who was blind. Even from the meadows down there, if you
listened, you could still hear them do the call. Mom loved it, because she could hear it happen. She loved taking that walk every evening, and she really
enjoyed hearing them do the "Let the Fire Fall" call. And, yes, I remember people yelling "Elmer", too.
My husband did some camping there when he was a boy, too. He remembers the bears over the the refuse dump!
I loved bicycling around the loop, down by the little church and back up to Camp Curry, and then up to Mirror Lake. Remember the Indian grinding holes in
the granite rocks near the road? Junior Rangers was a blast, and they taught us some great songs and how to recognize different tree species.
The Firefall was magical, and I was so sorry to see it go. I understand, but it was just so beautiful -- it seemed quite natural to me, and made me think
about God and love and the universe. It was simply a wonderful thing.
March 7, 2013
I was born in 1947. For the next 15 years every summer was spent camping in Yosemite...always camp 14. What brought the lore & lure...the magic and every thing about the
place full circle for me, was the fact that years before I was born my dad was a park ranger there. He served between 1928-1932 [motorcycle patrol].
Among his other duties..he many times shared the duty of pushing the Fire Fall off of Glacier Point. He had many stories of how not all of the pushes would go the
same...sometimes the coals would suddenly flare up and scatter and you would have to get down in there with them and wrestle them back to where you were keeping the
flow going over the side even with no gaps...all the while ignoring the searing heat and lack of air. I'm sure anyone who ever preformed this task can relate.
My dad passed away in 1965, and I still have his ranger hat..badge..lapel pins and lots of photos taken during that time. One photo was taken by Ansel Adams ...this
was around 5 years before Ansel Adams was starting to become a name. Anyway if anyone has any long lost family members who was there when my dad was I would like to share
your stories....Anyone who ever experienced Yosemite in its hey-day is truley blessed.
February 26, 2013
My grandfather, David Hughes, helped build the Ahwahnee hotel. He lived in Camp Curry with my grandmother Leta, my mother Marjorie Hughes and sister Donna.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who got to push the coals over the edge for the fire falls.
I have lots of pictures of daily life in Camp Curry as well as some of the Ahwahnee under construction.
El Granada, California
January 9, 2013
We went/camped to Yosemite a few years in the mid-60's. I completely forgot about the "Elmer" calls and never knew what it was about. Now I know.
Anybody remember the guy who would do a perfect "Tarzan" yell just as the firefall started? He would be off hidden back in the woods and it was
"Let the fire fall!" Then "Tarzan" would let 'er rip. The Ranger was never impressed.
My Dad would always laugh at the people using flash on their cameras to take pictures of the firefall. They didn't realize (or care) that flash is only good
for 5 feet or so, not 3 miles! I remember hiking to Nevada Falls and lying across the trail was a rattlesnake that was just about as long as the trail was wide.
Also memories of lines of Outlaw Bikers and Hippy vans/buses lined up along side the road at the entrance. The Park would not allow them in!
Anybody remember that?
Gold Hill (raised in 1000 Oaks), Oregon
December 5, 2012
While hiking in Yosemite several years ago I learned
about the Firefall. Since then I have wanted to re-create it. In 2009 I interview Granville Pool––one of
few remaining employees of the old Glacier Point Hotel that took part in the Firefall––to teach me how
it was done. With the help of a quarry near where I live in upstate New York, we staged a Firefall in June
2012 for a crowd of around 400. The quarry is now interested in restaging this event yearly, so in a
small way it looks like the Firefall will continue to live on. To watch a video of the event click on this
link, and make sure to click the HD button on to see it at full quality:
Troy, New York
November 5, 2012
I just returned from a nite in Yosemite, got a room at the Lodge by the Falls..The valley floor was packed with people..There are folks who have written about their experience
and some are old enough to remember how it used to be in Yosemite Park. My family would spend two weeks every summer camping on the Merced River..across from housekeeping in camp 7
or in the campgrounds across from the stables.
I learned to swim by that stable bridge. We would pay the 2 dollar fee and drive thru Arch Rock, follow the road to any campground, pull in and park on the river -- there were always
sites left open, first come first served, set up the tent and Coleman stove and lantern, get in the car, go find a tree on the ground, cut enough rounds with an 8' two man saw to
last your days there, fires in the morning, all day if it was cold and into the nite....hotdogs and marshmallows were the best over those fire logs.
It was the early 1940s and 50s and ended for me in the late '60s out of high school..but you never forget all your life the smell of coffee and bacon and eggs cooking in a Griswold
cast iron skillet on an old Coleman 413 white gas stove..when I got old enough my parents would let me walk to Camp Curry in the evening from Camp 7 right by Stoneman Bridge..crossing
the bridge before dark was an experience when you started looking at the girls,,,they were lined up from one end to the other of that bridge, both sides, along with the boys wanting
to meet them. I lived in the Bay Area and met a lot of girls from all over the USA... You could jump or dive if the water was high enough into the Merced right off the bridge in those
days, nobody cared about getting sued back then, just plain fun.
In Curry Village they put on a show for an hour, but at 9pm the whole park was quiet. All you could hear was Yosemite Falls roaring in the distance. The calls started at Curry
with the return call from Glacier Point. LET THE FIRE FALL went 2000' vertical ... the voice on top said: THE FIRE FALLS ... then you would stand there with some ooohs and aaahs
from the crowd when the red ashes started over the cliff, it would leave a solid red trail for a thousand + feet, seemed like it lasted a couple of minutes or so ... the most
awesome thing a little kid of 3, till you turn 23 would witness for those impressive years ... you could walk back to camp guided by the lights and that familiar hiss of the old
Coleman Lanterns hanging on a pole or tree limb.
Lot of contributers to this forum know, Yosemite National Park is the best place on this old dirt ball we call Earth...those who have seen the Fire Fall can close your eyes and
watch it again at any time. I'm 67 and can still see that waterfall of fire even right now.
August 15, 2012
You may want to append this awesome memory to my earlier post. I was reminded of it as I followed a comment with a link to Shirley Sargent's book, "The Ahwahnee Hotel".;
Sargent is the surname of my mother's mother's family, and I have precious little genealogy and history from my family.
The Actual book that brought this memory to mind is . . .
"The big oak flat road: an account of freighting from stockton to yosemite valley"
And that super, super special memory is directly related to that fearsome road!
I was perhaps 8, maybe ten, when my mother prevailed on my dad to take just me, of the then 4 or so children, as his oldest, and son, to do a "Dad & Son" bonding thing.
Well, I was recently enthralled with trout fishing, and my dad wasn't. He was a hiker, but from severe wartime injuries and a terrible auto accident he was unable to follow his
passion. Anyway, he reluctantly took his most rebel-hearted, spirited son and we piled into his old Model A Ford, and proceeded. I don't recall the actual route, but he turned
off the paved, main highway 120-108 onto Big Oak Flat Road. I'll never, never forget the next several hours, as that poor little Model A groaned and chugged, chugged and hissed
steam, and stopping at a spring to replenish the dry radiator, and wait for the little engine that could to cool!
I think we fished, and I think we watched the firefalls. But, my life-time memory, and I so wish I could sit and reminisce about it with my dad, went to his well deserved reward
in 1984, was that L-O-N-G, STEEP, WINDING, NARROW, gravel road up, and up, and UP the sheer faces and heights of those Sierra mountains!
I regretted when the Big Oak Flats road was closed.
August 11, 2012
This awesome childhood memory recently returned from long years of buried memories from a depressed love for all things parental. I had wonderful parents,
so I kick myself for resenting them for most of my life.
Dad was a park employee in his teen years, and he restarted his Yosemite trips after he recovered from severe head wounds from a fall from an Army boxcar
where he was helping to crate kitchen supplies headed out for the war theater.
I was born in 1945, so I'm not sure when my first camping visit to Yosemite occurred, but as his six kids came along, dad faithfully took mom and all of us
camping there every Summer. I remember one night a bear found the food basket, and pushed the top of a glass milk bottle in, and emptied the contents down its hatch!
What an awesome sight, those firefalls! I don't recall the music, or the calls between valley floor and Glacier Point, but the spine-tingling Fire Fall was simply magical!
I had no idea it had ended until searching for it on the Internet, today, August 10-2012! I've been back to Yosemite just one time since my childhood, and that was an
experience of a lifetime, to see my teenage children, and my Pennsylvania in-laws see this awesome wonder for the very first time! We camped in Kennedy Meadows, far
away from the valley, so I thought nothing of the firefall.
Only IF we could relive selected parts of our life!
From reading other Yosemite and High Sierra campers' comments here, I imagine many have memories of the many State and National parks in Central California,
like Calaveras, Kennedy Meadows, Mariposa, and those along the Redwood Coast, from Crescent Harbor Southward. What an awesome state! I wish it had not gone
South with so-called "Green" selfish interest groups closing off so much of the natural wonders for hoarding resources.
Has anyone reading this searched for petrified shark teeth in Santa Cruz area sand pits? I spent many lost-in-awe hours when visiting a Summer camp near one.
I even recently discovered a small box with part of my collection that survived a near-total loss Divorce, Navy years, a wild ride second marriage, and natural
disasters a-plenty! Awesome!
August 11, 2012
I grew up partially in Ojai California, and partially in Kentucky, Texas, and Nevada (my dad was a draftsman on various oil pipeline projects beginning in the
late 40s, so we moved around a fair bit).
During the years in California, we spent many lovely summer days and nights in Yosemite, Sequoia, and the north coast Redwoods. My favorite times were those
in a cabin in Yosemite - because while we could hear the bears at the garbage cans, they couldn't get in (it was a LOT scarier in the other parks - where we usually tent-camped....)
The highlight of our Yosemite trips was the Firefall. I understand why the NPS chose to discontinue it, but the Firefall remains something lost that I'll never
regain from my childhood - though of course I still have the memory.
Thank you for the wonderful photo. The photos we took were black and white, and didn't live over various moves, floods, etc.
Pine Valley, Utah
July 17, 2012
It is almost 50 years since I heard the words "Are you ready Camp Curry?" and the answer "We are ready; let the fire fall" yet it seems like
yesterday-the words spoken and the magnificence of the firefall itself are indelibly etched in my memory.
Jun 24, 2012
Yosemite is ageless, but the firefall was part of California’s history—my history. My family has been camping in the park since the early part of the 20th century.
My parents’ families were friends, and I have photos of both families camping together in Yosemite in the summer of 1927.
I was born in San Jose in 1955 and grew up camping in Yosemite on weekends in the spring and fall as well as on longer trips in the summer. We would camp up at Tamarack Flat
because the floor of the valley was getting too crowded, but every time we went down to the Valley we would stay and watch the firefall. When it was announced that the firefall
would end, I think it broke my father’s heart. The California he had grown up in was too full of people now, and there wasn’t room for everyone in the park.
At that point, my parents made the decision to give up camping in Yosemite, so that those who had never been there might have one more camping spot available.
When I close my eyes, I can see the firefall as vividly as if it were yesterday. I cherish that memory and the memory of a Yosemite that was a very special part of my childhood.
June 3, 2012
I was about 10 years old when my parents first started going to Yosemite. The highlight of the summer were the the 2-3 weeks we spent camping on the valley floor and
taking hikes and day trips to the surrounding sites. The firefall was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Does anyone else remember the call of "elmer" that richoched thru all of the campgrounds at the evening meal time? It didn't matter who started the first yell,
it was soon picked up and spread thru all the campgrounds. I've told my son that when I die, I want to be cremated and my ashes spread from El Portal.
He said "What, not from Glacier Point." I told him no that I was afraid of heights. Yosemite is my favorite place in the whole world.
May 28, 2012
This must be brought back in every detail. It will offend all the right people.
May 21, 2012
I remember my parents would take us there every year until 1966. I remember the firefalls very well, we always had a cabin by the river.
I still to this day go once a year with my husband, april-may he has never seen the firefalls.
I sure wish he could see the wounderful firefalls. We will be there again may 17+ 2013, we love it so much there we would love to move there.
I know u would find this hard to believe but i cry every time we leave. See u soon 1 week yosemite.
Lake Havasu, Arizona
May 8, 2012
My mom and dad started taking me to Yosemite in
1960. We would be there for a week in June every year
and it became a time when we would see the same
people over the years. Many which became life long
As I look back on that time, the moments
with family and friends witnessing the ritual calls
between Camp Curry and Glacier Point and then
watching the fire fall in almost total silence is a
cherished memory I will have for the rest of my life.
Apr 23, 2012
For many years the Firefall was the highlight of
my family's trek to the Yosemite Valley. Staying in
the tent cabins back in the 50's and 60's was an
adventure in itself, and after enjoying the valleys
many offerings during the day, it was the Firefall
at Camp Curry that, like Taps, closed the busy
Choosing our log seats, we waited for the "let
the fire fall" call and the spectacular colors of that
special thing that, like Half Dome, defined
Yosemite valley. When it passed so did a part of
our lives and experiences as a family. But our
pictures and memories still remind us of the
uniqueness of this enchanted granite statue that
was created millennia ago.
March 24, 2012
The summer of 1960 I was on a camping trip to yosemite with boy scout troop 44 from south central Los Angeles.
We saw the firefall from camp curry. The next night we drove up to the fire pit to see the coals pushed over the cliff.
It was an exciting moment I have always remembered.
I still have the photo laminated on a slice of tree trunk I bought at Camp Curry.
February 21, 2012
I am a native of Southern CA and spent two weeks
every summer from 1958-1973 camping in Yosemite
with my dad and brother. The firefall was the event I
got most excited about. I recall the flashlight signals
and the calling out and thinking how the voices
traveled for being so far between Glacier Point and
Camp Curry. The memories of my summers in
Yosemite bring tears to my eyes. I cherish them
To this day I have an Ansel Adams black and
white poster framed print of Half Dome hanging in
my home. My last trip to Yosemite was 18 years ago
but my 17 year old son visited Yosemite for the first
time with his dad last summer and took beautiful
photos that I have also framed alongside my Ansel
Another memorable moment I recall, is that I
saw President Kennedy there when I was maybe 5 or 6
years old. It's amazing what flashes across the mind
when thinking of those treasured times!
February 21, 2012
Hello. One of my best memories of the
early 1950's was camping with my
grandparents at Yosemite. I clearly
remember the Fire Falls and the
goosebumps I got watching it and hearing
the Indian Love Song. Even now I can
close my eyes and see and hear it.
February 20, 2012
The summer of my 13th year, my mother, father, two sisters and brother tent-camped in Yosemite for a few days. That
was 1956. We went to the Firefall only one time, but I'll never forget it. As a 13 year-old girl, the romance of the
beautiful Firefall, the silence before hearing the calls, and then the haunting refrain of Indian Love Call, captured my
soul and filled me with happiness. And to top it all off, we went to a dance in a big hall after the Firefall and I
danced with a lovely young man. How much better could it get? What a special evening and a special memory. I've been
back to Yosemite since, and it's a wonderful place, but that night when I was 13, it was a MAGIC place. Thank you
for allowing me to reminisce.
Los Alamos, New Mexico
February 14, 2012
My first trip to Yosemite was when in 1953 when I was 7 years old. My family spent every summer camping there for at least a week. My parents were hikers, I wasn't,
but they dragged me along kicking and screaming until I was a teenager when they finally agreed I could stay back at camp if my best girlfriend would go camping
with us. We would go swimming in the pool at Camp Curry and rent bikes. They decided it was much more fun for all of us. They didn't have to hear me whine all
day and my friend and I had a good time just hanging out having fun.
Every night we went to the "dump" (The actual place they took refuse from the park.)
Around dusk the bears would wander down and scavenge through while campers watched. It seemed to be a natural attraction. Sometimes there would be more than a
dozen bears eating their dinner there. After we would tire of watching the bears we would head to Camp Curry to watch the Fire Falls. All I have to say is AWSOME!
Even at that age it was a
wonderful site. I never ever tired of seeing the falls. It was something we did every night we were at Yosemite.
My fondest memory of all was calling ELMER.
You always heard his name being called. The story I was told back then was that there was a huge bear that came down with the other bears to the dump every evening.
He eventually got so brave he started looting cars and campsites. The park rangers eventually sedated him and took him high in the mountains thinking they had solved
the problem. Well, think again....it didn't take him long to find his way back. He would be a good bear for a short period of time, then start getting brave again and
start looting again. They would take him to the high mountains several times a summer and was so familiar the rangers nicknamed him Elmer.
Yelling out Elmer's name was started at the dump every evening, then you heard it everywhere. Over the years people forgot why they even called Elmer, but the last
time I was there about
ten years ago I heard it being called out a couple of times, however, not near as often as it was when I was a child!
January 28, 2012
Oh, how I remember yelling Elmer over the years. Funny thing is that people still respond to a good Elmer call.
Not too long ago in Upper River Campground (Camp 14) we belted out a good Elmer and sure enough, we got responses from every direction.
Cave Junction, Oregon
December 16, 2011
My family took vacations to Yosemite every year
since 1949, and my earliest memories of the Park
and the firewall were the summer of 1953, when I
was 3 years old. My last summer visit was in 1962.
The evening event at Camp Curry was always
interesting to me, and I will never forget the call to
the mountain to "let the fire fall". I also remember a
peculiar Yosemite institution that people yelled
"Elmer" at the top of their lungs at dusk. The
apocryphal story was that Elmer was a child who
wandered off in the 1930s and was never seen again.
I was a "Junior Ranger", attending a week-long nature day camp with my cousins, a way to get
us out of our parents' hair for part of the usual 2 week visit. We hiked to the tops of all of the
waterfalls and floated on Mirror Lake. I also remember the glass case with the freeze-dried
mountain goat, in the park museum, something that fascinated me greatly. Yosemite was a remarkable
place and holds some of my dearest childhood memories.
Hopewell Junction, New York
December 10, 2011
I am too young to remember the firefall and am
sorry that I never got to experience it. We visit
Yosemite at least once a year as this is one of my
favorite places on the planet! This past summer we
took the Valley Floor Tour and thoroughly enjoyed
learning more about the history and the reasons for
stopping the firefall. According to the ranger it did
not stop due to fire danger, rather due to the 10
thousand people that would stand in the fields
completely destroying the meadows, wild flowers,
deer and bunny habitat etc.
I'm glad that the park
has made an effort to restore it's natural beauty,
that was the mission of the National Park system in
the first place. I have a picture of the firefall off of
Half Dome, people often correct me when I mention
this, but it is clearly Half Dome. After reading
several sites I found that they restored the firefall
only one time in 1976 on the 4th of July, off of Half
Dome. It is a spectacular picture that I display over
my fireplace, I love it! I would love for them to
somehow restore the firefall with some crowd
control, maybe shut down the roads so people can
stand in the street etc.
Either way, thanks for
sharing your memories, they have been fun to read,
and don't feel sorry for the younger generations, my
four year old told me Yosemite is the most beautiful
place he's ever seen, and actually he's done quite a
bit of traveling! It still holds the beauty and glory it
Carson City, NV
November 27, 2011
My 45 trips to Yosemite started in the late 30's when my parents spent the month of Aug camping on the river in 14, 15 or 7. All the relatives would camp
with us and we would wall off the access to the river with blankets behind our tents. My dad and uncles were all ministers and the would each preach one
Sunday at the chapel of the out doors church. During the war, the Awanhannee hotel was a rehabilitation hospital for the navy and every evening a lot drunk
sailors would sit on Stoneman bridge and try an meet the girls.
I started working in Yosemite in 1947, cleaning out the stables. Then in 1948 and 49 I worked as a busboy in the Cafeteria. One day I squashed a milk
carton and it spayed milk all over Mother Curry. In 1950, 51, 52 and 53 I worked as a "soda jerk" in the grill. This was the best place to
work and meet girls. We had beach parties almost every night. I was pitcher on the grill soft ball team. Dete Nutley, who wrote a book called
"Letters from a Yosemite Grandmother". I had a lot of pictures in her book.
Of course we watched the fire fall every night and I had the privilege to help push it over for a while when I worked part time at the hotel at Glacier Point.
The fire fall was a big part of history of Yosemite. It was a shame when they cut it off. I spent my honeymoon there in a tent on a squeaky bed in Camp Curry.
Have taken my family back another 25 times but since you can't camp on the river, it is not the same. It will never be like the old days when you could drive
to mirror lake to watch the submarine races, or to Happy Isles. My grandkids will never experience the same fun I had with the shows at Curry, the dance,
the beach parties, camping on the river and floating down the rapids on inter-tubes.
Seal Beach, California
November 14, 2011
I made the trip to Yosemite and Glacier Point this week after an absence of many years. I was disappointed to see that the firefall pit had been removed and no
mention (or plaque) of its former location or existence (unlike the Mountain House and Lodge). While standing in the area of its former location, I educated a
younger person on its history, and yes, I actually saw it many times in person when I was a kid. Like the author, I was born in 1954. In addition to hiking the
trails and admiring the beauty of Yosemite, the firefall is the thing that I will always remember as a kid as being special about our camping trips.
Oct 24, 2011
My father George Prall worked in the park during
the thirties during the summers as he was a
student at Cal. I grew up hearing about the Fire
Fall including how my father had called from
Camp Curry. I did not get to see the Fall until I
was twelve in 1952 on a family camping trip. The
last time I saw the Falls was on my Honey Moon
in 1963. In 1957 I enjoyed a dinner at the hotel
up on Glacier Point and saw the fire from the top.
I would love to see a special reunion fall on an
anniversery. If it was a surprise and not
announced it would not cause a complete riot.
Yuba City, California
October 7, 2011
I am so delighted to find this site and see a picture of the fireball.
My family went to Yosemite in the late 50s. We camped there and one of the most vivid memories (besides the deer in camp) was the fireball.
We went to this area with benches in a semi circle and sat around as the Ranger gave a talk about Yosemite. The Fireball was the finale.
It is actually one of my first memories in life, since I was around 4 years old.
A co-worker of mine who climbs in the park was so surprised when I told him about it that he almost didn't believe that it actually happened.
Funny how we have become so politically correct and in that correctness have lost a lot of wonderful things.
Thank you for saving this for all to remember and see.
October 7, 2011
BRING BACK THE FIREFALL!
It is my hope and prayer that the owner of this wonderful website will consider starting a new page with a title something "The Resurrection of the Firefall"
or "The Return of the Firefall" or "Bring Back the Firefall"!
The main idea would be for all of us who have a great interest in this, to start lobbying our respective members of Congress to draft and pass a simple piece of
legislation that would compel the National Park Service to allow the Firefall to be restored. Yes, make it a matter of law, the will of the people expressed in
law, that the tradition of the Firefall be maintained.
All of us can write a simple letter to our member of congress asking for just that, but also, we would include with the letter, and make reference to this in the
letter, a very important piece of supporting information.
What is that supporting piece of information?
Why of course. We would print out EVERY PAGE of this wonderful http://firefall.info web site, and put it in a nice folder and send it along with the letter, and say
to our member of congress, here is a brief but excellent history of the Firefall right here! And we would stress that the congressmen or congresswomen's attention be
paid especially to this wonderful compilation of remembrances. These are really powerful, and compelling, and really carry the beautiful spirit of the Firefall into
the heart of the reader.
The truth be told, that this is actually the perfect time for such an effort. The country is in a dark mood, and all of us, the whole country, needs something to feel
good about. I think our members of Congress would sense that fact, and latch onto this quickly, and we might see this legislation appropriately drafted, introduced,
and passed by acclimation before the end of the year.
Steven S. Showers
Newbury Park, California
August 11, 2011
I am really happy to find your site. I am a fan of the Yosemite Fire Fall, even though I never experienced the event in person.
I learned about it only through the Huel Howser DVD, and posted a clip of that to YouTube.
I posted a link to your site (firefall.info) in the video description, as I am sure that there are many who would like to read
the great compilation of rememberances you have posted here.
[Editor] Thanks Steven for pointing out the problems with the link. I've fixed them, and thanks for the link!
Steven S. Showers
Newbury Park, California
August 9, 2011
At 57 and with my parents recently departed, certain memories of childhood come back all so vividly. One big one was the Firefall at Yosemite.
I saw it in the early 1960's when I was growing up in the bay area. JFK was killed around that time also when I was in 4th grade. Also a deep
memory that will never go away.
Firefall is an event that is long overdue to return as an annual celebration of something that makes people smile,
and is something that etches your brain memories - and will in your children's memories - forever. I only wish people today could have that memory
like I can. I can only imagine how my proud parents felt being able to show me this wonderful event.
Aug 2, 2011
I am so grateful that you have this wonderful photo
I can share with my Irish husband.
Sorry that they are no longer doing it, and I was
surprised to learn that it stopped so soon, as I was
born in 1961 and I can distinctly recall seeing it on
three occasions - wonderful how your memory can
be so vivid at such a young age.
I wish wish wish I could take Eddie to see it these
days it was so spectacular! Thanks again for
July 17, 2011
wow... such memories ... such a magical place
i saw the firefalls 2x i believe back in the 60's when my parents would take my brother and myself to yosemite, it was 1 of my favorite places that we ever went
i also worked in the valley and at the ski slopes just out of hs and abandoning college from easter '76 thru sept '79 of course by then the firefalls was no more
i moved to washington for 8 years and came back to live in el portal for 5 years more years
i've climed some of the the routes at the base of glacier point amongst others and even to this day you can still find remanents of the firefalls
and yes i remember nic fiore ... he was definitely a legend ... not only an amazing cyclist and skier but also could hike to all the back country camps
in a single day (he was in charge of them at the time) ... simply amazing feat
Albequerque, New Mexico
July 10, 2011
We just returned from a vacation in one of my favorite places on Earth - Yosemite. Very few places make me feel so relaxed and back "in sync"
with myself, nature and God as this beautiful place.
I saw the Firefall at about age 5 (1964) when my grandpa took my family to the valley. He and my grandma came to the valley regularly but this time they brought us.
We stayed in the Awahnee. My parents did not often let my grandparents pay our way but this time they allowed Gran and Pa to give us quite a treat. We usually stayed
in a tent or eventually a simple box tent trailer when we camped so the Awahnee was such a luxury. I remember dinner at the Wawona (and the accompanying lecture about
minding my manners from my mom!), seeing deer on the golf course and watching an overzealous bear being captured in one of the cylindrical bear traps and how my dad
reassured me that Yogi would be happier and healthier in the wilderness. Most of all I remember the Firefall - because I was totally terrified at the start
(I had - ok, still have - a big fear of fire) and completely in awe by the end. I remember all day dreading the Firefall show the first night. In fact, I think I may
have refused to come outside for awhile. Somehow I was persuaded to watch - and I was mesmerized. We stayed for three nights and each time I was enthralled with the
beauty of the Firefall. I had forgotten about the calls and the song until I read about them on this site but I know that part of why I have such fond, heartwarming
feeling of this event is because the song and and the calls were etched inside my memory.
Thanks for bringing this all back to me with this site - and thanks Gran, Pa and Yosemite.
Big Bear Lake, California
June 26, 2011
My family started going to Yosemite in 1958 when we bought our first ski boat to vacation at Denver Church camp ground on Bass Lake. We would plan a day on the lake and
then go through the south gate and take are rafts and drift down the rivers of Yosemite trying to take up as much time as possible knowing my mom and dad would let us
stay to watch the fire falls if we were to stay and let the traffic end so we could make good time back to the banks of Bass lake for a early ski the next morning.
As time went on we decided to build a vacation home on the lake back in Willow Cove, this my dad said to keep are friends and family together which was great.
Most of our ski friends had never seen the fire falls so this made for a great excuse to spend a day hiking and sightseeing in the park with our friends until that
Magical Moment would once come again and we could shed a tear with friends of how beutiful and blessed we were to be part of this great valley. Today we still travel to
the lake and will try to hold on to the house until the fire falls come back so we may make some new friends as happy as our old.
May 23, 2011
From about 1940 to 1950 I spent nearly every summer in the valley, first with my family then when Father had to get back to work we would stay
with uncles and grandfather for most of the summer.
The Firefall is vivid in my mind, trolling for teenage girls and laying in the meadow to marvel its beauty.
Such great memories of Yosemite. In 1960 we honeymooned at the Awhanee. There, I took my triple exposure of the firefall. On a tripod the first exposure at
about dusk showed the sky and cliffs. The second was a long exposure during the fall with the third being a flash to bring in the foreground.
We returned last year (2010) on our 50th anniversary.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
March 3, 2011
I've written here twice before, but many years back. Those familiar with early Yosemite Inn Keeper lore may know of my Grandfather ABC Dohrmann
and his involvement as a founder and Chair of Yosemite Park Company before its merger with the Curry Company around 1925.
I saw the next to last fire fall and several before that. It was a strong memory maker.
I'm happily planning an extended Dohrmann Family Reunion in the Valley this year and it will be such a delight to share all the stories and relive
a bit of family history together. Yosemite will forever be my most special place. It's such a treat seeing Grandfather's picture on the wall in
the Ahwahnee Hotel Bar and reading of him on the Mountain Room menu.
Thanks for keeping this site up.
February 21, 2011
I fondly recall many summer vacations camping in
the Sierra's with family, and enjoyed seeing the
"firefall". We usually stayed on the eastern side of
the mountains, but would make a trek over Tioga
Pass into the Yosemite Valley just for the spectacle.
In the 60's, there were very few tour busses
clogging the roads, so an evening excursion was
fairly simple and well worth the drive.
I wasn't yet a teen at the time, but those memories
as a child have lasted over 40 years as if it were
yesterday. I too would welcome a return of the
falling sparks, yet sadly know the world of today
will never allow such things. So for me, I have found
a place in my own back yard to shout "Let the fire
Yes, I live on a large ranch with huge granite
boulders, and when the weather conditions are
safe, I burn a large stack of wood on top of the
largest rock until red embers form, then push it off
the edge. No, it's not a 3,000 foot drop, but when
it's dark and the air is still, the experience is
San Diego, California
February 16, 2011
Having been born in the park and resided there until I was 18, I remember many firefalls and the lasting impression they left not only on me but many of those
fortunate enough to experience this phenomenon first hand.
I was 10 when the final fire fell and as usual had a ring side seat for the event.
At the time we resided on "Meadow Row" which fronted the Ahwahnee so I would sit out on our lawn with my family, look up to our right at Glacier Point
and wait for the action. No video games back then, hardly t.v., so this was THE show! As the embers began to cascade it really seemed like a waterfall on fire
(Horse Shoe falls with the evening sun looks remarkably similar) and before you knew it, it was over. I never minded the so called crowds pulling over or even
an evening stroller stopping by my yard as we all shared in this celebration.
What I asked, is so unnatural as this glowing fall of embers compared to our village
store, post office, Y.E.S., or dozens of other structures present to augment the visitor's experience as well as cater to the locals' needs?
I say bring back the firefall and restore a lost legacy for generations to come!
February 8, 2011
In 1959 my family moved to Fremont
California from Arkansas. We were
seeking a better way of life. So many
changes were to happen in our lives
coming from a very rural place.
The changes were many. We had a
beautiful home with lots of hope for the
future. We felt delivered into paradise.
We were so interested in our new home.
We were told of Yosemite. It was our
first REAL family outing. We went, with
no camping gear. Just blankets and food
and vessels to cook with.
We drove into that magnificent park near
the Yosemite Hotel!!! What a beautiful
place. We were in awe! Never had we seen
such a wonderful place.
We found an area to camp. We swept up
pine straw from under those beautiful
trees and made beds. We slept right out
under the stars along with many other
families. No fear, no worry.
Then the next day we were told of the
Firefall, we could hardly wait till
dark!!! When it finally came we felt as
though we had witness a Holy Event! It
was almost a sacred experience! The love
of our Country and its history were
alive and well.
When it was over there was a hush of the
whole place for a few minutes.
I have never witnessed anything like it
EVER again. I was a 10 yr old kid then.
I am now in my sixties and don't recall
EVER having quite that feeling again.
We need something in this country to
inspire the masses like that did again.
It is so bright and vivid in my memory.
Raye Wilkerson Jones
February 6, 2011
I am writing a book about some of my travels and mention the Yosemite Firefall. I'm wondering if anyone has a photo (the one here is perfect!)
that I could use in the book? If so, please contact me. Thank you! [email@example.com].
Thousand Oaks, California
January 23, 2011
I could tell all kinds of Firefall stories. I come from a Yosemite family.
My brother still lives in Yosemite after all these years.
As a youngster, I lived and worked at Camp Curry for a few years, have climbed most of the trails leading up & out of the valley. Been to the top of Half Dome
four times and climbed the two mile trail to the top of Glacier Point in the middle of the night. I've been harassed by bears many times but especially on top of
Vernal Falls one night while sleeping under a tree that someone else had hung their food in.
As a teenager, my buddies and I used to go looking for girls in the campgrounds using the Firefall as an excuse to go lay in the meadow for a better view.
We were quite successful in our endeavors!
The time we climbed to Glacier Point in the middle of the night, we arrived at about 3 AM and went straight to the place where the burning bark ashes were pushed
over the edge. There was still quite a bit of glowing red coals left over from the previous night's firefall so we used a bunch of sticks to push them over the side.
We had our own firefall at 4AM! I dont know if anyone ever noticed it but it would be fun to hear if anyone had.
I'm now in my mid 60s and still visit my brother in Yosemite as often as possible. I've always wondered if the park management would ever do a
commemorative firefall just for the heck of it.
Cave Junction, Oregon
January 11, 2011
I worked in the valley in the late 40's.
I worked at the Greasy Spoon in the old village and at the Camp Curry Grill.
One year we had a bunch of guys from Old Miss. One helped with the fire fall and would yell, "Let the Fire Fall, YOU ALL!"
December 8, 2010
Hi, I now live in Wisconsin but have spent many, many months of my life wandering around Yosemite and environs. One of my earliest memories is of the Firefall from Glacier Point.
My mother-in-law just handed me an old black and white post card she was about to discard. It shows VERY clearly a firefall from Half Dome!
Strangely, the lighting makes me think it's pre-dawn, but there's no question that there is a fire on the visor and you can see multiple streaks
coming down the northwest face. It's amazing. I had never heard of this. Do you know if there was a one-time event where someone
(even unofficially) pulled off a Half Dome Firefall? Thanks.
[Editor] I have heard a story that would suggest a Firefall was possibly pushed over Half Dome, but I've never been able to verify it. Sounds like your postcard
is some kind of evidence at least!
November 13, 2010
This is a wonderful web site and it is fascinating to read the stories of so many people who saw the firefall in person.
I was in the Boy Scouts for many years and am well versed in ritual of the evening campfire, stories, skits, and singing.
Our family never visited Yosemite during
trips to California, but the firefall and I crossed paths when I was eighteen years old.
I worked in a record store in 1978 and one of the promotional posters we hung was for the soft rock band, "Firefall"
The poster featured an image of the Firefall, taken in the 1950's. I kept the poster, despite the advertising, because the image was so beautiful.
The website @ www.firefall.com has a link titled Yosemite. If you click on this link, there are images of posters and several photos taken through the years.
I have no connection with this band and am including this information for the perusal of others.
Thanks for helping me make my own memory!
Robert J. Casares
Fort Worth, Texas
November 12, 2010
As an employee of Yosemite Park and Curry Company in the 60s, I experienced many Firefalls from Camp Curry.
I, too, remember the calls of "Elmer" after the Firefall.
I recall being told, by a ranger naturalist, that the "Elmer" shouts came from a Joe E Lewis movie that was set in Yosemite and the plot
involved Elmer being lost after a Firefall and others calling his name.
Santa Rosa, CA
Nov 8, 2010
My family first visited Yosemite in 1954 when I was barely 2. Some of my fondest & most vivid memories are of the firefall. I remember trekking from our
campground after dinner aross the meadow to Camp Curry. We would stop by the little store at Camp Curry & my father would buy my brother & I a treat.
Then we would gather with all the other anxious visitors at the amphitheatre. As I recollect, the program included a ranger talk & entertainment.
One of my most vivid memories is of a woman singing "I Knew An Old Woman That Swallowed A Fly". Of course the most impressive part of the evening
was when everyone became quiet & the callers communicated "Hello Camp Curry" I read someone describe the viewing of the firefall as a spiritual
experience. That is how I think of it. The beautiful song "The Indian Love Call" being sung & the embers coming down were breathtaking.
Over the years, I have reminisced about this extraorinary experience. Thank you for creating this website & giving people the opportunity to share their
happy experiences. Job well done!
October 13, 2010
I remember how great Yosemite was during the 40's and 50's. My mother was a teacher in Los Angeles and I was able to spend a month in Yosemite for five
different summers in the 40's. The first four were at Camp Curry - in tent cabin just behind the chairs in the outdoor amphitheater at Curry. The last
summer (1949) we camped - I think in Camp 13. In addition to the firefall I remember the stage show that Curry put on. It featured a band, a group of
cowboy singers, and I don't remember who else. On some nights the m.c. would would have a contest to see how many people had come from the L.A. area
and the Bay area by having the band play the fight songs of USC and Cal and have the audience cheer for the one representing their area.
As a UCLA fan at that time, I had difficulty cheering for USC's fight song.
October 13, 2010
Hi my name is Bob Aquino I worked at the Glacier Point Hotel in the summer of 1949 or 1950. I used to rake the hot red bark off of glacier point.
I would get a pickup load (overloaded) of bark and back up to the gate at the cliff, then rake it off the truck and I would lite it at about 4.00 p.m. in
order for it to really get it down to embers.
I would come out to the fire at about 8:30 p.m. from the hotel, I was also a dish washer and garbage dumper
(fed the bears, One eyed joe) a couple of minutes to nine, I would get as close to the edge as I could in order to answer the call from the valley.
The people would be surprised that is just an ordinary teenager that was going to let the fire fall. The manager of the hotel at the time was
Mr. McDonald, he tought me how to drive and make the fire fall.
September 5, 2010
What a wonderful website! I have read all of the entries. So many of us have such vivid memories of Yosemite and the spectacular Firefall. Too bad future generations will not experience it.
I grew up in Linden, in the San Joaquin Valley, and made several memorable visits to Yosemite over the years. While a student at Stockton College, our California History professor, Dr. Richard Coke Wood, took a busload of us on a fantastic weekend field trip to Yosemite.
While at Stockton College, Larry Morgenson - a Yosemite resident and son of a Yosemite Park & Curry Company employee, became a good friend. In 1957 I crossed the street to attend College of the Pacific (now UOP) and we lost touch.
Keep those memories flowing.
Thousand Oaks, California
September 2, 2010
In 1951 our neighbor told us about Yosemite National Park. My mother and father had never camped before. I was 6 years old. My mother and father
packed a pull trailer for me and my two older brothers. We could only stay for two weeks, but we had enough supplies to stay for two months.
We visited Yosemite National Park for the next 15 years for two weeks a year. We camped in campground 15. The trip was never complete without
hiking all the way to Nevada Falls. The Firefall was as spectacular as all the other comments from people. I remember the calls betweem Glacier
Point and Camp Curry. We were ready every night at 9:00 PM. My parents have since passed away. However some where in my storage I have 8mm film
of the fire fall. It will be filled with found memories of our trips and of course the Fire Fall. The park was one of God's creations and I
loved the experience.
Aug 24, 2010
My parents took my sister and I to see yosemite valley when we were young. What a beautiful memory of the fire falls and the echo of the
Indian Love Call. How fortunate we are in California to have such a wonderful and beautiful valley.
August 17, 2010
I was born and lived in CA until we moved to OR in 1969. Only went to Yosemite once and it was the year they had the last Firefalls.
I still believe that Yosemite is the most beautiful place in CA. I can understand why the Firefall came to an end, but it was quite a sight.
Grants Pass, Oregon
August 15, 2010
My parents and my brother rode with my grandmother from Texas to California to visit relatives and to see the World's Fair in 1940.
On the way, we camped in Yosemite and I clearly remember waiting eagerly to see the fire fall. It was spectacular, very thrilling to a 9-year-old girl,
and the memory has lasted all these years. Thank you for refreshing these wonderful memories!
Janet Stegall Wuske
Saint Petersburg, Florida
August 12, 2010
Thank you for this site. One comment, please change the text color to make it easier to read.
The first time I saw the fire fall was the mid 50's. We camped in the house keeping tents. Each night we would go to watch the fire fall.
I will always remember the calls: "Hello Glacier" "Hello Camp Curry" "Let the fire fall". What a beautiful sight.
While I understand a lot of the changes in the parks, sadly some of them I believe to be mistakes (letting Mirror Lake fill in, stopping the fire fall).
Yosemite is my favorite place on this earth. I love it and the Sierras. As a fifth generation native Californian (family came out in 1846) I
appreciate the diverse beauty of this glorious state. I am homesick, and pray to come home to retire back in California.
Thank you again for this site - it is greatly appreciated.
Somewhere Out There, Beneath the Pale Moonlight
August 8, 2010
My family and I were there in the late 1950. We had traveled from Belen, NM (south of Albuquerque) for a family vacation.
My memory of the Park and the fire fall in particular was a beautiful way to end a wonderous and adventure filled day of bears,
deer, awesome geologocal sights and a harried mother caring for her family. A VERY good memory for a child to carry into her retirement years.
Gloria J. Rivas-Bodley
Aztec, New Mexico
July 31, 2010
The experience of seeing & watching the "Firefall" in Yosemite Nat'l Park
is a memory I will forever hold close in my heart. As a child I accompanied my
family on many occasions to the spectualar park, to enjoy the many
beautiful waterfalls & the glorious scenery - we always camped at Camp 11
& often called out the name "Elmer" who was, at that time, the big bear that
hung out at the nearby dump & that all the regular campers were familiar with.
My family & I also enjoyed the beautiful Awhanee Hotel & the chanting of the indian chief that did a
wonderful dance to entertain the many spectors, of which I was one.
My memories of those days are of some of the most awesome times in my life &
of my own personal experience at the park. The "Firefall" being at the top
of my rememberances, is a memory that will never go away ! I was at that
time, between the ages of 10 - 14 & so now, at the age of 63, I still long for
the times I spent with my family & of the good times we shared at Yosemite
Nat'l Park & the spectactular "Firefall"!
Adelle Silva Wright
July 29, 2010
My parents loved camping high up in the wilderness parts of Yosemite in the 1930s, and my dad took me to the Valley in 1947 when I was 7 years old.
I saw the Firefall from fairly close up our first night there, and even at that age I knew it was just a sleazy show for the tourists.
I was delighted when they finally discontinued it.
July 29, 2010
[Editor's Note] The Ken Burns documentary about our national park system depicted the Firefall as being a cheap two-bit sideshow. Clearly Ken Burns had
never actually seen the Firefall or he would have covered it in a more favorable light.
Predictably, after 12 years of receiving nothing but positive posts from those who have fond memories of the Firefall, we now have
started getting posts like this one.
When I was a kid we use to go to Yosemite every summer during the late 50's and early 60's. We would camp on the valley floor next to the Merced River.
During the day all the kids would get on their little plastic rafts and grab onto the raft in front of them and form a train going down the crystal clear Merced river.
I remember passing all the different campsites with watermelons and beer and sodas neatly tucked on the banks of the river (yes snow melt water is cold).
After a day of swimming and exploring the "Indian caves" in the giant granite boulders we would enjoy a barbecue in anticipation of nightfall.
When it got dark their would be dead silence on the entire valley floor as everyone waited for someone to yell from the valley floor "Hello Glacier!"
Then someone 3000 feet up on Glacier Point would yell "Hello Camp Curry!" (you could actually hear him). Followed by a response from the valley "Let the fire fall!"
Then a beautiful Indian maiden would sing the Indian Love Call. This was followed by a real fire fall from the top of Glacier Point.
I was there on the 4th of July one year and they played the star spangled banner during the fire fall. It was was the most amazing experience.
That particular July must have been the summer of 63 (1 was 9 years old) because following that summer we lost president Kennedy.
July 29, 2010
I remember very well the firefall, we would go there and stay in camp 14. It was 1946 the war had ended and my Dad rented a tent and had a rig
made to go on top of a 1934 chevrolet to store the tent and all food, etc.. The Indian Love Song was sung and the yell "Let the fire fall".
I was 9 years old then and it is still a favorite memory along with the freezing water of the river.
Huntington Beach, California
July 25, 2010
At the age of 76, my memories of Yosemite are vivid and clear, including the traditional firefall from Glacier Point.
The summer I turned 18 I was privileged to spend with my aunt and uncle who lived in El Portal. My aunt worked at the Village Store in
Yosemite and I often rode into the park with her to spend the day. She planned a special dinner for me at the Ahwahnee hotel on my 18th
birthday and we were there for the firefall that evening. I can still remember the voice calling out from Glacier Point to the valley below,
"Let the fire fall!" as the cascade of fire rolled down the rock face. It remains as one of the memories that made Yosemite the
most special place on earth to me.
July 22, 2010
As a 6th generation Californian and former Boy Scout from Los Angeles,
some of my fondest memories were camping in Yosemite and viewing the "Fire Fall" each night at 9:00.
Nice to have all of this information now in this age of computers.
July 21, 2010
I am from California originally. As a small child my family camped in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows every year.
Every year we went to Camp Curry to watch the firefall almost every night. I loved watching it and never tired of it.
My memories of the firefalls remain vivid.
Cross Lanes, WV
July 20, 2010
Being an Easterner all my life, it wasn't until I was married and "WENT WEST!" did I see Yosemite. I loved all of it. Half Dome
was/is my favorite, and El Capitan. Butt yes, the firefalls from Glacier Point is one of the Yosemite Memories I will never forget. Beautiful.
July 13, 2010
I remember the fire fall from the 1950's. We would catch fire flies in the meadow while we waited for the fire fall. The fire flies are now gone also.
David W. Diffenderfer
I clearly remember the Firefalls of old. I would go with a church youth group every year and we would wait till 9pm every night to watch that
amazing site. My memory is that it was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was beautiful and never lasted long enough....sort of like fireworks....never
quite long enough. I was sorry when I heard it was stopped...only because I thought it was so wonderful looking. I am sure it was safer to stop
it. I am glad that I am one of those that actually saw the Glacier Point Fire falls of Yosemite.
July 6, 2010
I went as a little girl when they had the Fire Falls. That was spectacular!! back in the early 60's, I was camping up there with my parents and
President Kennedy flew in on a helicopter and we were able to see him land. He stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Later that afternoon, he stood on
the balcony and waved to all the campers. That night he was there, the "fire falls" were extra long, maybe 15 minutes or more.
San Lorenzo, California
Jul 3, 2010
I am a professor who is very interested in finding
HOME MOVIE FOOTAGE of the firefall. I know that
there must be a lot of it out there collecting dust in
people's attics. Please contact me if you have some
footage regardless of its quality or its format (8mm,
16mm, etc). I would only need to borrow it so that I
could make a digital transfer of it. I could make a
transfer of it for you as well so you could watch it
on a DVD player.
PLEASE CONTACT ME! THANKS!
New York City, NY
Jun 8, 2010
I am a professor who is very interested in talking
with someone who has specific technical knowledge
in regards to the firefall: how much bark was
burned, over how long, using what tools, etc.
Ideally the person would have taken part in the
doing of it.
IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE STILL AROUND?! If
so, please please contact me. I would love to have
the chance to speak with you. I would hate for this
knowledge to be lost.
New York City, NY
May 21, 2010
My first view of the Firefall in Yosemite National Park was in 1938 when I was 4 years old. We (my mother, father, sister and I) were staying at Camp Curry.
We returned for many vacations and in 1940 I worked as a "soda jerk" at the Curry Fountain and Grill and the following year as manager of the Old Village Fountain.
My sister worked at the Awahnee Hotel.
S.C., Ace Diamond
Apr 28, 2010
We always went to Yosemite every year and camped at camp 7. Love those times, meet on the bridge crossing the river and watch the fire fall.
Never can figure why they stopped it, was such a part of being in the park.
Apr 17, 2010
My fondest memories are of our trips to yosemite in the early 50's and 60's camping in camp 7 across the bridge from housekeeping camp, all the kids that
met on the sandy beach next to the river would gather on the bridge at night and watch the firefall, very romatic, alot of first kisses I'm sure.
We were there when John kennedy's motorcade passed by our camp, got to shake his hand as he passed by luckily my father had a movie camera on at the time.
Memories I will nver forget.
Mar 27, 2010
Some of my fondest childhood memories took
place in Yosemite, specifically at Camp Curry. My
father took us there two years in a row for our
family vacation. It would have been 1960 & 1961.
Every evening we would go to the stage area and sit
on giant redwood benches to watch the variety
show. At the end of the show a beautiful woman
dressed like an Indian Princess would come on
stage, and thats when the MC would yell, "Let the
fire fall". The Indian Princess would start to sing the
"Indian Love Call" as the fire would fall down the
side of Glacier Point. It looked like a waterfall of fire
and was so breath-taking. It was so special to me
as a child and I have always remembered it and
have spoke about it often throughout my life. It was
more than a show, it was a life-long beautiful
memory that I will never forget.
Mar 17, 2010
This was one of my fond memories of the park. Since I had my heart surgery a lot of things I don't remember any more but this was one I won't forget.
Mom said we would be at the top one night to see them push it over and then the next night we would be down below to see. As a kid I was really
fascinated with it...sorry it had to go....thanks for you web site and giving back our memories.
March 6, 2010
I camped in the 1950's late 40s for 2 weeks at a time in camp ground 9 or 10 on the other side of stoneman bridge generally right on the river.
3 families. Every night we went to Camp Curry to hear the program, and right before the fire fall the Indian Love Song was sang and then they'd
yell...LET THE FIRE FALL. It was the most impressive thing in my life. I am now 66 and still remember it. Did go to the top once and watch
them push it over. Great experience I wish my grandkids could experience.
Joyce E. Bullock
Feb 28, 2010
I was in college= BBC in Santa Cruz, CA from 1954-1955, traveled in a quartet, passed thru Yosemite National Park to see/hear the "FIRE FALLS"
during the night..."LET THE FIRE FALL" and it was "spectacular" (1954-summer).
Our Quartet: "The King's Messengers" from BBC= now= BU in Santa Cruz, CA.
HARRY BROTZMAN JR
STATE COLLEGE, PA
Feb 1, 2010
I lived in Camp 19 in the valley when I was 4, 5, and 6, but I was too young to travel to see the Firefall every night.
When we lived at the Big Trees I was older and remember several trips to the valley.
In response to David Diffenderfer, there were never any fireflies in Yosemite, however I have seen small beetle larvae that glow green, but they don't fly around.
Jan 28, 2010
I came across this site looking for Nick Fiore Memorial information. I was one of Nick's instructors in the 1960's.
When I was young - six, seven, and eight - I lived in Camp Six, the employees' campground. I remember riding my bicycle out to the meadow at nine to watch the Firefall.
Even at that age I somehow knew that all those camera flashes of the fire falling were useless.
Living in Yosemite and seeing the Firefall often, I still found it very incredible. And I still miss it and think about it when looking up at Glacier Point.
Dec 16, 2009
We made many trips to see the Firefall in the late 1950's. We viewed from the patio at the Ahwahnee and from a meadow that was full of Fireflies.
Apparently the Fireflies are now gone as is the Firefall.
David W. Diffenderfer
Dec 7, 2009
My Dad was a teacher in San Francisco, and every Summer we would pack up and head for Yosemite. We camped in Camp 14.
Every year there were softball games behind the stage in Camp 14, with many of the same people there year after year.
I remember a young couple particularly, Tommy and Kay.
In 1948 as an 18-year-old just out of high school and on the way to college at UCLA, it was a particularly wonderful year.
Camped near us was another camp with four girls from Fresno. We met at the softball field, and soon I was taking the four girls
all over the Valley Floor, to Mirror Lake, and up to Glacier Point to see the firefall at its source.
Soon it was with just one of the four girlfriends. There were many long walks to Happy Isles, the Indian Caves, and along the paths
by the Merced River. We visited the Museum where Chief Limi and Tabussi demonstrated their Indian heritage. And we stood in the
meadow and watched the firefall.
Well, to cut the story short, we have now been married 54 years, have ten children, 22 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren
(with one more of each on the way later this year.)
Yosemite was and is magical. One of God's greatest gifts to all of us. Reading all of the stories of those who have visited and
loved Yosemite--well, I just had to submit my own.
La Jolla, California
Oct 15, 2009
I have seen the fire fall many times. Nic Fiore, a Curry Company employee for many many years, was for a time in charge of preparing the fire.
There was a talent to pushing the hot red fir bark coals over the side to make a good fire fall. Nic passed away several months ago he was a
legend in Yosemite. Ran the ski school at Badger Pass where I got my first ski lesson from him in 1956 . Another fond memory
is ice skating on the parking lot at Curry. Also remember there was no bear problems back then because all the bears went to
the garbage dump that was in a remote corner of the valley. At 81 I now know what the saying "Good Old Days" is all about.
Oct 7, 2009
I want to thank PBS and the series, National Parks for sparking memories of my first Firefall. 1954/55? not sure. Camped at the park with my Folks, sister and brother.
But we were with my Aunt & Uncle and cousins, who had camped there a number times. And they wanted to show us their favorite spot on earth. It was nothing like SW
washington or going to the beach to dig clams like we had done in the past.
I remember the camp grounds were kinda first come first served, quite crowded, and one camp site on top of the next. We were there on a weekend so Im sure it was full.
Went to the best spots to see Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and all the wonderful sites.
Back at camp in the late afternoon getting supper dishes washed and put away, along with putting our food in buckets and raising them with ropes into the tree limbs
so the bears could not get it. We got our own camp fire going to enjoy waiting for 9pm for the big show. I recall that shortly after full darkness the bears were seen
by other camper. They started pounding pots and pans togeather, flashlights shining in all direction. Kids and adults a little on the edge of the camp stool, my self included.
The Firefall was attended, can't remember if we drove or walked to a viewing site. But I do remember it well.
On my next visit, my wife and I drove in from the east from hwy 395 over Tioga pass. One of the most beautiful drives of all our travels.
We had left South Tahoe after waiting up to the hijacked airliners bringing down the World Trade Center on 9/11. Our day was changed, and we drove to Mariposa to catch
up on the news. The next morning we went back into the park. And at the park entrance I asked the Ranger if they still had Firefall? He ansewered saddly no.
Oct 4, 2009
My memory of the firefalls seemed to grow as I got older. I visited Yosemite valley quite a few times in the 60's and the firefall was quite a scene.
But I was more interested in all the people, collecting pennants and stickers, and running around with my friends. I do remember the calls from the
valley to the point and that was pretty cool. I remember staying in those Camp Curry tent cabins and sometime around midnite the bears would start
knocking the lids off all the trash cans! You could hear trash cans being tipped over and lids rolling around! I had to go to the bathroom and it
felt like running the gauntlet!
In the early 70's my cousin and I backpacked to the top of halfdome and spent the night. The valley actually had
smog from so many campfires! You could see the endless line of headlights from the cruising cars at night in the valley. That's when I knew that
something had to change. We thought we were pretty cool backpacking up to halfdome...but when we reached the top there were 2 guys climbing the
sheer face! We watched them for hours! They made it to the top...dusted themselves off...and hiked back down! It was just a day climb for
them!...a humbling experience!
Oct 3, 2009
Thanks for your web site. As an eight year old, my family vacationed in Yosemite three years in a row. A remarkable thing for a family that came from Brooklyn. A highlight for me was Pez bought at the Camp Curry store and firefall.
I seem to recall that the firefall was preceded by America the Beautiful. As a child, I thought it was the most amazing and goosebump inducing sight I had ever seen.
Seeing the picture of the firefall brought back the smell of smokey campfires, flashlights waving and the hiss of Coleman lanterns that are forever part of my best childhood memories.
Sep 30, 2009
My family made a trip to Yosemite Valley one summer in the early 60s. We stayed at a campground on the Merced a bit west of Camp Curry.
In the evenings I would walk down to the ampitheater at Curry for the ceremony.
I vividly remember the calls: "Hello Glacier!" "Hello Camp Curry!" "Let the fire fall!" "The fire falls!", and the Indian Love Call. I loved every second!
Much later, in 1984, I came back to the valley. I was stunned to learn that the firefall had been discontinued. Given the number of people
in the valley that summer the explanations made a lot of sense: congestion, trampling the meadows.
But I didn't know until finding this site just now that it had been killed just a few years after I saw it.
Sep 28, 2009
I found this website looking for information as to when the Yosemite Fire Falls stopped. I have wonderful memories of the fire falls.
As a boy scout, my troop went to Yosemite several times. I've been blessed to witness those beautiful fire falls both from the valley floor,
and atop Glacier point, right about the point where the black and white picture above was taken.
Sep 28, 2009
In 1944 my family had left Missouri to travel to California to work the farms of the Central valley. My Father took my Mother, myself and Niece to
Yosemite Valley to camp for the weekend. Our camp was in Camp Curry and consisted of a canvas pulled completely over 1938 Chevrolet sedan and staked
far enough out from the otherside to form a tent cover for our sleeping facilities. Near dusk one evening this 4 year old remembers quite well being
awakened to experience the "fire fall". A memory to this day that remains within my head and difficlt to repeat in words what I experienced that evening.
I returned 50 years later with my family and found that it had been discontinued. I continue to wonder if the impact of man is actually erasing the immersion
of nature without any mans inference.
Sep 28, 2009
In 1966 we took our three little girls out west camping in a tent driving a 1963 VW bus. We camped just outside Yosemite, got up
early the next morning to go to the Valley campground to get a campsite. We got there as someone was breaking camp, so we got a
site for our tent. We went swimming in the river and looked up at Half Dome.
That evening we went to the Ranger talk and to see the Fire Fall. It was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. The fire
fell in chucks and in small sparks, not as a stream as the time expose photos show. As it fell it seemed as if it were in slow
motion. What a sight! I am so thankful that my family and I got to see it. That is what makes memories.
B. Don Zesch
Sep 13, 2009
What great memories of yosemite. My parents took me camping as a baby. I remember the firefall for a few years. Was pretty young when they ended it.
Grew up in Salinas and every summer dad loaded up the car and we took off for a week of camping. I remember when I was small we always camped at camp
14 where there was a grocery store. Floating on air mattresses on the Merced River and holding on to the mattress in front of you. Going to the dump
to watch the bears. Later years as a teenager we camped in upper pines. Remember the bears breaking in my brothers truck to steal our food. yosemite
is a magical place and I will always be thankful for the great memories of my childhood.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sep 8, 2009
I first went to Yosemite at age 3, in
1936. I have returned over the years to
the place where my heart is the
happiest. My husband and I brought
groups of children to Yosemite, to
backpack and learn to love the out-of-
doors. The fire fall was a magical
event which we all looked forward to
each night. We witnessed it from Glacier
Point as well as Camp Curry. The end of
the tradition was a shock and sadness
and we still hear people talk of it
today. We were very fortunate to have
Sep 7, 2009
A family friend took my mother, my sister
and I to camp (in Camp 14) when I was
just 14 - I have had a love affair with
Yosemite ever since. When I worked for
State Farm Ins. (in Berkeley), every
vacation I would go back. My fellow
employees just couldn't understand why,
but I just told them "because it is the
most beautiful place on earth".
Sep 2, 2009
I was born in March of 1963 so, as you know, I was only 4 or 5 when I last saw the firefall. It is an image emblazoned into my memory as a fantastic sight. I am forever grateful to my adventurous camping parents and the Yosemite staff for providing this memory. This is enhanced by the memory of my father cutting a coffee can to place a ring around a the print of the bear that visited our campsight in order to hold the plaster he mixed to create a mold for another memory of Yosemite.
Karolina Holcomb Perry
Sep 2, 2009
Hello Glacier Point
San Carlos, California
Aug 20, 2009
Hello Camp Curry
Let The Fire Fall....
then the Indian Love Call.
Huge, fond memory from my childhood years camping in Yosemite.
Born in 1950, I remember well, my family driving through the tunnel to view the most spectacular sights and sounds immaginable for a kid.
It was akin to Dorothy opening the door to view OZ in all its glorious color. The trees, standing tall and smelling like Christmas,
the granite walls surrounding you everywhere you looked providing an amazing sense of belonging, the smells of an old canvas tent and your dad
frying up the fish he caught that day, and I, eating beans and franks from an army green can of sea rations from dad's World War II Army days.
The shady days of summer were long, and as the chilly evenings emerged we armed ourselves with flashlights, and together, we walked to the
Ranger camp fires where we sang songs and listened to tales, waiting, waiting for the last song to end, the the last tale told, and then it came:
the call... "Let the Fire Fall" and in a blaze of glory gushing down the granite wall, a free falling glow of red and orange and yellow, and then silence...and
a wish for another day of summer... in Yosemite.
Aug 17, 2009
In the early sixties I was married to Larry Morgenson, the person whom along with Richie and Tom pushed the firefall off early one afternoon.
Bragging rights were extended all around. But the true joy was sitting in the Ahwahnee meadow and watching it fall down the cliff after the
"Let the Fire Fall" shout. It was eerily beautiful even if man made.
Port Townsend, WA
Aug 8, 2009
Thank you for hosting this site. My father, Cliff Osterberg, worked for the Curry Company prior to and after his stint in Korea.
Just this morning he described his firefall job to my 13 y.o. daughter Terra. He told her that he was responsible for the Firefall
on the weekends as he had another job for the CC on the weekdays. He would ride his Indian motorcycle up to G.P. from the Valley
and perform the ritual as you describe at 9:00 every Saturday and Sunday. He said the ride up and down took about an hour.
Newport Beach, California
Aug 8, 2009
I just remember being a kid in the 50's and 60's, going to Yosemite a few times and always waiting to see the Firefall! It was so beautiful and exciting. When I heard it was ending, I felt very sad that future generations would not be able to see this thrilling sight.
When I tell people about it, they generally don't believe me until I "google it" to prove it. It just sounds like something that the powers that be would not do.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Aug 6, 2009
Claire J. Baker
All day we had climbed
the Mist Trail --
slippery stone steps, boulders,
moist wildflowers, Vernal and
Nevada falls arcing rainbows
in spray blown like white manes
of galloping horses.
Late afternoon, back in camp,
relaxed after barbecued chicken,
baked potatoes, roasted corn, coffee
in Sierra Club metal cups,
we would gaze high above sugar pines
to Glacier Point... We hundreds
of campers melded in expectation
heard "Let the fire fall," an echo,
the communal "OH!" as it began:
a huge bed of red fir bark
flamed into embers, shoveled
over the brink into the Valley --
a 3,000 foot golden ribbon,
sparks flying like wild birds,
like coins from coffers
of a molten God.
Darkness framed the spectacle.
This evening we Valley campers,
aged past venturesome climbs,
gaze toward that granite wall
Molten bark is no longer pushed
over Glacier Point
yet we still envision
--Claire J. Baker
* After 88 years the spectacle ended in 1968.
July 21, 2009
I just saw an article on waterfalls and saw Yosemite falls. Had a brief memory of fire falls as a child.
Typed in Yosemite firefalls and found this site. Thank you for posting this info. As a family in the early 60's we used
to go and rent a cabin for a week when I was maybe 6 or 7. We lived in San Jose at the time. This was something I had
not thought about in 40 years or more (51 now). Was not even sure I was remembering correctly. What a thrill to find your
site and take a walk through my childhood. My most prevalent memory of Yosemite was my grandmother chasing a bear out of the
kitchen after cooking bacon for breakfast. Using a wooden spoon and banging a pot she chased that bear off (still have picture
in family archives). I remember a special treat of going to watch the firefalls.
Thank you again for the trip into the past. Sincerely Scot Stringer.
July 10, 2009
As a child growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, I have many fond memories of watching the Fire Fall on family trips to Yosemite.
It was always a major part of the camping Experience.
We recently took a foreign exchange student to Yosemite. As I was standing next to the wall at Glacier Point attempting to
describe the fire fall, I realized that there are really no words which do justice to this simple, beautiful work of art.
Even though it was man made, (and therefore not natural?) I'm not sure we have done good by interrupting such a rich tradition.
A tradition and experience shared by my parents and grandparents. Perhaps our modern values are misplaced....
July 5, 2009
I recall the Firefalls. I am but another who recalls the wonder and excitement of seeing it as a child.
Thank you for putting up this site and researching the history of it!
Ann (Hamilton) Reynolds
Des Moines (formerly Los Altos), Iowa (formerly California)
July 5, 2009
I've commented about the Firefall, but would like to add that my family was in Yosemite the year that Elmer was lost.
He and his family were in Camp 14, (now known as Lower River). His mother had a quaint voice and was going from camp
to camp calling, Elmer, Elmer. The campers started looking for him and joined in. This was in 1937. Each year the
campers that returned to the valley would start calling and it has continued all these years. My brother was 16 years
old and remembers better than I do. I was 6 years old at the time. Elmer was found.
Now 72 years later, you will still hear Elmer being called. I've heard Rangers say it was a bear, and several different
stories. I just wanted to say that I was there and I know the real story. I was born in 1931, and will be going this
July for a family reunion with my immediate family. Yosemite again this year of 2009.
June 30, 2009
The Firefall was a spectacular thing to watch. I started going to Yosemite with my family at an early age,
and continued throughout my lifetime. 73 summers I've been to Yosemite. We were there in 1968 when the
Firefall was discontinued. We camped in Lower Pines, then known as Camp 14 facing the meadow. We would
bring our children out to the meadow and have them watch the firefall before we put them down for the night.
We slept outside under the stars.
My husband and I were there on our honeymoon, 25th anniversary, and 50th anniversary, and camping every year in between.
Our oldest children still remember the firefall. The Indian Love Call is our song. This year 2009, we are having a
family reunion at Housekeeping. Many wonderful memories and we've seen so many changes through the years.
Jun 30, 2009
For many years I thought I had a genuine "false memory," but confirmed later with my Mom that, indeed, our family of seven stayed in the cabin-floored tents in Yosemite for several
days the summer of 1957. I was 8 years old, the eldest of 5, & Dad had brought us all out while he worked &/or took seminars for his Navy Dept. civilian job & we lived in Carmel.
The road trip out is among my earliest & most vivid memories, because we also stopped at the Grand Canyon. Mom feared someone upon whom she didn't have a grasp might go over
the rim, as she held onto Kathleen, then a nursing babe, 8 or 9 mos. old. Dad, as usual, would wander off exploring, usually not helping to mind his brood, & I was expected to help.
It made me feel very "grown up." Pictures Dad took do show me imitating Mom: kerchief on head tied behind the neck, purse slung on one shoulder, long shorts.
So there are pix to help the memory, but none that I remember of the actual firefall we were to see later.
Anyway, back to Yosemite: the entire park stuck in my memories, but especially the fire fall, because it was SPECTACULAR, even to kids who grew up in the No.Va. D.C. suburbs &
saw mega fireworks there & got to use sparklers! We waited for the appointed time, somewhere down in the valley, I think in a big meadow, & down came this tremendous fireball!
Over a big cliff! Who would've thought?! It was glorious! What an image to burn in one's deep memory! It was such fun for us children, if a bit unnerving for my Mom.
Dad's gone now, so I can't ask him anymore.
And now, when we talk about it, & CA wildfires, we can not believe that it used to be permitted! But I'm so glad to have had that experience 52 years ago & the memory as I turn 60!
(How'd that happen?) It's a great story to share with my only, 10-year old granddaughter, who has climbed above two falls in the park already on a trip with her parents and friends!
But they didn't see a firefall at night upon which to dream and wonder and marvel, as I did!
San Diego, California
Jun 18, 2009
Sad news - Nic Fiore, the 'fireguy' throughout the entire history of the Firefall (not to mention the legendary ski instructor at Badger Pass), passed away on June 16, 2009 in Fresno.
He'd retired in 2004 as a result of heart trouble. He's the voice one heard coming down from Glacier Point: "THE FIRE IS FALLING!"
Los Angeles, California
Jun 18, 2009
I worked at the Standard Stations on the Valley floor the summers of '61, '62 and '63. The night that John and Jacquie Kennedy visited the park, the fire actually fell
for over three minutes. There was nothing quite like sitting on the patio of the Awhnee and watching the firefall.
Jun 12, 2009
So wonderful to have found this site! I was telling a younger woman about the Yosemite firefall, and this answered all my questions. Many wonderful memories here, too, I see.
When my mother first came to California from the east coast, she worked at the hotel, so it was a natural that we would spend my childhood camping at Yosemite.
Many, many good memories, and always the mesmerizing fall of the burning ambers after the talk at the amphitheater. I seem to tie the falling fire with a story
about two young Indians in love, and the stories about the Indian Love Call might be it? Amazing how a memory from fourty odd years can distort. Thank you all!
Sharry Anne Stevens
Jun 12, 2009
In 1963, 64, and 65 - our Girl Scout troop from Santa Clara went to Yosemite after school was out for camping trips. One of the most memorable things for me was making our way to a
meadow to watch the firefall every night. There was a sense of community, of anticipation, of wonder, and the sheer joy of the spectacle and the crowd...
Jun 7, 2009
As a young college graduate during the Korean war my Father was stationed in San Luis Obispo during his time in the army. He and
some buddies took a trip to Yosemite and he brought back a bunch of slides that we would beg him to show us when we were kids in
the 60s. His description of the firefall always capture my imagination and I looked for the spot where it happened on a recent
visit to Yosemite. Thanks for the history and details about the firefall.
Jun 2, 2009
What did you do on the firefalls? [I wasn't an employee of the park, just a visitor to the park as a child and a witness to the Firefall.]
What did it look like and what mountain was it on?
[It was a bonfire pushed off of Glacier Point, which is a very high cliff just above Camp Curry. It was like an orange waterfall of sparks, and was very beautiful.]
How did the water turn red? [There is a water fall in Yosemite called Horse Head Fall which is also sometimes called a firefall because the
sun shines on the water of that fall and turns the water red because it always happens at sunset, and that's just when the sun is red or orange.]
Did it burn stuff down? [No, luckily it never burned anything down. And that's because the fire landed on rocks where there were no trees or houses to burn up.]
Did you think it was cool? [I thought it was the coolest thing I had every seen. It might still be the coolest thing I've ever seen.]
San Jose, California
May 31, 2009
I just left a comment about my Dad Smoky and the firefalls, I have not yet finished reading all the info here however my 7 year old son has asked me to post this for him.
What did you do on the firefalls? What did it look like and what mountain was it on? How did the water turn red? Did it burn stuff down? Did you think it was cool?
May 23, 2009
I only just recently heard about this from my mom and learned that my dad was a part of it.
I always new that he had fought forest fires and even adopted the name of Smoky that stuck til the day
he passed away in 2002 however I only learned of his involvement with the firefall yesterday and became
so interested that I began to Google and found this site and I am so grateful for the
information here that I could not find out from him but will now be able to pass on to my boys.
This is one more way for them to connect with their grandfather who is no longer around.
Thank you again. Also anyone who may remember the name Philip Kammerer also known as Smoky, I would love to hear the memories.
May 23, 2009
What happened to the Yosemite firefall stories from the last TWO years??? I have enjoyed reading the recollections and stories of
others for over a decade now. What's up? [Editor's note: we had a server crash and lost the site for awhile, but have been able
to reconstruct it from some backups, some emails, and from the fantastic contribution of Steve Fry who had luckily kept a copy of
the site before the crash. We've almost completed the restoration! Thanks for asking. (Steve Fry has commented below, and was the
author of the Wikipedia article on the Firefall.)]
I worked in Camp Curry summers of '62 and '63. The firefall was a welcomed ritual, I think it gave employees a chance for
conversation and to smoke a pipe on the post office steps. It was a glorious adventure. I did return over the years with
family to enjoy the park and all the excitement of the firefall. The firefall was as magical as it is in the retelling
in so many voices. I too am sorry it had to end, but I get it. Thanks for your work, but bring back the missing missives
of the last two years!
Peggy Sweeney Wonder
May 3, 2009
Where have many of the postings gone? Many people have shared their love of Yosemite and the Firefall.Are they lost ??
[Editor: See the comment above for an explanation.]
May 2, 2009
I am so glad that I found this site. I remember the firefall from the many times my family would go camping in the valley while I
was growing up. Yosemite has a special place in my memory not only for the natural beauty but also because of the campfire programs
that our family would participate in.
Apr 30, 2009
I have recently put on Wikipedia an entire article
on the firefall, plus a time-exposure picture taken by my father, Bob
Fry, who worked with Henry Berrey among many others. The article was
written by my mother, Marilyn, who edited books for the Yosemite
historian Shirley Sargent.
Of course I have many memories of the firefall. We
lived in the valley during the summers of 1960 through 1963. After that
we lived in the Mariposa Grove, then at Bridalveil Creek campground.
I worked for Nic Fiore for two summers in the high
camps, but he never told tales of the firefall. I am going to get Huell
Howser's video to see what Nic said, and to look at other pictures of
the long-gone firefall.
Feb 20, 2009
I last saw the firefall in 1949. My dad had recently
retired from the U.S.Navy and we were driving back to the east. To this
day, I can still see it in my mind's eye and I can hear still hear the
singing of the "Indian Love Call". What a wonderful memory. I'd give a
lot if I could see and hear it once more.
Feb 12, 2009
It was by joyful accident that I found this website.
Though I don't quite remember the story of Elmer, I have, I think, a
hundred firefall stories. From watching the wood pile being lit, its
burning through Summer evenings. Then in the judgement of Nic Fiore it
was right and ready. The call made "the firefall is ready" and returned,
"let the firefall!" Then as if in a moment the fire fell, presented to
thousands of up turned eyes, an imprint to remember, share with
children, savor, enjoy in your dreams. There are so many names I
remember fron my own childhood in Yosemite, John Curry, Nic Fiore of
course my parents Henry and Eileen Berrey. Of all the many gifts given
me having been born, and living in Yosemite is the the richest. The
firefall, the Merced River, Skiing at Badger Pass and fishing at
Tuolumne Meadows live in my memory a comfort in hard times, joy in good.
Feb 8, 2009
Our family took driving vacations every two years.
There were three kids then (1960). I was fourteen, one of my brothers
was sixteen, and the other was eight. We visited the Grand Canyon, then
Yosemite, where we "camped" in our station wagon just one night. As
evening fell, Mom & Dad told us to watch the waterfall. Soon we
heard a far-away voice singing the Indian Love Song - it was a lovely,
haunting song I will never forget. Then they sent the fire over the
cliff. It was as if the water had turned to fire and was so so very
beautiful. Everyone in the small camp was talking about it until we all
loaded into the stationwagon & went to sleep. Around midnight, we
were woken up by loud clanging noises. A BEAR was walking between our
car and the one next to us. It stopped for a few minutes to sniff at our
windows and to sniff the man in his sleeping bag on the ground between
our cars! He told us the next day he didn't know it had happened! What
amazing memories that trip left us. We all still talk about the Grand
Canyon, the firefalls and the bear, and we cherish that vacation as one
of our best!
Rio Rancho, NM
I saw the Firefall on Laborday Weekend, 1961 while
staying at Camp Curry with a girlfriend. I am forwording your beautiful
picture and website to my grand daughter. She will be staying in the
Park as part of a school field trip in February, '09. How I wish she and
her classmates could enjoy that beautiful experience I had 47 years ago.
I just released a DVD that includes a complete
presentation of the Firefall with an original soundtrack from 1960
(including the Firefall calls and the sound of the embers being pushed
over), rare color movie footage from above and below Glacier Point
accompanied by the singing of Indian Love Call. It's titled: "Vintage
Songs of Yosemite - The DVD" available at http://www.yosemitemusic.com/.
Fish Camp, California
Jan 8, 2009
I was born in 1954 in Long beach, Calif. I had one
sister 8 years older than I. My mom, dad, sister and I and our labrador
retriever went camping in Yosemite with our 18 foot Fireball trailer
almost every summer. I loved hiking the trails and the outdoors. It
meant so much to me! I was also in Girl Scouts through Sr. Scouts and
have always appreciated nature from what I did with my family. I
especially enjoyed the firefalls and was sad when they stopped having
them. My dad just passed away this past Oct. He always loved them too
and especially the Indian Love Song. I'll never forget the reverence I
felt during the quiet peaceful times I had at Yosemite. I only wish that
our children had more quiet times out in nature too instead of so much
technology. You had a chance to feel totally at peace and a oneness with
our creator when you were out side in such a beautiful place.
Yesterday I wrote here that my father, Howard Young,
picnicked on Overhanging Rock with a young woman he identified as Mary
Curry. I then found that Mary Curry Tresidder was quite a bit older than
he (besides being married); and so it seems very unlikely that it was
she on that rock. Since my father died years ago, I can't ask for an
explanation. But I will check the photos I have of "Picnic on the Rock"
for further info.
Howard Young, Jr.
Santa Rosa, California
Jan 7, 2009
I'm grateful to contributor Kit Werlein for quoting
the words that I myself recall from a full summer's watching the
firefall (as an employee, 1955): "Is the fire ready?" "The fire is
ready." "Then let the fire fall." I had wondered if my memory of that
brief nightly exchange had slipped.
My father worked for one or two summers at Camp
Curry in the mid-1930s, and I have photos of him seated on the edge of
Overhanging Rock, having a picnic with a young woman he said was Mary
Curry. At least they lived to tell the tale.
Howard Young, Jr.
Santa Rosa, California
Jan 6, 2009
Thank you so much for your wonderful article on
Yosemite's firefall. I especially enjoyed the comments that other people
contributed. Not unlike a lot of your contributors I was a child when I
saw the firefall. I saw them 2 or 3 times until they discontinued the
practice in 68. It was a wonderful experience, but I feel that the
anticipation of the event was almost as good as the real thing. It will
always remain a cherished childhood memory. As will the magic of the
valley itself. Again thanks so much for your research and photos.
Our family camped in Camp 14, across the meadow from
Camp Curry during the 40's and 50's. Every night after dinner we would
cross the meadow to attend the Park Ranger's speech and show and then go
through fire fall ritual at 9:pm with the calling from Glacier Pt to
Camp Curry and the playing of the "Indian Love Song" while watching the
"fire fall". It is part of my fondest memories of my youth, those 2
weeks every summer at Yosemite. I went again in May 2006 after the
abundance of rain, to take pictures of Yosemite, Bridal Vail falls and
many of the other picturesque sites. A beautiful site, that everyone
should experience ....our National Parks.
Carol A. Cruger
San Diego, California
Dec 23, 2008
As a child growing up in the city of Oakland, CA
most of the beauty I saw was in a park, surrounded by concrete and cars.
I mainly grew up in foster care so trips to faroff places was not
practical. But one particular summer I got wonderfully lucky. It was
1966 or 1967, I forget the dates, as time erodes some of my memories. My
wonderful aunt and uncle, who I had the privilege to live with at the
time, informed me and my brothers they were taking us to Yosemite
National Park. I thought it was in colorado or somewhere real far away I
never knew it was so close. We spent three days there, that was all the
time we had, but in that time I saw the beauty of Gods majesty and the
human effort to bring it to the average man. The Merced was cold, swift,
fantastic to play in. The camp grounds a foster childs dream come true
of adventure. Then, as if I wasn't entertained enough, the firefalls. Oh
what a site to see. Beauty and art all rolled into one. As the lights
went down in Curry and the voices yelled out here came a display so
spectacular it burns in my memory to this day. What a display of genius.
Simple and yet so awsome. Nowaday's things seem so complicated. I miss
the innocence of this event and find it sad that some folks think they
know more then the rest of us. I would have loved to take my kids to
this event. We've been to yosemite many times since then and it still
one of the most beautiful spots on earth, despite all the tourism. But
the relationship between man and God tied the knot on that cliff every
evenning. What a shame that relationship was broken. I would love to see
the firefalls again in my life time. But reality is such that it will
never happen again. Like stain on the cliff walls from the hot embers
that remains today, so will that memory be embedded in my mind.
Nov 22, 2008
There was/is no place more magical than Yosemite
Valley. I was born in 1946 and we camped there several times in the
50's. I vividly remember walking out into the meadow to wait for the
firefall. We always yelled for Elmer and I was glad to see the "True
Story of Elmer" on this site. The first time I played in snow was on the
4th of July on the way to Glacier Point. Watching the bears at the
garbage pit(from the car)was quite the event also. My daughter is
visiting there this week for the first time. I would really like to be
with her to see her wonder at the unparalleled beauty. Yosemite
certainly provided me with some of my best childhood memories.
Barbara Fox Warner
Oct 17, 2008
I was born 1964. So i was about 3 or 4 years old the
first time i went to yosemite, but i can still see the fire falls in my
head. its what i remember the most out of that campingtrip to curry
village. I wish that my kids could have see this great event!!!
Oct 9, 2008
I was about 10 or 11 when my parents first took us
to Yosemite. I'm the oldest of 6 kids and seeing the Firefalls was the
highlight of our camping experience. I too, vididly remember the call of
"Let the fire fall". It was a great time in my and my siblings lifes.
Let the fire fall again for whole other generation!
Mary Grace (Montoya) MacDonald
Oct 8, 2008
Yesterday (Oct. 7, 2008), I was visiting with a
friend who said he was leaving in a couple of days to go backpacking in
Yosemite. He asked if I had been in Yosemite, and I said that our family
went there in the summer of 1952 when I was 8 years old. Then, I related
about my most vivid memory of Yosemite: how we gathered beneath Glacier
Point and heard a conversation take place between someone below and
someone on the top of the mountain, hearing them as clearly as if they
were standing next to me. My memory is that the person on the ground
asked "Is the fire ready?" The man on the peak responded: "the fire is
ready." And, the response was "then let the fire fall!" As equally
impressive to me (as an eight year old) as the actual fire fall, was the
preceding "conversation" between the individuals echoing throughout the
valley. After my conversation with my backpacking friend, I searched the
internet for info on the firefall and found your website. I made a copy
for my friend so that he can meditate (while backpacking)on what "used
to be" in Yosemite many years ago.
Oct 8, 2008
I too was at Yosemite when i was a kid. I vividly
remember the voice that said "Let the fire fall!" It was a sight to
behold when you were a kid. I also remember when we went to Kings Canyon
just right down the street. That was a fun filled summer.
Sep 26, 2008
My grandmother was Kathrine Cherry Curry, great
great grandmother Jennie Curry. Although i never had the privilage of
seeing the "Firefalls" I heard many occasion my grand mothers fond
memories. Upon my grandmothers passing I received her photo albums and
diaries,and her mother, Cherry Currys, photos and diaries.
I visited Yosemite in 1998 with history in hand and
very much enjoyed having the photos to compare then and now. For the
most part things were the same with exception to the modern
commercialism that comes with time. I was overwhelmed with the falls
where my mother, Marlene Cherry, also my sister Laurel Cherrys
christenings took place.
How wonderful it was to stay in "Camp Curry" knowing
that my great great grandparents David & Jennie Curry made a
wonderful place for anyone to camp. I have photos of great great
grandfather's "Welcomes" and "Farewells". Such a powerful place to
visit. I felt the spirits of my distant family as I traced the footsteps
they walked. I was also introduced to a few people who knew my
grandmother. I am proud to hold this history and will cherish it with
every visit. Such a majestic, spiritual place!
Ricki Lyn Brown
It's been 40 years since the firefall ended at
Yosemite. Like so many other childhood memories, the firefall is one
that I will never forget. I loved those lazy days spent camping with my
family and I have continued to camp my whole life. I remember going
there and staying in the tent cabins as well. I just wish I could have
taken my kids there to see the firefall. We moved away and I haven't
been back since the early 60's, but I still think of that place often
when I'm feeling nostalgic. Isn't it great that we were all a part of
the history of Yosemite and the firefall!
I too grew up at yosemite spending two weeks every
summer and sometimes two weeks in the winter. i was about seven when the
last firefall happened so my recollections are kind of sketchy but i
vividly remember camping at yosemite when the camp grounds had no
markers and you would wake up with someone else camping right next to
you. the highlight of our days at yosemite were always the nightly
campfire programs at camp curry. we would walk from our campground to
the outdoor arena, sing camp fire songs and wait for 9:00. at 9 all the
lights would go out and someone would yell " hello glacier point"
followed by the response " hello camp curry". than "let the fire fall"..
my childhood memories at yosemite had such a lasting impact on me that i
take my three children there and for four or five days i relive my
childhood through them... yosemite was always a special place and
continues to be so...
Simi Valley, California
Sep 23, 2008
In the mid-60s, I came to Yosemite for the first
time, tagging along with my neighbors on a week- long camp out. I was
ten years old, and we camped along the Merced, and I remember waking up
each morning and walking along the river, in awe of its swift, cold
current. Having grown up in track-home in San Diego, the power of the
river and the experience of living outside was powerful.
It was on that trip that I saw the firefall
showering down from the ridge above our campground. At first, just a few
embers flew. Then a stream of red light fell from the mountain,
contrasted against the blackness of night. It is one of those things you
just never forget.
I now live in Coarsegold, a stones-throw away from
the south gate of Yosemite. Now living under the threat of devastating
forest fires, it's almost crazy to think that forty years ago we were
able to push bonfires over cliffs in mid-summer. Those times are long
gone, but not the memory, that's for sure.
Sep 20, 2008
This is an update from my prior post in 2005.
Re-reading all the contributions, I came across the names of old
Yosemite friends and acquaintances, or their descendants, including
Nancy Moe Eckert, Bob Babcock, Henny Berry, Jane (Christiansen) Ross,
Tom Christiansen. We all lived in or near Yosemite Valley at the same
time (some were even born there), e.g., from the 1950s to the 1960s, and
were blessed to have lived there and to have witnessed the Firefall as
part of our summers! It was indeed a romantic time and event!
Sharon G. (Conner) Whitney
San Luis Obispo, California
Sep 13, 2008
Ditto eveything I read....been going there over many
years....I love Yosemite
Van Nuys, california
Sep 8, 2008
I am so happy and "relieved" to find this website! I
grew up going to Yosemite at least ever other summer in the 50's and
60's. (The alternate summer vacation spot was Sequoia). I recently was
trying to convince my husband that we used to cry out "Elmer" at every
Firefall. It was so good to find other people who remember doing the
same thing. I still don't really know why we did this, except that
people had been doing it for years and years before us. Thanks again for
the web site.
Sep 7, 2008
I first posted to this wonderful firefall site back
in December of 1999. I had forgotten all about it until today. Contact
me if you'd like to see the firefall get started again. --
Scotts Valley, CA
Aug 6, 2008
I remember seeing the Fire Falls when I was 9 yrs
old, this must have been the summer of '58, camping in a tent cabin by
the river with my folks. Thank you for putting up this site, as I can
now link to it for friends to actually see it. What a thrill it was to
click on this link and see it again with the eyes of a 9 yr old.
Linda D. Hinshaw-Kramm nee
Sunol, CA (formerly of
I was blessed with seeing the Firefall several times
when I was 3-7 years old. (DOB 1959). Lived in Merced and had Arkie/Okie
family all over the valley. We went to camp and fish in Yosemite and
Sequoia Natl Parks. Also did a bike marathon in Yosemite 73. Brought my
wife to Yosemite in 88, and we left, too commercialized. We made our new
camping spot Herring Creek Reservoir, above Strawberry. All primitive,
good fishing / hunting, no tourists. Just fellow outdoors people who
appreciate being with the same. Visit it, and leave the radios at home.
Qualls, Savannah, GA
July 28, 2008
As another kind of fire burns close to Yosemite this
week, I look back fondly to the two summers we camped in the meadow in
the late 50's and early 60's. What a beautiful place. The firefall was
certainly one of the highlights of our visits that we eagerly awaited
each evening and like Diane, I too remember the nighly calling for Elmer
(does this still happen?) Great memories!
I am now 66 and grew up in Mariposa and saw the
Firefall several times. My mom helped push the burning bark over the
edge of Glacier Point sometime in the 30's when working in the park.
I always consider the reasoning of removing this
tradition because it wasn't a natural event, but man made. I wonder how
the Ahwahnee Hotel can survive this thinking, or the lodge, the cables
to the top of Half Dome, or the roads, and for that matter, those who
wear the patches on their sholders.
July 28, 2008
I am now 56 years old. We went to Yosemite almost
every year since I was a few years old. The firefall remains this day
one of the most beautiful and vivid memories of my life. My father,
mother,sister and I watched it for many years. We watched it from the
top of Glacier as they pushed it off, from the meadow where you saw the
full display, to Camp Curry where you heard "Let the fire fall".....A
marvelous display that my heart aches for. Back then you also went to
the open dump sites at sunset to watch dozens of bears forage for food.
Probably not a good thing for them, but where else in the continental
United States would you see that many bears in one place?
July 26, 2008
My first of over 25 visits to Yosemite was as an 11
year old in 1967. We stayed in what was at the time called Campground 9.
Today it is called Lower Pines. I was there three days ago sitting in
the very same amphitheater in Lower Pines with my 14 year old son, where
we watched the nightly display. The trees are taller and the view today
would be slightly obscured, but I explained to my son what I witnessed
each night for the week of my first stay. Never at the time could I have
imagined how fortunate I was to be among the last summer visitors to
witness the magic of the Fire Falls. The Fire Falls were the icing on
the cake of an already amazingly beautiful and enchanting spot on this
little Earth. And somehow seemed to punctuate the experience. I have
been to Yosemite many times in my life.(at least 25) With many different
groups of people. But never did I feel the absence of an experience that
was so important to me as a young man, as what I felt wishing that my
son could experience the same wonderment that was instilled in me as I
watched the fire fall. In these days of high speed internet, Facebook,
Video games and the other distractions of our modern sophisticated
society. Why is there no longer room for the little things that that
left us with the innocence of memories such as this. I understand the
reported reasons for discontinuing the nightly display. But through the
years I have told to many, of what they will never witness. I have been
many places in my life, seen many things. But the Fire Falls and the
calls up and down the mountain to let the fire fall, still give me
powerful memories of a time when it was OK just be a kid. My son has
been to Yosemite three times now. But at 14 years of age this will I
hope, be the first trip of impact. And I know that seeing such a thing
would indelibly imprint the experience of the park in him, as it did
myself and millions of others. Lets bring the experience back. Bring
back the awe, and let the fire fall.
July 12, 2008
In reading the posts the tears started to stream. My
first visit was 1950 @ 18 months and every summer til I was 18 was spent
there in Camp 7. I first thought of Elmer this evening while hearing
children's voices stream accross the meadow behind our house in Lake
Tahoe and all my Yosemite memories ran into one another. My Mom, Dad and
Brother still alive and young and healthy. But, the memory of all is the
Fire Fall as the wonderment of a small child and the curfew as a
rebelious teenager...rarely made it back in time...the fun on Stoneman's
Bridge was too much to leave. Thank you for this site and the stirring
of memories...firefall, Camp Curry, a line from a tree that carried my
Dad across the beach at Camp 7 into the icy Merced (all the other's
doing it were teenagers...go Dad) and the nick name of Queenie that I
still have from calling my Dad to pull my inflatable raft up to the
island along the Merced so I could float down to the bridge between
housecamping (Camp 13) and Camp 7.
South Lake Tahoe, California
June 28, 2008
Fond memories! I was six years old, when I first
witnessed Yosemite's, Fire Fall.
Now, I am fifty two. Wish my son and my
grandhildren, could today,experience this spectacular event!
When I think of Yosemite, I first remember "Fire
Fall". Then it is the smell of the giant sequoia trees, or who remembers
the sequoia tree that you could drive your car through?
Awe, this was a more innocent time, that will never
Like Looney Tune Cartoon's, Captain Kangaroo,
Engineer Bill, Sheriff John, Ms. Rosemary, on Romper Room, The Erector
Set, Lincoln Logs, Cap rifle guns, Mr. Machine, Tiny Tears Doll! Ugh, I
am totally dating myself!
These memory's will forever be fondly enshrined, in
I recall the ballad we sang as employees:
"In the Big Yosemite Mountains
There's a land so
fair and bright.
Where the trails are never dusty
sprinkle them every day.
Where you can hike fourty miles or
Your nose don't burn, nor your feet get sore in the Big Yosemite
Ah, great memories. My wife and I met there in 1950.
May 26, 2008
Yosemite has been part of my life since I was a
young child and have fantastic memories of the Firefall, even though I
was 13 when it ended. It was a great way to end the evening and spend
quality time with the family. I worked up in Yosemite for a few years
beginning in 1974 and would love to share the firefall with my family
now. Unfortunately, children today miss alot of the true adventures we
were able to experience as they are limited with all the restrictions.
Sure wish it could be reinstated.
Donna McNamee Nelson
San Jose, California
May 22, 2008
Like so many of you I, too, grew up spending my
summers in Yosemite... the 50's 60's... to this day I can think of no
place I'd rather spend time.
There is a part of me that understands why they
decided to stop the Firefall. And yet...
Not all things 'manmade' are an evil. There is the
"Birth of Venus" by Boticelli. There is the 9th Symphony by Beethoven.
There is the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and Mt Rushmore in the USA...
The Firefall was, at it's essence, a masterpiece of
'art'. Reason the Firefall away with logic and environmental concerns...
to some extent I will agree... but that does not negate the fact that
one of the most glorious works of art ever created was destroyed.
May 12, 2008
Tonight I witnessed and photographed a firefall of a
different sort; On the north rim of the valley, just west of North Dome
and very near the Royal Arches Cascade, a forest fire provided an
impromtu firefall for the first time in 40 years.
I saw the firefalls when I was a little girl, and it
was a memory of that slow cascade of sparks falling down the face of
Glacier Point that prompted me to return to California from Rhode Island
to work in Yosemite National Park.
You can see my images from this evening's spectacle
May 8, 2008
It was August 1967 and two things I remember
well...the Hippies in the park and what I thought was a bunch of men
running down the mountain really fast holding torches! I was 9 years old
and was witness to one of the last firefalls seasons ever.
Camp Curry, the warm nights in Yosemite, the
firefall, the Hippies, 1967...awesome times.
Fast forward to 2008. Just got back from a beautiful
weekend in the park. 25 miles of hiking. Sad thing is the number of
500's you see nowadays. Those are the ones that never venture 500 feet
from the car. Some elderly and others one can understand why they do not
get out and explore...but others...well, I guess there are no electrical
outlets on top of Nevada Falls.
If you were one of the lucky ones to "watch the men
run down the mountain", that's cool. If not, then enjoy this website
that was created to teach us what it was like and to learn some history.
And encourage 500's to take those steps out to
nature and explore, learn and enjoy.
Huntington Beach, California
May 5, 2008
I was at Yosemite to see the last Firefalls Exhibit
in 1967. It was spectacular - to say the least!
Canyon Country, California
Apr 24, 2008
Yes it was the SILENCE throughout the valley that
one came away AWESTRUCK I was fortunate to have been able to witness it
It was an UNWRITTEN LAW that everything stopped...at
9pm.Lights dimmed...people were "shhh-ed" if speaking out loud Cars
stopped and headlights turned off
The guy down below at Camp Curry would yell up first
through his mega phone: HELL....OOO..... GLACIER--RR POINT
A muffled return from up above: HELL....OOO CAMP
Down below: LET THE FIRRRE FALL
Then everyone down below strains to hear the classic
muffled return call:
THE FIRE IS---SSS FALL----ING
And this can be heard all across the valley floor
3,000 above from Glaicer Point... And for the next 5 to 7 minutes all of
us down below, heads are posed UP....
The first push of ambers begins to cascade off the
edge...while bits of sparks fly up to the night sky...a steady stream of
red fire sparkles flows down the granite wall... for the next 5 to 7
Each night the spectacle was JUDGED
Oh too bad it was so windy...pushing the fire to
fall side ways...or this guy was PERFECT compared to last night: Must
have been the guys first time or something ...
But I NEVER saw a Firefall I didn't like
To live to see this SPECTACLE return would be a
grand finale to all my dreams comes true on this earth
Back in '69 they did not have the shuttle service
they have in place today The shuttle has elimated the traffic
conjestion...So what's the problem?
Hippies are gone or "WE" are all grown up now....I
BRING BACK THE FIREFALL
I would love to see my grandchildren and
grandchildren again say:
OH WOW...AWWWW..OHHHHH...THANKS GAM FOR BRINGING US
TO YOSEMITE TO SEE THIS
Glen Ellen, California
Apr 15, 2008
I was raised in Hanford, CA. and I remember evry
year from the age of 5, the week after school was out me, my Mom and
middle sister and her 5 kids all heading up to Yosemite, in a big
station wagon and a trailer with all out camping equipment, every summer
until I was 16. We camped for 2 weeks at a time. We would hike up the
road to where the fire fall was done, me being so scared of heights, I
was not happy when Mom wanted a picture of me by the edge, which I still
have some of those photos I remember the firefalls, and yelling Elmer,
Elmer. Not sure. We were told a young boy named Elmer had gotten lost in
the park many years earlier, and that was how they were trying to locate
him, but never did find him. But as I have read no mention of that
story, that we were told as children. I also remember the sing alongs
with the bouncing ball, and a story that the oldest living Indian women
was found living in a cave in the park ( true or not ? ) It still is all
very fresh in my mind.I loved always going there. I have so many
wonderful memories. We took our sons there when they were quite young,
but the weather did not cooperate with us. I have told my husband the
one place that I want to go back to, before I die is Yosemite. I am 62
now, I hope we can get out there before my time comes. But was told that
you have to make reservations years in advance, and not sure you can
even camp there anymore in a RV. I was told only at the resorts. And it
takes hours to get into the park because of all the trafic. That really
saddens me to hear that, everyone should have the opertunity to see this
beautiful park , but so many people are destructive. I cherish my times
there. Thank You for telling us this story.
Fortunata Diana Buntrock (maiden
When I was a young boy, we lived in San Jose --
about 4 hours away by car -- and visited Yosemite several times.
Although I was a small boy of only 8 or 10 years of
age when I first witnessed the Firefalls, I still to this day (some 40+
years later) vividly recall the spectacular sight of the Firefalls. I
can still see, in my mind's eye, the glowing red, orange, and yellow
embers as they spilled over the top of the cliff and flowed so elegantly
to the bottom of the mountain.
Each time I think of it, I am held as breathless as
the first. The Firefalls are one of my most cherished memories of the
awesome granduer that is Yosemite. My only regret is that I could not
share that magnificent sight with my daughter when she was young.
Mar 31, 2008
My father, Janvier Lee, helped build and worked at
the Oakland Recreation Camp approximately 65 miles above Yosemite before
he enlisted in the Army during WWII. When he returned home, married and
had two daughters. Due to his fond memories of the Recreation Camp he
used to bring us to camp each year for my first 16 years. As a treat we
would all pack into his car and drive the windy, narrow roads to Camp
Curry and watch the Fire Falls. I was fortunate enough to be in the
crowd when the last fires were lit.
Our family moved from New York City to southern
California in 1956 and every year until my father died in 1963, we
camped in Yosemite. How I fondly remember the firefall every night we
camped in Camp Curry! What a fabulous experience it was! All the oohs
and aahs from the crowd down in the meadow. It is true, I still get all
tingly and misty eyed when I remember it.
And I had the honor of working at the Ahwahnee Hotel
from 1989 to 1992. I really mean "the honor" because I felt that I was
working in Paradise. It was a special time for me and I will never
My parents would bring my Brother, Sister and Myself
to the valley every other weekend and I remember like it was yesterday
hearing the faint voice yell out "Hello Camp Curry then reply Hello
Glacier point are you ready yes were ready then let the fire fall". I
was 11 years old and for days we would talk about how beautiful it was
and could not wait for our next trip. My parents have passed, but I know
they would agree the fire falls were one of our familys finest
Feb 15, 2008
The firefall brings back many great memories of
Yosemite. In the fifties as a young lad with my brother and Mom and Dad
we would spend many summers in the park camping and going on hikes
during the day and then at night watching the program at Camp Curry
eagerly anticipating the firefall. It was a most beautiful rememberance
and one which an old lad in my soon to be 60's will always remember. The
call from up above was like hearing a call from heaven and then once the
fire came over Glacier Point you could hear a pin drop, it was awe
Trabuco Canyon, California
Feb 5, 2008
Hi, My neighbor, Bob Smith, worked for a few years
at Yosemite assembling, and then pushing, the firefall off at Glacier
Point. I am hosting a surprise 70th birthday party for him this weekend
and will include the Firefall poem and photos so he can share his
memories at the party. Bob doesn't have a computer, so at a later date I
will have him write his memories and I will type them into this
I myself first learned of the Firefall in July 1999
through the stories of the sweet Joie Ruth Armstrong, the young
naturalist whose life was taken days later. We were one of the last
families to attend her nature tour at Yosemite/Curry. I will never
forget her animation as she bellowed the words "Let the Fire fall!" in
her re-enactment of the Glacier Point/Curry Village spectacle for my
children. May she too never be forgotten.
How ironic that I found this site TODAY, the 40th
anniversary of the last Firefall!!
Jan 25, 2008
I recall seeing these fire-falls (also the ones near
Carlsbad Caverns, NM & Needles, CA) when I was a kid, around the
late 1960's &/or early 1970's. I also recall seeing the creeping
rocks and I'm pretty sure another fire-fall that was, from what I
recall, created by chemical reactions from the different properties of
rocks (such as in flint and steel.) This one was, I believe, near
Needles, near the Amboy crater from what I recall. I've seen pictures of
these fire-falls, and I don't recall the others (The chemical falls)
being as spectacular visually, but impressive as heck, and I recall that
a ranger was not pushing off embers, but rocks from above, which reacted
with those on the bumpy cliff on the way down, and they'd spark and
light up as they fell.
I'd love to see these again and take my kids and
grand kids there, the salt flats (And the HUGE natural arches in the
valley there), and Yosemite as well!
Sounds like we need to plan a trip!
I was talking to a friend about these places, as
well as places we'd been in Arizona, such as Carlsbad Caverns (and the
bat flight, which to me was just as impressive! I hope that's still
I also have been the the Poppy Refuge area near
Palmdale/Lancaster, which is also beautiful! One of the car clubs I
belong to tries to make a run out there every year, but it seems like we
never spend as much time there as I would like!
I also went with a biology class with black lights
to see scorpians and such when I was in junior college.
It would be awesome to add more photos of these
places online for those who don't live close enough to get there!
I'm NOT a desert person normally, but these places
& events are a definite exceptions!
Seems time to plan a road trip!!! :)
Jan 20, 2008
In 1938 my family moved from Oklahoma to Yosemite,
where jobs awaited my parents. I was 14. An entertainer at the Camp
Curry whom I remember was West Virginia Slim and his group. The
magnificent firefall was accompanied by a beautiful melody which I
learned later was that of a Russian folk song, "Stenka Razin." The
firefall and the music made a wonderful, unforgettable combination.
Jamestown, New Mexico
Jan 19, 2008
For years on summer evenings
rangers at Glacier
Point would burn
red fir bark into embers, shovel them
over a 3000
foot brink --
a golden ribbon,
sparks like wild birds flying
coins from coffers of a molten God.
Twilight framed the
All day we had climbed the Mist Trail.
stone steps, moist wildflowers,
Vernal and Nevada falls arcing
spray blown like white manes
Back at our camp,
relaxed after barbecued
baked potatoes, roasted corn, coffee,
we would gaze high
above sugar pines
to Glacier Point, hundreds of campers
expectation, then our communal "Oh!" as the spectacle began.
night we Valley campers,
gaze toward that granite wall scarred
black over the years....
Though molten embers no longer are
over the brink
we still see
Claire J. Baker
Claire J. Baker
Jan 16, 2008
I still remember the Firefall. I remember the song,
"The fire falls over Glacier Point, Glacier Point. The fire falls over
Glacier Point, Glacier Point." there may have been more but that I don't
remember. I can still see the fire cascading down the mountain and feel
the awe I felt at seeing it. I remember my whole family camping at
Yosemite. Mom, Dad and 5 kids. Sometimes with my Grandmother, a pregnant
long-haired Dachshund named Goldilocks or my older brother's friends.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Jan 11, 2008
You have a great site put together here! The 40th
anniversary is coming up... I wonder if we could get them the park folks
to do a special occasion fire fall?!
I have been sharing your site with many folks who
look at my photograph and think that is the original Fire falls!! I keep
hearing everyones stories about how they saw this and how wonderful it
was. Then they ask how I took a picture since I was born about the time
that they stopped!!!! My picture here is what I call Natures' Firefall
which is actually Horsetail Falls off El Capitan.
"Natures' Firefall" is a rare occurrence that
happens for a possible two weeks in late February at sunset when the sun
is at the right angle and if there is water flowing on Horsetail Falls.
I tried for 2 nights without any luck to get the perfect picture! Almost
as beautiful but I would sure like to see the 'man-made one!
Thanks for your great contributions with your site
and keep up the great work and stories! John
Wow, what a wonderful site!! I just searched for the
Firefall, to show someone who never heard of it, and this site came up.
Honestly can't add anything not already said, but we
did have one tradition for our many Yosemite trips......donating one
flip-flop to the great indian God "Merced".
Ok....ok....here's one....does anyone remember
riding the Yosemite bus from the town of Merced, to the park, and
hearing the bus scrape the side of the rock wall when another big
vehicle came the other way?????
Then:Felton, CA Now: Las Vegas, NV
Dec 18, 2007
I have seen "The Caine Mutiny" several times but
today, 11 Nov, 07, was the first time I had seen the waterfall fire
segment of the film. I was compelled to search the internet for a
reference to this breathtaking site. I found this site and just wanted
to thank you for the history provided and the documentation of this...
especially since it is now a part of the history of Yosemite.
Dear Ms. Estes, I am writing a novel that involves
my memories of the firefall, and I would love to be able to use Ms.
Highsmith's poem, "Firefall" in it, as it is so beautiful. May I have
your permission? I would definitely include your mother's name. Thank
you so much.
Nov 11, 2007
I am 60 years old this past October. I was born in
Alabama and when I was 4 months old my parents moved to California. We
lived in the Fresno area for the first five years of my life and my two
sisters were born there. Every summer we went to Yosemite and camped out
for two weeks living in a canvas wall tent. I distinctly remember the
fire fall at night. For a little kid it was an awesome sight. After five
years we moved back to Tennessee. My mother missed the green hills and
mountains of Tennessee. She used to get depressed whenever we had to
break camp and go home to the flat, brown valley around Fresno. She
would have lived in that tent in Yosemite year round if she could. I
haven't been back in 55 years but intend on going back soon. I'm sorry
they quit doing the fire fall. I would love to see it again.
Nov 3, 2007
The fire atop the granite cliff
Silence in the valley.
From peak to peak
A voice is
Calling, like a watchman in the night,
"Let the fire
And from the heights of Glacier Point
The words, "All-l
Float down like mists along the shore.
Then pours over
A noiseless cataract
Of golden points of
Long and bright
Until it sinks
Upon the ash-cold stones below.
My mother, now age 90, wrote a poem in 1937 after
camping in the Yosemite Valley with her grandfather/artist, John A.
Brandon of Sacramento, CA. She remembers the Firefalls vividly and I
hope to print your website for her and order some of the famous photos
of the event as a Christmas gift. It would thrill her to see her poem on
I will send it immediately after this. Its title is
Winifred Brandon Highsmith
Oct 15, 2007
My brother James Phillips and I are related to James
McCauley who started the Firefalls. I first saw it in 1942. It was such
a pleasure for our children to see the Firefalls before it was
discontinued. It was such a beautiful event and our children will always
remember it. My brother is doing the program for the Southern Tuolumne
Historical Society this month on the Firefalls. We are also related to
Dan & Donna Carlon who owned Carl Inn resort which operated from
1916 to 1940 In Yosemite National Park off Highway 120.
Jacqujrline Phillips Root
Fair Oaks, California
Oct 4, 2007
First I wish to thank you for posting this site and
all of the wonderful nostalgia invoking information. My first trip to
Yosemite was 1963, I was 11. Witnessing the firefall was exciting,
hooked me on the Valley! My first visit, we stayed at the Ahwanee, it
was an awesome man made creation, but nothing near the artistic display
of God's hand in carving out the Park itself. So wonderful, I returned,
and returned... Miss the firefall...Gosh what a great place. Sorry Walt
Disney...my family and I will take Yosemite any day :)
Los Angeles, California
Oct 4, 2007
We moved to Yosemite Valley in 1946. My father
worked for the Yosemite Park & Curry Company, Transportation
Department (Bob Lamkin) and my mother (Edie Lamkin) taught the first,
second & third grades. We lived in Curry Company Housing across the
meadow from the Ahwahnee hotel in an area called "cry baby row". The
view of the Firefall from our front yard was perfect and we never missed
the evening event. The entire neighborhood turned out and we ran and
played and when it was over we all yelled "Elmer".
In 1955 I returned as a College student on summer
vacation and worked in the Camp Curry Standard Station. Of course
nothing had changed, when the Fire fell we stoped pumping gas, changing
sparkplugs or fixing a flat tire and watched the Firefall, then yelled
Elmer and then listened to the dance hall band play Cherry Pink and
Apple Blossom White. In 1992 I attended a Yosemite Grammar School
Reunion and every conversation included the Firefall and how lucky we
were to have lived in the Valley as young people.
Sep 24, 2007
I was born in Yosemite at Lewis Memorial Hospital in
1948. My dad, Don Christensen was part of the firefall preparation. He
was often the man in Camp Curry who yelled up to Glacier Point, "Hello
Glacier Point"..... "Let the Fire Fall." He had a wonderful singing
voice and would sing "The Indian Love Call" for everyone in Curry
village. I was pretty little, but I'll never forget that magic.
Jane Ann Ross
Sep 18, 2007
A firefall confession.
As 17 year resident of
Yosemite. A graduate of Yosemite grammar school.
One day in 1956, Larry Morgenson (older brother of
Randy, of the book "Tha Last Season" -- Amazon) Richie Ouimet, and I
missed the High School Bus to Mariposa. It was May 9th, my sister's
birthday Jane Ann (born in Yosemite). Searching for adventure, the three
guys Larry, Richie and I, hiked the Ledge Trail, 1 mile straight up to
Glacier Point. At the top, we lit a fire -- the prepared dome of bark
readied for the evening "Fire Fall". Let it burn for a while! Then at
4:30 pm.......We shoved it off!!!
Scurried down the 4-mile trail to Bridlevail falls
parking lot and caught a ride home, never getting caught by Tommy Tucker
and the chasing Rangers!!!
Sep 12, 2007
I only saw the fire-fall once when I was a small
child, maybe 6 or 7 yrs old. Although it left a tremendous impact on my
memory, I can't really add much to what others have said on this site.
The photo is not as spectacular as the actual falls, photos seldom are.
I can't imagine how you could capture the essence of the bright fire
falling through the dark night on film. Just as photos of fireworks
displays are never as good as the real thing. I guess we have to do with
what the photographer could accomplish.
As for the firefalls, being there and feeling it,
along with seeing and being a part of a group of family and friends,
with everyone totally breathless cannot be caught by any photographer.
When silence is so total that nothing moves, except the silent falling
embers, throughout the entire valley. No person, nor any animal dare
move to break the silence that accompanied the firefall. I guess all
that makes it even more spellbinding. Of course, don't forget that this
happened around 50 years ago so we have to figure in the awe of a child
and the capacity of his brain to remember things as greater than they
North Fork, California
Sep 8, 2007
I saw the Firefall in 1950. Being interested in the
film classics, I have always wondered if there was any connection
between the Firefall and the film Rose Marie, in which "Indian Love
Call" is the theme song.
Sep 8, 2007
Like many Yosemite became a much looked forward to
summer vacation location. Many wonderful memories were obtained there;
camping, splashing around in the shallows of Merced River with my two
sisters, learning how to respect nature from Dad. And the grand finale
of each one or two week's trip, was the firefall. We usually ate dinner
somewhere in Curry Village, but one of the last times we were in
Yosemite and saw the firefall, we packed a picnic supper. When the time
came, right before the shout to let the firefall, a young woman soloist
began singing "The Indian Love Call" She was answered by a gentleman
singer, some distance from her, which made it sound like he was on the
mountain where the firefall would take place. At the close of her song,
the yell to let the fire fall was heard, within seconds I got goosebumps
all over my arm from the thrill of it. My mom thinking I was chilling
made me put my sweater on! She had no idea how deeply that totally
beautiful "romantic" memory was etched in my mind. Nor could I explain
why I had tears in my eyes, to her. Sometimes you just can't explain
feelings of that depth to anyone.
Simi Valley, California
Aug 26, 2007
Like many of the visitors to this site, I traveled
with my family to Yosemite many times in the 1950's and 60's. Sometimes,
we took a small camping trailer; other times we stayed in the tent
cabins along the river, the circa 1930's versions. Later they replaced
these with those cement block abominations but we never stayed in those.
Our first trip was around 1954 (when I was 4 years old), and we towed a
tear-drop trailer into the park with our 1940 Ford. I still have that
car, and after driving it myself over the years, I don't know how it was
able to hack the roads into the valley pulling that trailer but it did.
Since the tent cabins (nor the trailers in those
days) had refrigerators, we used to tie our package of bacon onto a
string and keep it in the cool Merced River. I don't recall ever eating
in the cafeteria; my mother always cooked and in the tent cabins, it was
over a wood stove. For fuel, we hiked up to the Curry Company store and
bought bundles of firewood.
The Fire Falls are well remembered. Actually, what I
remember most is looking over the Fire Fall pit at the top of Glacier
Point during the day. At that time, there were just two rusty gates near
the cliff that were pushed open in the evening, and a long-handled and
fire-warped tool for pushing the hot coals on over. The lawyers and
safety overlords would have fits over the general "lack of control" over
the site and the knackered, rusty gates.
It has been over 20 years since I moved from my
original home of Long Beach, Calif. to my present one in western
Washington state. When I was a child, after living in the city, Yosemite
seemed so lush and green. Now, when I fly over on my way to a visit in
southern California, sometimes the plane flies right over Yosemite
Valley. After looking at Washington forests for 20 years, the Sierra
Nevadas look kind of brown in comparison.
Still, for me my visits to Yosemite were a magic
time. I know it's all different now and cannot be replicated.
I remember going to Yosemite in the early 60's with
my parents for a week. Outside of the breathtaking natural beauty, the
firefall was seared into my mind - what a site to remember. In hindsite
I have to wonder what the logic was if any. "Let's push burning coals
off the edge for a colossal effect in the midst of all this natural
beauty!" Today with nature on the run, it makes no sense, but at the
same time I'm glad to say that I had taken in the event.
I remember a dialog between Camp Curry and the
Ranger at the top of the point. It is my recollection that the Ranger at
the top of Glacier Point would call to Camp Curry - "Hello Camp Curry"
and that a Ranger at Camp Curry would yell back in response " Let the
fire fallllll!" If anyone remembers this in the same let me know.
Aug 16, 2007
I was surfing Yosemite, (my growing up summer
playground), and found the firefall site!!! My parents were both
teachers and we had the whole summer to camp!
The valley was my favorite spot! Swimming at the
base of Yosemite Falls, jumping off the bridge into the Merced River,
rock climbing with my family. The highlight for this nine year old was
always dinner at the cafeteria, the ranger talk or slideshow and last
but BEST of all The FIREFALL. All grown I'm amazed that I can still hear
the call in my memory "Let the Firefallllllll"! I tried to carry on the
traditions of the valley with my kids, but to much disappointment. Do
not cross paths, stay behind fences, no hiking pass this point,
frustrating but understandable. I've come to realize that I was very
lucky to have such experiences in the valley and cherish every memory,
ESPECIALLY the Firefall!! Tori
Aug 14, 2007
I was one of the lucky people that got to see the
Firefalls. It is so hard to describe the beauty of it. I will never
forget it. But I am one of those people who are looking for a photo of
it. Is there any way to still buy a photo like the photo in the opening
page? Please if anyone can help me in my search, you can e-mail me @
Aug 12, 2007
I was researching on the net for a ficticious novel
I am writing and ran across this website re the Yosemite Firefall. My
father worked for the Curry Company from the early 30's to 1958. I
worked during the summers at the Camp Curry Post Office and lived at the
Terrace during the 40's. Back then...after eating in the cafeteria and
watching the entertainment and then the spectacular FIREFALL and going
to the dance afterward every evening.....your postings brought back so
many wonderful memories and we saw some familiar names....(by now)
mostly of the children of the people we knew! I printed out all 91 pages
and we have been reading them and remembering those wonderful days of
the Firefall ,etc.
I married Art Freeman (whose family lived
permanently in the Park at the government housing development) in 1948
at the Yosemite Chapel by Reverend Alfred Glass....reception at the
Ahwahnee Hotel! My novel will entail some of Yosemite and there are some
things I'd like to know. One, who was the band leader whose theme song
was "Concerto in A minor by Grieg"?...I can hear it now in my memories
after the Firefall...the dance began soon after and one could hear that
theme flow through the trees and the sharp cool air of the evening.
If any of you out there have any little tidbits
about Yosemite back then, please email me at
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!
Madeline (Holmgren) Freeman
Villa Rica, Georgia
Aug 8, 2007
I posted earlier on this and have since talked to my
father who is 94 years young and he recalled that there was no radio
communication like today they only responded by hollaring. It was so
amazing that they could hear from such a high peak and the sound would
vibrate against the cliffs. FIIIREFAAAAAAL. We just went up for the day
and the meadows were getting trampled by all of the spectators. I wonder
how that compares to today. Peggy
Aug 3, 2007
I can still remember when my father took us to
Yosemite and I heard the firefall call bouncing off the cliffs. It
sounded like ffffiiiiirrrreffffaaaallll.............then slowly the
embers fell in a long ribbon.
I am wondering exactly which peak they did it on.
[Editor] Hi Peggy. The peak was Glacier Point.
Aug 3, 2007
From 1950's an 60's my family would camp for 2 weeks
in camp curry. My favorite thoughts of Yosemite was the firefalls, I
just loved and miss dearly. JoAnna King
Aug 1, 2007
During the 1950's Yosemite was a regular summer
desination for my extended family which lived in the Los Angeles area.
Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents from both sides of the family
would join my father, mother, sister, and me (total of about 17 or 18
people) in a caravan of a half dozen cars which were packed with camping
equipment. Back then there was little trouble finding adjacent camping
spots on the valley floor for all of us. We'd take care to time our
drive and arrival to allow for more than enough time to set up camp,
have dinner, and see the evening's performance of the firefall.
As it became dark we'd arm ourselves with
flashlights and make our way either to Camp Curry or a meadow with a
good view. The Camp Curry option was done at least once each season to
listen to the call to Elmer. The crowd gathered at Curry would be
buzzing with expectation before the call was made, and quickly quiet
itself when asked to do so. Raising a huge megaphone to his lips (I
recently talked to an individual who took on this role as part of his
summer job) the Camp Curry caller would shout, "Hello Elmer" at the
appointed time. We and it seemed the entire valley would stand in
silence straining to hear a reply from above. Very faintly we could hear
"Hello Camp Curry" from Elmer which prompted the reply of "Let the fire
After a moment the first glow of the firefall would
be visible at the rim of the canyon, during which a collective "Here it
comes" could be heard from those standing around us. The ensuing action
always seemed too brief but was a wonder that remains to this day a
vivid memory. We would stand to the very last ember before turning to
return to camp. Comparisons of past firefalls were always a topic of
conversation on the way back with comments like "That was a good one" or
"Shorter than usual" or "Better than last year" being common. On the way
back from Curry or the meadows we were always among other campers and
their families who together lit the way with their flashlights and
helped each other find the trail.
We'd also make the trip to Glacier Point to watch
the firefall pushed over the edge. We'd get back late, but always felt
that the drive was worth it. I have photos of the firefall that were
taken by my dad both from the valley floor and up at Glacier Point. One
I particularly like is of my grandfather (mom's dad) standing next to
the burning pile on the point at twilight. I also have a few souveniers
from then including a Firefall drinking glass and serving tray.
The Firefall made every night at Yosemite special no
matter where you viewed it from. I can remember when the decision was
made to stop the firefall, thought the decision ridiculous, and was
saddened at its passing. Those who never saw it have no idea what they
Lake Oswego, Oregon
July 31, 2007
Starting in the early 1950's our family (mom, dad, 5
kids and grandma and the dog) would spend Easter week camping at
Yosemite. The fire falls was a nightly, spectacular event that we all
looked forward to. I remember one year while I was quite small, I had
gone to the bathroom after dinner. Coming out I got turned around and
couldn't find my way back to the campsite. After roaming around on the
campsite road which seemed like forever, someone asked me if I were
lost, and walked with me until we found our camp. I was back with family
just as the fire falls came down. Joan
La Canada Flintridge,
July 25, 2007
Here is the true story of Elmer.
My maternal grandfather, Elmer Benjamin Clarence
Johnson, born in 1898, lived in Turlock, California and married my
grandmother, Julia Olive Jerner, sometime before 1920. Elmer and Julia
were were both born to Swedish immigrant families, Julia's more
conversative than Elmer's.
Elmer and Julia had four daughters, and never seemed
to have much money, but loved to camp, and with as many relatives as
they could gather would camp in the Summer at Pinecrest, in Yosemite, at
Tahoe, Kings Canyon, on the beach in Monterey, wherever it was cheap and
there was lots of room for the clan.
Well, Elmer liked to smoke, and liked an occasional
cigarette in the early evening. But Julia was sure that smoking was a
sure pathway to eternity in Hell. When camping, Elmer had a tendency to
wander off around dinner time for a smoke. Julia, of course, would have
none of this.
So each evening (we're talking about the 1920s and
'30s) Julia would head out of camp, yelling for Elmer. My aunts and
uncles (including my great grandfather, Carl Alfred Jerner, who died
while fishing the banks of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus) would join
her, and in the years to come, my mother and her sisters would all join
in, all yelling for Elmer. I was born in the 1950s, and my camping
memories still ring with the yells for Elmer - Pinecrest, Tahoe,
Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Capitola wherever we camped.
Elmer died in 1962 in the V.A. Hospital in Oakland,
but his spirit lives on throughout the West as thousands still call his
name in the early evening. So does the spirit of Julia Johnson,
following the smell of cigarette smoke, going to find Elmer, bring him
back, and save him from eternal damnation.
My 11 year old daughter calls for him still from the
deck of our Sierra cabin. Doug
July 21, 2007
Thankfully I have the "Fire Falls" as a memory. I
was born in 1950 and we lived in Madera, CA. We went to Yosemite every
summer at least once. Both my sister and I were very young in the 50's,
so mom and dad would come into the tent and wake us up for the
excitement of watching the "Fire Fall". We would wake up and watch the
beautiful show and we heard the mystical sound of that mystery person
yelling Fire Falling. It seemed very surreal. That memory and sound is
very vivid for me, along with the brown bears and the rock bridge with
the arched undereaves. I am very sorry that it was ended in the 60's, as
so many are missing out. It was very special.
Thank you for allowing me to write this memoir.
League City, Texas
July 20, 2007
I just happened to be watching California's Gold on
PBS this evening and the subject of the show was the Yosemite Firefall.
It brought back great memories from my childhood of my Firefall viewing
back in 1960. Our family went to Badger Pass to ski for a week in the
winter, and we stayed in the Yosemite Valley. Every evening, we would
watch the Firefalls, thrilled by the spectacle. Only later did I realize
that the head of the Ski School, Nick Fiore, was the one who prepared
and executed the spectacular event! I would highly recommend that
everyone who has enjoyed the Fire Falls view the show California's Gold-
"Yosemite Firefall", hosted by Huell Howser. Brian Boobar Fox
Citrus Heights, CA
July 19, 2007
To David Nahm's "Remember Elmer?" You bet! Seems to
me watching the Firefall and looking for Elmer went hand in hand back in
the 50s and 60s. I have a 1931 comic style map of Yosemite Valley, and I
swear theres a picture of Elmer being chased by his mother in old Camp
14! Evidently she didn't catch him as he was still "lost" during my last
visit. John Stoner
Viewing the firefall from the meadows was always a
great experience, but one night in particular stands out in 1949 when my
mom and I viewed the firefall from atop Mt Hoffmann above May Lake...a
distance of some nine airline miles or so. If I remembered correctly, it
was Ranger/Naturalist Carl Sharsmith who led our group from Tuolumne
Meadows to view the firefall from this unusual vantage point. John Stoner
In the summer of 1955, my girl friend, a harpist,
and I, a cellist, both at the ripe young age of 18, were employed for 6
weeks as "Valley Musicians", by the Yosemite Park and Curry Co. We lived
in tent-houses and for 6 evenings a week, played little concerts at
various Yosemite Park sites. Often, it was our responsibility to provide
a version of "Indian Love Call" as those glowing embers were pushed over
the cliff at Glacier Point.
On some those evenings we performed at Camp Curry,
which was located directly at the foot of Glacier Point. At the close of
the concerts, the audience was always asked to be silent, so that the
familiar call, "LET THE FIRE FALL!" could be heard by those tending the
embers, some 3000 feet above.
One unforgettable night, the job of "calling" fell
to a disgruntled employee who, it was said, had already been fired for
some reason, and so, with one final act of defiance, in a pronounced
southern drawl, he yelled, "LET THE FAAAR FALL, YOU-ALL!!"
My girlfriend, the harpist, later became my wife,
and after 50 years of a beautiful friendship, I lost her when she passed
away last year. I have some wonderful pictures of her playing her harp
in the magnificant Great Lounge of the Awanhee Hotel, and at other
Yosemite sites. Ken Pinckney
St Louis, MO
fragment written after death of my father:
August 28, 2005 Denise Calvetti Michaels
Like Half Dome, I can't
Dad died yesterday.
we run to the river
Yosemite--from the banks
July 6, 2007
When I was in third grade in the 1950's my parents
and I would go on regular trips to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park.
I will always remember the firefall...not only for its breath-taking
beauty, but for the music that accompanied it across the valley. The
Indian Love Call would be sung in a back-and-forth duet across the
valley as the firefall completed its short life down the cliff. I also
remembered that the Ahawahnee provided the coldest metal patio chairs.
We would come after the sun went down and the cold night replaced the
warmth of the afternoon. The metal chairs made a huge impression on my
bottom and legs. Only a child would remember this! victoria mcalister
I had never realised that the firefall even existed
until I saw the movie "the Caine Mutiny"..in it there is a scene where
Ens Keith and girlfriend are in the meadow when the call goes out "let
the fire fall" and then you see the firefall.. wonderfull!!! David J Berry
June 24, 2007
HELLO I JUST RECEIVED THIS SITE FROM A GIRL FRIEND OF MINE AFTER MY MOTHER HAS RECENTLY PASSED...
YES I DO REMEMBER "THE GREAT STORIES" THAT WERE TOLD TO ME FROM MY MOTHER...WHO WAS ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADIES
AT THE TIME WHO SANG "THE INDIAN LOVE CALL" FOR THE FIRE FALLS....WHAT STORIES SHE COULD TELL US ALL ABOUT THE MOUNTAINS,
AND GROWING UP WITH THE AMERICAN INDIANS, AND WORKING WITH ANSEL ADAMS, AND GROWING UP IN A FAMILY OF 12 (10 CHILDREN)
AND MOMMA AND HER DADDY IN A HOME MY GRAND FATHER "DOC" PHILLIPS BUILT FOR THEIR FAMILY.... I WOULD LOVE FOR ALL OF THE
STORIES TO CONTINUE THEY ARE WELL WORTH HEARING....THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR SITE WITH US. RHONDA GREGORY.
(DOTTIE PHILLIPS)("YARBROUGH"~GREGORY'S DAUGHTER)
June 1, 2007
It was just on a very minor cerebral ectopic blip that I decided to websearch the firefall.
My father was just a guy that came around a few times a year. He really wasn't interested in me or my next
oldest brother, but with my oldest brother and sister. I believe that we would have been left at home with
my alcoholic mother and uncle who were doing, albeit drunken and overly dramatic, the best that they could to
provide for us.
My father would come to visit us in his very old VW bug. When I bought a Karmann Ghia in that early 80's,
that VW interior smell sent me back to that time. I learned later that my father would give us Valium so
that we would sleep on the long drive up to Yosemite from Southern California. My oldest brother was the
only one who was left to stay awake to enjoy the bond that they, and only they shared.
I remembered Yosemite as a fun place to play and swim.
As to the subject at hand, I was just taken aback at this website and remember distinctly the holler "let the firefall!!!"
I remembered it with the resiliance of a 5 year old in a bad situation who is lucky enough to have a momentary
respite in something as simple as the firefall.
Thank you so much. I haven't thought of this in decades.
San Diego, California
May 29, 2007
In 1947, when I was four years old, our family took
a trip to Yosemite. Being the youngest, it was my
first trip there. In his diary, my father wrote of my
introduction to the firefall, as we watched from
Stoneman Meadow. "Her face upturned in the
moonlight was a study of astonished rapture and
incredulity", he wrote. "She turned to me and said,
'It looks just like blood.'"
The memory came back to me vividly as I read
this. My father captured my emotions perfectly. I
was astonished and enraptured by the beauty,
However, I had no reference point for it except it
seemed to me to look like blood flowing freely from
a wound--something I was indeed familiar with, as
I scraped my knees a lot when I was four.
A few nights later we drove to Glacier Point and
saw the firefall at its origin. All I remember is
seeing a mass of swirling hot flames and hearing
the call "All Right" loud beside us. Then the fire was
pushed over the cliff to fall below.
We returned to Yosemite many times, and
although I got over seeing the firefall as flowing
blood, and indeed forgot I ever did until I read my
father's account of it, I always loved the firefall's
awesome glowing beauty, and the whole ritual of
hearing the calls go back and forth faintly as the
men prepared to push the bonfire over the cliff at
May 25, 2007
I just had the great honor of taking my family to Yosemite for the first time.
My husband and three children; 6, 9, and 13 years old. I was pretty calm until we hit "The Tunnel" and I
became that little girl from long ago. I had already prepped my family about my own family tradition of rolling
down the windows and blaring the horn as we screamed "Elmer" going through the tunnel. When we came through the other
side and saw that spectacular view I was in tears. Tears of such great joy as I hadn't been to Yosemite in 10 years.
I was so happy to share it with my family. The memories of Elmer; Jumping off of Stoneman Bridge;
Swinging off of a tree into Mirror Lake; Spending an entire day with the Indian Women in the village making acorn meal,
acorn tortillas, and crushing manzanita berries; The Big Square Dance in the Village; and of course...The Infamous Fire Falls.
I am 43 and I recall the beautiful falls that we all anxiously awaited each night. Oh they were so beautiful!
I am very grateful to the photo posted here so that I could show it to my children. Ah, if only it could live on!!!
Fountain Valley, California
May 21, 2007
My father worked in Yosemite so we spent every summer living in the Park. The
Firefalls were our "family outing". Sitting on the car and waiting for the flames to
cascade down. It was our own fireworks show. I remember the day J.F. Kennedy came
to the Park and the Valley was crowded with people waiting to see the Falls and the
President. To me, the Falls were the bigger attraction. When the Falls were
discontinued it was like a member of the family was gone.
May 21, 2007
I saw the Fire fall when I was very young. I am 48 now. I don't remember the year or
even how old I was. I do remember standing amidst a group of people and my father
lifting me onto his shoulders so I could see. It was awesome. I also remember
walking back to our campsite and finding it flooded by the river and people
scrambling to dig dikes around their tents. I was high and dry on my father's
shoulders and had a dry bed in our camper but my 2 brothers, who were looking
forward to sleeping under the stars, were not happy. They forgave the river the next
day though when we hiked to one of the falls. Yosemite is a magical place.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
May 14, 2007
Although it will be 45 years this July, I remember very well seeing the Yosemite
Fire Fall in July of 1962, when my family was on a cross-country trip from
Connecticut to California and back. I was nine years old at the time. We were
visiting an aunt and uncle in Buena Park, a suburb of Los Angeles and we drove up to
Yosemite in a 3-car caravan to camp out in the park. I was in awe of the beauty of
the park, and thought that it was even better than Disneyland, which I had visited a
few days before the trip to Yosemite. My aunt and uncle had been frequent visitors
to Yosemite, so they told the story of the "fire fall" and my brothers and I were
very excited to see this natural phenomenon. I particularlly remember my aunt
telling about the man who shouts "Let the fire fall!" to get things started. Dusk
came and we gathered with other campers to watch, and sure enough, after "let the
fire fall" rang out in the piney valley, we saw the glowing red and orange cascade
of embers falling from the top of the cliff to the bottom. It was over rather
quickly, but it left an endelible image in my mind for my whole life. The other
thing I remember is that it got so COLD that night sleeping in a tent, and it was
the middle of July!!
May 14, 2007
Watching the fire fall at Yosemite was one of the highlights of the summer when I was a kid in the early 60's. We often camped at Yosemite in tent-like structures that are no longer in existence. At dusk we would assemble in the meadow and watch the deer eat until it was dark. Then the fire fall would begin. It was always exciting anticipating the moment it would begin. The sight of the fire fall was beyond words in its beauty. It was a sad day when I heard the fire fall had been discontinued. I believe it was a sight that all generations should have a chance to experience. It was totally awesome. A wonderful memory.
May 11, 2007
Grandma loves to tell the story of the fire fall. She spent her summers roaming the Yosemite Valley. She was kind enough to take the time to write about the fun she had during her childhood.
Annette M. Hall
Twain Harte, California
May 4, 2007
This is a wonderful website that stimulates many memories that touch me as deeply as others. One of mine is that during my first firefall as a child, I recall standing alone near a tree just as the firefall began and there was a young girl my age standing alone at a nearby tree. Somehow we were drawn together, embraced, and shared a kiss (my first) just as the fire was at its most intense. When it was over, we huged, walked away, and I never saw her again. I'm guessing it was in the 1950s.
Apr 23, 2007
I first saw the fire fall in 1945. I was 7 years old. I saw it several more times in the next 3 years and always from Camp Curry. I recall that someone always sang the Indian Love Song just before the call "Let the fire fall". The spectacle lasted around 20-30 seconds as I recall. Never long enough for a young child like me.
Sierra Madre, California
Apr 19, 2007
Thank you for creating this site. It is wonderful. My father introduced us to
Yosemite in the late 50's. I have since become amazed that most people that visit
the park never get up to Glacier Point. We went to the park several times over the
next decade but never viewed the firefall. I heard about it, read about it, and when
I finally decided that I was going to take the initiative to see the firefall on my
own (when I was old enough to drive) they had been discontinued. Those of you that
have seen the firefall are lucky, indeed! I have had a lifelong love affair with
Yosemite National Park. I have stayed at almost every base camp, hiked on over a
hundred miles of trail, and probably seen just about every square mile from some
vantage point. To this day I still miss seeing this one event.
Apr 19, 2007
The memories live on! I just spent this past week
camping in Upper Pines and the calls still go out
each night at 9 pm. "Elmer! Let the fire fall!" It is a
chorus that echos and spreads throughout the
campground. Although I am too young to have
witnessed the fire falls I have vivid memories of
yelling the call each night as my parents shared
their memories of the fire falls.
La Mirada, California
Apr 15, 2007
I was in fourth grade in the mid sixties and camped often at Yosemite with my Dad, sister and a brother who was slowly going blind. I vividly remember camping on the valley floor and looking up at night to see the falling firefall. It was spectacular! I hope my brother remembers these sights as he is now long since been blind. My husband, I and our adult children are going to Yosemite this summer and I will always remember the firefall.
Apr 14, 2007
I started in Chaco Canyon in 1957. Then I was in Yosemite. I was in the family truckster -- I'm pretty sure it was '67 --
when we pulled off to the side or the road to see the last fire fall. Warnock. Valley Chief District Ranger. My dad.
Another thing. My grandfather helped build Ahwahnee Hotel. He was on their hockey team - Warnock - there is a photo in the archives.
By the way three of my siblings were born in the valley hospital.
Apr 14, 2007
As an employee of Yosemite Park and Curry Company in 62-63 I witnessed the fire fall
often. My younger brother Gerald called the fire fall every night for several
summers. He was a bellman there while I was a houseman. We earned a $1.05 an hour.
We both miss the fire fall to this day.
Apr 1, 2007
My stepfather, Chet Hubbard, was the last to call the Firefall in 1968. I have a
photo, similar to the one on this site, of a gentleman pushing the cinders over from
Glacier Point. If anyone is interested in a copy, let me know. Please put
"Firefall" in the subject. Happy memories! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mar 23, 2007
In the early sixties I was co-ordinator of ski events at Badger Pass setting and
running standard races and also teaching skiing. In summer I worked at Wawona hotel
and saw the firefall while in the valley. While waiting for the snow to come one
fall I hiked the short trail from the valley to glacier point with a day pack and
mocassin foot gear. Climbing boots and equipment was at home in Alberta
All went well until I came to a frozen creek which had to be crossed to
reach good rock. After considering the danger of a slip I crossed by allowing the
heat of my foot to thaw and freeze the poor footwear to the ice in a dozen steps to
safety. More guts then brains!
After hiking over to Sentinel dome I looked for the long trail down but could
not find it as darkness was approaching and ended up walking out (with sore feet) to
Badger Pass under a full moon and a symphony from the coyotes. Thinking about the
firefall kept me warm. It was beautiful!
p.s. Say hi to Nick F. for me - He always called me sonny!
Mar 20, 2007
Thank you for this site. I had just recently revisited Yosemite with my husband who
had never been there. I told him of my memories of the firefall. Wanted to do some
more research to be sure I remembered it correctly; it was some 55 years ago.
Yosemite is such a special place, and going in the winter is really the best time to
avoid the crowds.
Mar 15, 2007
In 1950, my mother drove me to Yosemite to celebrate my tenth birthday and introduce me to this extraordinary national park. To say that it left a lasting memory is obvious, for I would not be writing these words if this were not so. As for the Firefall, I am very glad that I captured this weekly occurence on 16mm color film to enjoy seeing. It is a shame that it cannot be viewed by others anymore except on film, for it was thrilling to be outdoors in this beautiful setting--especially at that age--full of excitement and glee in anticipation of this spectacle.
John Wm. Schiffeler
Mar 7, 2007
I remember as a child in the mid to late 60's visiting Yosemite with my parents and brother. I remember the hot days of the end of summer and the cold nights. I remember sitting in the outdoor stage area to watch the fire fall. What an amazing sight to see. I remember going back about 8 years ago with my small children, sitting in an outdoor stage area only to experience "I've been here before". A very strange feeling. In talking with the ranger who gave a wonderful bat presentation, I realized that I had been there before and that is where I sat with my family to watch the fire fall many years before. I explained in great delight and animation to my children what a wonderful spectacle it was, hopefully they appreciated it although a description can not do justice to such a wonderful part of history.
Feb 18, 2007
Camping in Yosemite! Growing up in Palo Alto, our parents took us to Yosemite often in the late fifties, the sixties, and seventies. This website brings back so many memories...in fact the earliest memory I have as a child was crawling around under the topographic relief model of Yosemite in the visitor's center while the ranger talked to a group of people standing around it, and seeing all those legs from under the table, I realized that I belonged to the pair of legs in the grey pants, my father.
And I remember the cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge well too, where I first saw Jello in cubes, and I remember when the campgrounds were numbered, not named. I also remember the long drive out to Tenaya Lake for our traditional picnic with chicken from Degnan's deli in the village. And being taught by my cousin David how to climb that big rock along the road to Happy Isles - David showed me where the "handy dandy handhold" was that gave enough grip to get to the top. Years later, I taught my 13 year old daughter how to use the handhold, and she struggled up to the top - so my father bought her a "Go climb a rock" t-shirt that she proudly wore. And smelling the cracks in the bark of the Jeffrey pines - they might smell like butterscotch, they might smell fruity. And my cousin Roger teaching me how to play the card game hearts in the parking lot at Happy Isles (before the bus era). And in my teen years, jumping off the stone bridge into the river with my girlfriend, and that day she lost the sweater that I thought made her look like a turtle. She missed the sweater, I didn't.
When I went away to college the dorm I lived in was Tenaya Hall, at UC San Diego. Even though it was a freshly built concrete fortress, the name (and the name of the neighboring hall, Tioga) was enough to make me daydream about visiting Yosemite again.
I remember seeing the firefall, from both Glacier Point and the valley. I only saw it once from Camp Curry, and I thought the person singing the "Indian Love Call" was silly. Of course, I was at the age where I thought anything to do with love was silly. My parents never really liked the trappings of Camp Curry much, so we usually watched the firefall from someplace else in the valley.
Although it was a beautiful sight, I agree with the Park Service decision to end the firefall. But I really remember it well. Thanks for the website, thanks for the memories.
Feb 24, 2007
I was 10 years old (in the 50's) and living in San Jose when our ladylady and her daughter took me to Yosemite camping. It is one of the most wonderful memories that I have including the "Fire Fall" which to the 10 year old me was magical. I can remember a distant voice that almost echoed in the dark saying "Fire Fall...." and the spectacular sight of the red and yellow trail made by the fire as it traveled downward. Such a wonderful experience! The whole experience of camping in Yosemite made me a life long nature lover.
Feb 18, 2007
I'm so happy that so many other people remember vividly the firefalls the way I do.
I just thought about them today for some reason and started looking around on the
web for info, possibly a photo. There were many other photos through sites on
google, but most were from a helicopter's view. There were several others as well,
all bringing back those wonderful childhood memories.
Days in the camp were spent hiking and exploring, smelling the sweet bark of the
sugar pine with my nose pressed to the tree. Tiptoeing to the restroom at night so
as not to be heard by the bears, listening to the crackle of the fire as we sat
together and told stories. Marshmallows were, of course, roasted nightly. Then off
to sleep in a tent, not bothered at all by sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag.
Can't do that anymore!
Fondly I remember watching the firefalls while sitting safe in the lap of daddy, my
brothers oohing and ahhing with mom at the spectacular event. The feel of
sun-toasted skin and the warmth and aroma of the night air is still fresh in my
mind. Those were the days. Mmmmmm
Feb 11, 2007
I too spent nearly every summer in Yosemite valley in the 1950's. My memory of the fire fall was always having
a big time opera singer or other famous person come in to sing the "Indian Love Call" during the show.
What a great sight and sound to remember!
Shav La Vigne
San Jose, California
Jan 16, 2007
I can't imagine this info is not already in your posession.
One other quite outstanding feature of the Firefall event was that of a soloist, or a duet who would sing
The Indian Love Song as the fall progressed over the cllff. It is a memory few people today have witnessed.
The Firefall would be pushed over the cliff to land on a lower ledge and which kept
the fire relatively contained and from reaching the valley floor. Maybe a 500 ft. fall?
Jan 11, 2007
I found this Web site quite by accident while doing some personal writing about why
I moved back to California.
I only had a few days when I returned for my 45th high school reunion. I landed in
Fresno, picked up my rental car, spent my first night in Oakhurst, then headed
straight up Hwy. 41 to my favorite place in the world, purchased my lifetime pass
(one benefit of becoming a "senior" citizen), and drove to Glacier Point. I had
forgotten how unique and uniquely aromatic that drive is, as is the drive to the
valley and that first view after the tunnel. Like all the tourists seeing it for the
first time, I have never driven past there without stopping!
I was fortunate in many ways: long before I came along, my family fell in love with
Yosemite and visited often, whether they were living in L.A. or in Fresno, so I was
introduced to it early. My father swore, my mother told me, that when he died, he
intended to spend the rest of eternity perched on top of Half Dome. He died when I
was only a year old, so I never had an opportunity to enjoy this spectacular place
with him, but I still never fail to wave at Half Dome and greet dad when I visit the
When I was in high school in Fresno, I was lucky enough to work many weekends in the
valley. I'd sneak in before the gates opened on Saturday mornings, then sneak out
after they closed on Sunday night. Half way through the summer after I graduated, I
was sent as a replacement to work at Glen Aulen Camp in the High Country. What a
summer! That was before the road from the valley was paved all the way to the
Meadows. Talk about an adventure!! But what bliss, coming around a curve in the road
and seeing Tenaya Lake for the first time. On the much safer, but considerably less
exciting paved highway, it really isn't quite the same experience now, though it is
I saw the fire fall many times. It was... what can I say... spendiferous! Magic!
Impossibly beautiful. Talk about getting teary-eyed! I feel so privileged to have
experienced that, and the valley before one-way roads and traffic jams and
gazillions of tourists...
Back in those days, you could still visit Happy Isles without benefit of a formal
tour under the guidance of a Park Ranger. As a matter of fact, you could go almost
anywhere you wanted to. But at the end of the day, we always ended up at Camp Curry,
enjoying the show and waiting with huge anticipation for the climax of the
evening... and still awe-struck and never quite ready to leave when it was over.
Regardless of traffic controls, laudable conservation efforts, and the end of
sparkling jewels floating from Glacier Point, everything that was ever special and
awe-inspiring about Yosemite, still is as magnificent as ever and, now that I've
moved back to Fresno, I feel so fortunate to have it all only a short drive from
Thank you for this site, and the opportunity to contribute. I searched for
information to make sure that I was remembering my 'fire fall' experiences correctly
and got much more. By the way, I seem to remember (evidently mistakenly) Glacier
calling down: "Curry, are you ready?," answered by "Let the fire fall" from Camp
Curry. Seems like I got it backward, but no matter... it was never the words that
made it so special. And I'm glad for the instant replays that are always available
in my mind's eye.
Dec 31, 2006
Hi all! Though I was not even born yet the year the last Fire Fall was held, I have
heard many a story about the nightly event. My Grandfather and Grandmother lived in
the valley during the 50's as employees and my Grandfather eventually played music
during the nightly Fire Falls. Though I have nothing to add as far as memories, I
would like to see if anyone might be able to help me. I am trying to put together a
heart felt gift for my Grandfather, William (Bill) Warren, Grandmother's name is
Helen Warren. If anyone remembers him and would like to email me a memory or knows
of great pictures or anything really I would really appreciate it. My email is
It sounds like a great time in American history and wish I could have been there.
Nov 30, 2006
Thank you for your work on this site. I recently visited the Gene Autrey Museum
with my boyfriend and together we browsed the current Yosemite Exhibit. We didn't
have a lot of time so maybe I missed some things but I didn't see anything about the
Firefall and was dismayed at that. I have fond such wonderful recollections of it
and the Yosemite Valley I enjoyed as a young girl nearly every year. For most all
of the 60's you could find my family there every September. I have hiked all of the
falls before many of the railings and restrictions were put in place. I must
return. It's been years. My father refused to go back once the cars were limited
and all of the "political correctness" seemed to take over. While much of it makes
sense, there is no substitute for yester-year and the wonderful memories. Thank you
again. I loved Yosemite, and the Firefall, and the Ranger talks at the
amphitheater, and swimming in icy water (where I nearly drowned once being carried
away by swift moving currents) and the hikes where we met some wonderful people on
the way up and down and where I left my favorite sweater in the WC at the top of
Yosemite Falls and cried when my Dad wouldn't hike half way back up with me to go
Nov 20, 2006
I have very fond memories of Yosemite as a child we went there many times. I
remember camping, mom and dad sleeping in the back of the 63 Chevy Nova Wagon and my
brother and I in the tent with the flaps that attached to the wagon. I remember dad
waking us up to get into the car with them because he heard a bear outside. I
remember the next morning seeing the damage done by the bear. I remember the meadows
and falls and all the glorious sights but the one thing that will forever be etched
in my memory is that night at Camp Curry and the amazing spectacle that was the Fire
Fall. Thank you for the website it has been a wonderful journey.
Lake Elsinore, California
Nov 10, 2006
As a 46 year old whos father passed away very early in my life, I have a very fond
remembrance of the yosemite firefalls. I remember standing in awe as I would watch
the fire pour over the edge. I was truely upset when the park discontinued this
event. If anyone knows of any videos of this event please let me know through Email
Nov 8, 2006
I visited Yosemite when I was a kid in the 1950s and one of my outstanding memories,
in addition to meeting a grizzly bear on a trail, was the firefall. The valley was
wonderful during those years, and we stayed in one of the old tents at Camp Curry.
The night of the firefall we sat with a hundred or so people and listened to a woman
sing the Indian Love Call. Shortly after the Rangers started calling back and forth
until we heard the magic sound of "Let the fiiiirreee faaaaalllll!!" The sight was
spectacular and I have an indelible picture of it in my mind.
San Francisco, California
Oct 3, 2006
I was born and raised in Santa Rosa Ca, along with my two sisters Jane Anne and
Sheri Sue. As kids in the 1950's mom and dad took us camping almost every year and
Yosemite was an outdoor school for us all. We always would swim in the river until
we were purple.
At age seven I learned what an intersection was at Yosemite. Sister
sheri droped her purse walking across the swinging bridge one day and so I thought I
would ride my bike back to camp to get dad, however when I got lost on the way back
I stopped to asked a ranger for directions. I was seven years old at the time.
Ranger Rick injected the word intersection in his directions to me. Four hours later
I found that intersection close by our campsite. I was very dispointed however when
I got there. No one was there to greet me. Instead the whole family was in a panic
and were out with all the rangers trying to track me down.
One summer we took Uncle
Arts tear drop trailer, you know the one? you need a shoe horn to get in and out of
it. So Dad and Mom slept in the 56' station wagon and the three kids in the trailer.
So Dad puts one of the fishing poles on top of the trailer for sister jane to reach
through the 12"x12" roof air vent to tap on top of the wagon during the night to
awake Mom and dad if she had to go pottie. Dad always did this because of the Bears.
Well pottie time came and went and so did sister. I can still hear sister beating on
top of the car. Dad always said to his dying day he thought it was a Bear outside.
As kids we couldn't get enough of the firefall and one year went to the top of
Glacier to view it. This was a disapointment. The best view was always from the
valley floor. I can still picture Dad and me floating down the river on an air
mattress and him saying we better get out and me saying no, just a little longer Dad.
He had to rent a bike to get us back to camp on that trip.
In the summer of 1968 I
was fresh out of West More high school and on a coast to coast ride on motorcycles
with friends. We were in Yosemite that summer for the last firefall 38 years ago.
One of the things I learned that summer was nothing is forever. Thank you for this
web site and giving me the chance to go back to my childhood days. And those were
the days my friends. Good night Elmer whereever you are. Roy
Roy A Hedlund Jr.
Sep 28, 2006
I am the grandson of David and Jenny Curry and the son of Foster Curry. I worked in
Yosemite summers from 1946 to 1950 and full time from 1951 through 1966. I called the
firefall as a bellman and subsiquently as a manager before moving over to the Lodge
and then managing The Ahwahnee. The firefall was a wonderful and unique event.
It did cause huge traffic jams but I wish the Park Service could find some way to
modify the experience rather than giving it up completely.
Let me tell a fun story about a trick Nic Fiore and I would occasionally pull when
we would both be at May Lake High Sierra Camp in the mid-fifties. There is a point
not far from May Lake where you could see the firefall miles away across several
mountain ranges. It was just a speck but Nic would tell those staying at the camp
that, because of the thin air at that altitude, voices carried for miles and miles.
Shortly before 9:00 I would hike down the trail a ways and Nic would take the group
to the vantage point. Just before 9:00 he would call "Hello Glacier" and from down
the trail I would softly reply "Hello May Lake" then Nic would call "let the fire
fall" and the flaming spec would appear. You can imagine the talk around the
John Foster Curry
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Sep 20, 2006
Came to this website on a whim.....I had downloaded a wallpaper photo of half-dome,
and began wondering if anyone else out there remembered the spectacular, wondrous
falls of fire from Glacier Point. As a youngster, I remember making several trips
to the valley with my parents and grandparents. Memories of that incomparable
redwood smell of the valley on cool, crisp nights and the shared spectacle of the
Firefall are thoughts I treasure. Its a warming feeling to know there are others
who cherish those long-ago moments of wonder.
Sincerely, Grant, Tulsa
Grant "Skip" Cole
Aug 31, 2006
I remember that we would go to Camp Curry during the 1960's, to the little stage
area, and watch the evening show. Mom and Dad would sit on the log benches, and we
would usually sit just in front of the stage, on the dirt, with all the other kids.
Dad would buy us an ice cream cone (mostly to keep us quiet).
The show would start around twilight. There were many singers, mostly, singing
humorous folk and camp songs, but a few dancers as well, playing guitars,
harmonicas, even violins. They encouraged the audience to sing along. And there
was always a dramatic storyteller who would tell the story of Yosemite, climaxing
with the firefall tradition. Sometimes you could even smell the smoke from the
bonfire on Glacier Point.
Just before the firefall, they would turn out all the lights in Camp Curry, and
everyone would "ahh", excited with anticipation. They would flash lights to each
other, and then they would do the calling up and down to Glacier Point. "Hello Camp
Curry!" The voice seemed so very far away, and you couldn't really tell where it
was coming from, because it would travel quite a bit in the Valley, and because
everyone was quiet. When the firefall would start, another "ahh" came from the
crowd. It would take a long time (about 15 seconds) for the fire to hit the bottom.
(I always wondered where all those ashes landed. And remember they did this for 88
years ... that must have been quite a pile!).
The firefall glowed a beautiful red and orange, like a sunset. We saw it, not only
from Camp Curry, but sometimes further away from our campsite in the Valley. You
could tell that they tried to keep the stream flowing evenly, but sometimes there
was bright spot, and sometimes even a small break in the firefall. Some pieces
would fall faster than others too. I always thought that they must use a tremendous
amount of wood to span the 3,000 foot drop.
What I especially remember was that there would always be some embers that would
float way away from the rock face. Some would even land in the meadow. Some would
disappear towards Happy Isles. I always wondered how they could let that happen in
a forest full of trees. It was amazing that they never started a fire.
At the end, the firefall would become a trickle, and again I would watch how long
the final embers took to hit the bottom. In less than two minutes, it was all over.
Then the lights would come back on in Camp Curry, and everyone would applaud, some
final good nights to the crowd, and everyone would return to their campsites or
cabins for the night.
My family saw firefalls over a dozen times, sometimes on consecutive nights, and
each time it was different. Sometimes it was very bright, but finished in barely 30
seconds. Other times it was steadier, not quite as intense in color, but lasted
longer. It was obvious to me that the rate at which they pushed the embers over the
cliff determined the look of the firefall for that night.
While we were there, the weather was always perfect for the firefall, maybe only
needing a light jacket. The Camp Curry staff and the campers were so friendly to
each other back then; definitely a different time.
I was disappointed when the firefall ended. I had wanted to show my wife and
friends what I had experienced as a boy, but I understand why it was discontinued.
Even so, I thank my parents for giving me the fond memories of Yosemite, Camp Curry,
and the Firefall.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Aug 30, 2006
Thank you so much for this site. Yosemite is such a special place for me and my
husband. We had both grown up going camping in Yosemite all of our life, so when we
married, Yosemite was the natural choice as part of our honeymoon. I remember we
had a special dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel. When it came time for the firefall, our
meals were covered and taken to warmers and we were led to the terrace to watch the
firefall. It was so beautiful and sadly the last time we ever saw it.
On August 10, 2006 we slipped away for a few days and stayed in a tent cabin in
Curry. We had heard that the park was so crowded and that you couldn't drive
around anymore. We were pleasantly surprised to find the park very much the same
and not crowded...even in August! The buses are great, convenient and
comfortable. We parked our car and rode the bus all over the park. We still
felt the feeling of friendship and awe among the other visitors.
We both looked up at Glacier and fondly remembered the special magic of the
firefall.....it lives on in our hearts.
This weekend, we are sending our daughter and our 4 grandchildren to Yosemite to
experience the wonder that we have come to know so intimately...I hope they feel
the same as we do.
You can see the hand of God at work in Yosemite....for my husband, Ken, and I it
is a religious experience....we feel closer to God there than anywhere on earth.
Thank all of you for sharing
Linda Simmons Griffin
Aug 25, 2006
What a great site, and brings so many memories the far reaches of my mind. I was
born in Yosemite in 1946, at Lewis Memorial Hospital, delivered by the famous Dr.
Avery Sturm. Except for a few months at different times I was raised in El Portal.
I rented bicycles at Curry and various other places like the Lodge and Dave Downing
was my boss.
When I turned 18 I was a Lineman's helper for the Park Service and lived in 'Boys
Town', Fire Fall every night, it was great. Of course before that we would spend
many evenings at the Curry dance and of course the 'Program', and through all the
noise and bustling it was always amazing to hear the sudden HUSH as the Fire Fall
approached, thousands of people all going into silence and mummers, until the oohs
and ahhs as the fire came over the edge.
I can remember driving up from El Portal and smelling the campfire smoke headed for
Stoneman Bridge or the roads along the meadows to watch the magnificent spectacle.
A special thrill was to watch the fire being pushed over from the top. And as a
Line Mans helper I used to walk down the Glacier Point trail to work on the power
lines, and remember a friend and I took some young ladies to see the fire being
pushed over from that angle, a beautiful sight.
While stationed at Treasure Island in the Navy for School in 1966, I brought many
young shipmates to 'The Park'. Some who had never heard of Yosemite, let alone a
Fire fall, they always left with a beautiful memory, I'm sure many have it as a
beautiful lasting experience.
I was overseas when they ended the beautiful spectacle, and I always felt 'jilted'
that I hadn't known it was coming. I remember the problems that led up to the end,
some of the visitors were getting a little rowdy, and of course the Park Service
reacted strongly, but probably not wisely, although having been there I don't know
what the right action would have been. I suppose it's like so many things today too
many people, lack of respect and so many other things that have happened to so many
beautiful places. Times do change, and not all changes are truly welcome.
I recognize so many names of people who have written in about the Fire Falls, it
was like stepping back in time. Things like Badger football, Ice Skating at Curry,
learning to Ski under the direction of Dottie Powers, walking on the ice at Mirror
Lake, the Summer dances at Curry, Half Dome at it's various phases, so many
A little over a year ago my wife and I relocated to Aberdeen Washington, it's the
only place that reminds me of the beautiful Yosemite that a person can spend their
retirement in, but it's no replacement for Yosemite National Park, just a friendly
nudge of that wonderful place I spent the beginning of my life in.
In closing I wonder if the Henry Berry was the Henny Berry, brother of Tim? Also I
wonder what ever happened to Maynard Moe and so many that I knew as a youngster?
Well my old mind is taking me way past the Fire Fall, so I'll close and thank the
people responsible for putting this site out to the world.
Bob Babcock, Jr.
Aug 8, 2006
My sister is here visiting from Tullhoma, TN and she introduced me to this wonderful
web site! For many memorable years my family consisting of parents, sister,
grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would make our annual trek to
Yosemite. We stayed in the tent cabins near the Stoneman Bridge at Camp Curry. These
were the summers of the 50's and 60's. The highlight of these trips was the
anticipation of the Firefalls. After dinner in which the whole 'clan' would eat
together, we would claim our spot in the parking lot and turn our gaze skyward
toward Glacier Point. After what seemed and eternity to a young child the fire
began falling. Memories recall a simpilier time and a desire to stand one more time
with my family, many of whom are gone now and breath in once more the magic of that
one solitary moment.
Louise (Gardner) Ower
Aug 6, 2006
In 1962 I was 9 and my brother was 7 when we spent part of a summer trip at Yosemite
with our parents. A couple of days ago we were talking about that trip while on
vacation with our other siblings and all the cousins (15 of us now). I remembered all
the talk about the Firefall and what was going to happen and when, but sad to say I
can't actually remember the event itself. We were staying in a cabin and I remember
lots of bears around so maybe I got distracted. In any event, my brother remembers
the Firefall vividly. Then my sister (who was not on the trip in 1962) piped up and
said "by the way, I saw the Firefall in a movie the other day". Get this, The Caine
Mutiny has a scene part way through where an officer takes his girl to Yosemite to
see the Firefall. I haven't checked her story out yet, but I will soon. Thought you
might want to know about it. If it's on film that would be quite something!!! By the
way, LOVE the site. Thanks
[Yes, it's true. There is a scene of the Firefall in Caine Mutiny. I tried, unsuccessfully
to grab a copy of the scene off my DVD of the movie (which I bought for that reason). If
I can get a copy of the clip at some point I'll post it on the site. -- Enjay Sea]
July 28, 2006
Since my first memory of our family trips to Yosemite in the mid-1950s, Firefall is
one of the most enduring.
Coming across this great website immediately brought to mind the thrill of a six
year old boy gazing straight up into the star filled night and being captured by the
crimson & gold glow tumbling down like snow falling.
Looking back, I was lucky to experience Firefall many times.
I will be in Yosemite again next week to celebrate 50 years of enjoying this most
wonderful place & looking up towards Glacier Point, on a star filled night, &
Woodland Hills, California
July 21, 2006
I too went camping in Yosemite from the time I was 5 all the way till 17 yrs old. I
remember all going down to Camp Curry to watch the firefalls at 9pm . They would
have the indian lady sing the Indian love call and then push the embers off Glacier
Point. What a spectacular view to see. I have been trying to go through our photos of
the firefalls. I have so many fond memories of yosemite All the hikes and
exploring,the fish hatchery,the indian domains and the many dances at Camp
curry..ha. I have been telling my grandchildren about our experiences and the
wonderful beauty of Yosemite. So sad they will not get to see it the way we did.I too
have been trying to find a great shot, told my sister to go through photos and send
me some of my mom and dads photos, will forward them to you if I can. Glad i found
this website it brings many memories.
July 23, 2006
This is really a great site & surely brings back a wonderful nostalgia. I worked in
the park in 1954 & 1955 starting when I was 18 years old. Having seen the firefall
many times I can testify to its leaving a lasting memory. I worked at the Village
Store in the produce dept. What great years those were. From the back dock of the
store you only had to look up and Yosemite Fall was there in full view. A little bit
down from the store was the old swinging bridge, it's been replaced by something
more substantial. Used to go to Curry most nights & hang out by the writing room
trying to meet some honeys. (usually failed miserably) Does anyone remember the
dances held at Curry? I can't recall if they were nightly or once a week during the
summer. They held them right in back of the writing room. Great times & great
memories. I'm riding my Harley there this weekend with 3 other friends. Everytime I
return I'm returning to a very special place and I wish I could return it to 1954
Newbury Park, California
July 21, 2006
Does anyone know how I may purchase this beautiful firefall image shown? I would
love to have one framed for my home. Thanks
[David -- The web image version of the Richard Marklin photo is actually the only
version out there. It was created from a small scan of a set of stereo slides, and
there is no larger version. So really only a small print could be made from it, by
just copying the photo from the site itself (right-click, Save Image... etc).
I recently tried to contact the photographer for a larger copy that someone wanted
to use in a symphony, but unfortunately Mr. Marklin has passed away.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help. -- Enjay]
July 17, 2006
I remember vividly being told that when I look at the "Fire Fall," to realize it
is a symbol of the radiance of gold underneath and the Purification by fire.
This is further expounded in a book called "Beloved Saint Germain's Talks," Vol.
13 published by Saint Germain Press.
Corona Del Mar, California
June 27, 2006
I was raised in San Jose, having graduated from Campbell high school and San Jose
State. During the late 40s we always went to Yosemite to camp in the summer. The
firefalls is one of those events that can't be forgotten. I remember sitting in the
valley below Glacier Point after sunset and the rangers would call out from the top
and another at the bottom would answer. There's a great cover on a LIFE magazine
that features the firefalls in beautiful color. I've got it stashed away and don't
remember the date.
Orvil R. Kirby
June 27, 2006
My family camped in Yosemite every year from 1964 on...something I am trying to
continue to do with my children now. I still have vague memories of the firefall
from sometime in late 1967 when I was 3 years old. We were camping in Upper Pines
and were hanging around the campfire when my Dad said "It's time". I remember being
very excited as my Dad had told me all about what was going to happen. We found our
vantage point and my father hoisted me up on his shoulders. After what seemed like
forever, I finally saw one of the most incredible images to become permanently
lodged in my brain. The firefall was a spectacular site! I was fascinated and
didn't want it to end. When we returned the next year, I was crushed to hear that I
would not see it again. That moment on my father's shoulders is, to this day, one
of my favorite memories with him.
I also remember him telling me the story of Elmer and shouting that deep into the
night (or at least as late as I was allowed to stay up!)
June 28, 2006
I recently visited Yosemite and enjoyed it very much.
I also was atracted to the Firefall History after watchinag a Huell Howser Show on TV.
After reading your story and enjoying it very much I would like to point out that
where you are describing how a wheel barrow was used for hauling the logs, is indeed
spelt (Wheel Barrow)
[Ed. Thanks for pointing out the typo. I'll fix that -- Enjay]
Seal Beach, California
June 26, 2006
I was speaking to an aquaintance this morning wihile getting my morning coffee and
somehow the subject of the firefall came up. I haven't thought about it in years. As
I explained what it was, the memories came flooding back of the times I was there
between '59 and '64.
I was 8 years old when we first went to Yosemite. My Mother was a singer and was
recruited to entertain for two weeks (sometimes three) every summer for a 5 year
period. She would sing at the "Lodge" and at Camp Curry. We stayed at Camp Curry in
tent cabins. Besides the firefall, the things I remember most are the squirrels and
chipmunks running all over the place; waiting in line for a shower and being careful
not to surprise a bear in between structures because they might "kill you" if you
did; avoiding the bear that wandered into our tent area while we were having lunch
one day (that was crazy); the CAFETERIA (your choice of new york steak or
porterhouse every single day, WOW!); playing golf sith my dad at Wowona (a real golf
course) and, get this, the Awahnee Hotel! (I can't imagine it is still there but
there was a 6 or 9 hole course with 30/40/50 yard holes at the grounds right close
by the hotel that wound around through the WOODS! It was the most amazing thing. I
would give alot to be able to see it again. I will also never forget having eggs
benedict for the first time in my life in that amazing hotel; and the RIVER! I spent
just about every waking moment at Stoneman's Bridge. I watched the older kids jump
off of that bridge all day long and then found the courage to do it myself. What a
rush. I remember it to be 18' off the water with about 6' of depth. There were
plenty of stories of people hitting rocks, etc. to put fear into a young mind. How
exciting it was!
At the end of our days we would eat one of those great meals and then hang around
Curry or go to the bridge in anticipation of the firefall. There are really no words
that I have to describe what an incredible event that was every single night. I
loved hearing the callers call to each other in their clear voices so perfectly and
loud and slow and then my mother, Peggy Overshiner, in her incredibly beautiful
voice would sing the "Indian Love Song" while they would push the embers over the
cliff, slowly, so red and hot. You couldn't take your eyes off of it.....
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
June 24, 2006
After reading the memories area I now see Elmer was a bear!
June 24, 2006
I'm so happy I found this website! Family vacations were made so special by this event,
and tears flow as I think back now on times so long gone. Upon reading about the
different things yelled from Camp Curry to Glacier Point, maybe explains, why as a
kid, we heard at dusk, people yelling ELMER! This was in the 60's and of course my
best friend and I would chime in, yelling ELMER a few times as a nightly routine.
Was ELMER ever found, we don't know! I am now 49, and in thinking back through my
life, vacations to Yosemite, are the best memories I have to cherish.
Suzanne St Pierre
June, 24, 2006
As a youth our family of 11 vacationed annually in Yosemite for a month. Spectacular
and fond memories are often shared among us as we meet for reunions from all around
the US. The nightly firefall was always to the Indian Love Call by an entertainer
from the program. Sometimes it was instrumental, sometimes vocal, always
beautiful. Our annual vacations were in the fifties. There was a nightly dance
after the program and wonderful Yosemite memories outlast other memories from
throughout my life. In 2005 five of the 9 of us youngsters stood on a fallen log at
Mirror Lake and reinacted a family photo from our childhood. We turned the photo
sideways and saw the "Totem Pole" of the 50s.
D. A. Sullivan McGilvary
Fairbanks (formerly Santa Monica), Alaska (formerly California)
June 20, 2006
My grandparents, Bea and David Downing, lived in the park for about 50 years and i
was told my grandfather was involved in the firefalls. if anyone has any memories of
either of them, firefall or not, i would really love to receive them. they have both
passed away but i remember the subject of the firefall coming up on a regular basis.
the word brings images of them to mind. thank you all for your memories.
June 19, 2006
My family visited Yosemite several times each summer from about 1957-1964, while
my dad hand-built our summer cabin in Foresta. My brother and I were 5 and 7 years
old when we saw our first Fire Fall.
Every afternoon, when my dad was hot and tired from hammering or well-digging, my
parents took us kids down to the Valley floor to swim in the icy Merced. After
dinner at the Lodge cafeteria (you could pick out your own food, as much as you
wanted!) and a trip to the gift shop (pine scented incense? a beaded belt? a
miniature totem pole?), we took off for the parking lot near the Ahwahnee, across
the Valley from Glacier Point. My brother and I always hoped to see bears there,
rummaging in the garbage cans. We usually got lucky.
It was hard to wait endlessly until the sky faded and the campfire smoke from Camp
Curry disappeared in the dusk, leaving only its spicy odor. We squinted upwards,
searching for the flashes of light from the Point which would signal the beginning
of the Fall. The air became very soft and quiet, as the crowd near their parked
cars or in the meadow strained to hear the ritual call begin.
Suddenly, there it was! A flash (two or three flashes?) of light from above. The
ghostly "Are you ready, Camp Curry?" echoing from the heights. The answering call
from below: "LET THE FIRE FALL!" A growing red ball of light, which became a
liquid stream, tumbling over the lip of rock, growing a tail of sparks as the
embers hit the slope far below.
A hush, then excited murmurs. Then, kids being packed into cars, to be driven back
to camps and hotel rooms for the night.
A magical experience I will never forget.
San Pablo, California
June 13, 2006
I was probably 3 or 4 years old and I remember the fire falls. It was so
spectacular. Just the trail of fire coming down the mountain. I remember going
back to Yosemite after they stopped it and asking my Dad, why?
June 7, 2006
I worked on the desk at the Awanhee in the summer of 1964. One of my jobs was to
signal the firefall. This was accomplished by flashing a light, set off by a switch
behind the desk. Of course we always preceeded it by positioning ourselves on the
terrace and calling "Let the fire fall" in a loud voice.
June 3, 2006
I visited Yosemite many times as i was raised in Modesto. I always enjoyed the
firefall and would stand for a great length of time for that to happen and watched
others with the same anticipation. I was sorry when it was no longer part of the
Pilot Point, Texas
June 3, 2006
Actually no, the only copy of the photo is the small web-sized version that you see here (which if printed
would probably not make a large enough print to hang on the wall). I received the scan of Richard Marklin's
slides from him directly, and unfortunately he has since passed away.
Enjay Sea (Site Webmaster)
San Jose, CA
May 16, 2006
I remember going to Yosemite in the early 60's when I was a young girl and just loved the Firefalls.
We have been looking for a photo to put in our mountain condo. We love Richard Marklin photo taken May 18, 1963,
is this photo available to buy?
Long Beach, CA
May 16, 2006
The firefall--at once a man made tradition, yet so powerful as to become a much a
part of the Yosemite experience as Yosemite Falls. The Camp Curry Shows, culminating
with "Indian Love Call" as the climax to the evening's activities was reached with
the fading yell: "Let the Fire Fall"! I remember hiking up and down the four mile
trail at night just to see this event "from the top"! Foolhardy? Perhaps. But the
memories are emblazoned in my mind forever. I miss the comaradarie of those that
beheld this awesome sight, and can only ponder which thing causes more congestion in
the part--a larger, ever larger concession franchise, or the peaceful majestic flow
of the firefall as it cascades down the canyon wall. What a memory!!!
San Jose, CA
May 8, 2006
I saw the Firefall once, probably in 1966 or 1967. I would have been four or five
years old at the time. I don't know about you, but there aren't a lot of memories
that stick in the mind of a five year old and endure. But this one is as vivid as
any. It's funny how many simliar comments I've read over and over on this
site...that so many people witnessed the Firefall as a child yet remember it as if
it were just yesterday. The balmy evening turning to dusk, the men yelling from
valley to Glacier point, sitting in my dad's lap, my sister sitting in my mom's,
then watching this amazing spectacle in absolute silence. Then applause...
Oak Park, CA
May 2, 2006
I first saw the Firefall when I was three. It made a lifelong impression on me as
did Yosemite itself. During the early 1960s I worked summers at various Standard
Stations in the park and so I had the opportunity to see the Firefall most nights.
During the summer of 1962 I carefully held my old 35 mm camera against the roof of
my 1950 Ford coupe and photographed the Firefall. The image is posted on the web
Apr 30, 2006
Enjoyed reading about the firefall. This prompted me to tell my experience of
working at YNP when I was 16 years old. (I am 84 now.)I was in the CCC's (Civilian
Conservation Corp). At that time the fire fall was made with burning pine cones. We
would load a dump truck with cones, picking them up by hand and tossing them into
the truck bed. The loaded truck would back up to the fire pit and dump it. When the
signal came to let the fire fall it was pushed over the edge. We had to be back in
our CCC camp by 4pm. We watched the fire fall from there.
Mar 29, 2006
Just this last weekend, March 24, 2006, my brother Dave and I were doing 'pet
therapy' with my sheltie in a nursing home and we met up with an old guy in his 90's
who said he used to be a part of the old Yosemite Firefall. His name is Archie
Buckley and he must've recognized a couple of California baby-boomers who might have
seen the Firefall. I was born in 1952 and my brother in 1958 and we remember, oh
how we remember. It was something you could never forget. I also remember that I
was so scared it would start a forest fire and kill us all that I'd hide in the car,
peeking out the window at the last minute, but it never did, start a forest fire
that is. Of course my brother thought it was pretty 'neat' to be able to start a
fire and throw it down a mountainside and get away with it.
San Jose, CA
Mar 28, 2006
I was born in 1980, and growing up starting from only being a few months old my
family started a tradition. We went to Yosemite every summer. And every night my
grandpa (papa as I call him) would reflect on how it used to be (in Yosemite). He
would start by describing the "dump" where you would go see bears...and end with the
magnificient firefall. He would then go into the Rv and pull out photos of the
firefall, It was wonderful. I especially loved the deep purple colors that streamed
down the cliff. Until recently I had always thought they sent a burning ball of
something down one of the falls...the way my papa described it so clearly I really
thought it was part of the waterfall!
Mar 20, 2006
At the age of four (1948) I went with my family to see Yosemite. My father took
wonderful color photos of that trip. We witnessed the firefall, but my dad did not
get a picture of it. The firefall was an awesome (semi-natural) spectacle that I
remember to this day. My memory is based on seeing it, not on a photograph. My
grandparents and my parents were on that trip. They are gone now. I'm getting up
in age and, of course, my children and grandchildren have never seen the event. I
have only been back to Yosemite a few times since then, but then Yosemite doesn't
lack visitors these days. The last time I was there I learned that the mules and
horses would be gone forever due to flies, etc., not appreciated by the urban
guests. The loss of the firefall and the loss of the horse/mule concession were
both sad to me. The world is not short of lichen and the view of any part of the
world is enhanced when seen from the back of a horse or mule. I took quite a few
pictures of the mules and horses in the park, knowing that we would probably never
see them there again. I can't help thinking that these two decisions were made
using urban perspective and polarized environmental thinking. Thank you for
providing a venue where I could vent my opinion.
Mar 3, 2006
When I was a child my Dad would say 'Where do you want to go for the summer?' We wanted
to go to Disneyland... We always spent the summers in Yosemite where my family would
ride Smiley the mule, hike by day and every night we would hike out to the meadow
where my sisters and I would sing the Beatles songs and wait for the Firefall. These
were always the highlight of our trips. Now as an adult these memories are even more
Feb 28, 2006
I had forgotten of the falls when I saw Californias Gold this evening and there they
were described...a thing of spectacular beauty to see. My family and I vacationed in
Yosemite in the late 50's and early 60's, and I can remember now the excitement that
built in a young mans mind as the 9PM start time neared each night. My Mom and Dad
loved Yosemite as do I, it's sad yet understandable why they were ceased. Im just
lucky enough to have witnessed them. Thanks for the Website...way Cool!
Riley P. Monahan
Feb 26, 2006
During the 50's and 60's my family (which included grandmother, parents,
sister, aunts, uncles and cousins) would caravan from our homes in the
Los Angeles area at dawn on a Saturday morning and travel, what seemed like an
eternity, to that wonderfully long tunnel that opened up onto paradise.
I remember the fire falls and all its glory. Standing in the parking lot at
Camp Curry, with bats flying over head, as the much anticipated calls came
signaling the beginning of a memory.
I may have camped with a few of you and
shared the time a few of us bravely set out to the base of Glacier Point and
stood on the smokey ash stained rocks that pinpointed the exact spot where the
Fire Falls landed. What a beautiful night light it was. What a
blessing it was to have shared it with you.
Feb 26, 2006
I am eighty years old and have made very detailed scrapbooks of the time that I
lived in Merced, California, Gateway to Yosemite. I graduated from the high school
there in 1944, and then became a U.S.O. Hostess. We occasionally went to visit the
wounded service boys that were then staying at the Awanee Hotel which had been
turned into a Naval hospital. But I don't believe they had the falls during that
time, so I had never been there during the Firefall. I had always wanted to see it,
but somehow never did. I have a post card of the firefall, but would love to have a
really nice colored picture if anyone knows how I can purchase one.
PATRICIA CALVERT COLLINS
Feb 24, 2006
I had never heard about this until today. I was visiting a friend's house and he
told me his Father was in the Forest Service. One of his jobs was to push the
burning bark over the side of Glacier Point with a rake.
So I was able to log on and find a few pictures. What a great life it must have been
Feb 20, 2006
I remember the firefall as one of the highlights of our family vacation year after
year in the 60's. We would stay in Camp Curry and at night go to the bridge and
watch the firefall. Man it was an awesome sight to see.
I have seen Huell Howser's video of the firefall history, and enjoyed it, but it
didn't show a single movie clip of the firefall from the valley floor. Does ANYONE
have copies of the firefall in action from the valley? I would love to get a hold
of this to show my family, as they still don't believe it was real!! Please let me
know if you know where to find such movie clips!
Feb 10, 2006
To Cindy from NC - I wonder how many summers we were camped next to you! I could
have written your memories myself. You did leave out the dances in Stoneman House,
the campfire programs, rafting on the river, Kiddie Camp, the swinging bridge, the
hotel at Glacier point and the Junior Ranger Programs. In spite of all of the
changes, it's still my "heaven."
As for the Fire Falls, if we were not in Camp Curry, we were out in the meadow - my
mother staked out, with her 35mm camera - tripod and all, set in the perfect spot to
"catch" the perfect exposure of the Fire Fall. Unfortunately, summer after summer,
year after year, exposure after exposure, the pictures were all the same - a
perfectly black background with a streak of orange shooting across the picture.
Ansel Adams she was NOT!
Two of the saddest days of my life were the days when the Fire Fall ended and when
they tore down Playland at the Beach in San Francisco.
San Bruno, CA
Jan 23, 2006
I loved the firefall for many years. Miss it so I could also show my wife whom
never saw it. The stories in these comments are so correct and bring back so many
wonderful memories. "W"
Howard (Woody) Koehler
San Jose, CA
Jan 18, 2006
I was unfortunately born too late to
experience a Firefall firsthand, but I am in the
process of purchasing ANY memorabilia
concerning the Firefall, including personal
photographs. Please contact me if you are
interested in giving your Firefall stuff a happy
new home, and making some money from it.
Jan 14, 2006
I understand, on a logical level, the reasons for the elimination of the firefall.
But this set of rememberances makes me feel like I do at a good friend's funeral.
Jan 3, 2006
I have strong recollections of staying at Camp Curry, and then, after supper,
slipping into the Ahwanee Hotel back veranda (where the affluent folks were!) and
watching the Firefall. Some elderly cheerleader would commence a sing-song that
went to the effect "Isn't the wea-ther aw-ful" and the octogenerian would reply, in
the same sing-song "Yes, the wea-ther is aw-ful".
I would date this from 1947 thru 1955 or so, when I got too sophisticated to
continue to participate.
America was simplier then. gjg
G J Chris Graves
Dec 27, 2005
I lived with my parents and brother in Yosemite Valley between December 1956 and
September 1963. The Firefall was a nightly summer event in those days. However, I
was surprised to read a journal of my great-grandfather who made a trip from Paso
Robles to the Valley by covered wagon with his family for a vacation when my
grandmother was still a girl. And my recollection is that he wrote that he and
another guy hiked to Glacier Point, and that they started the Firefall tradition!
Dec 27, 2005
LET THE FIRE FALL!
The anticipation of waiting to see it be pushed over the edge.
Sitting in the meadow by Camp 14 with folding chairs and the deer - watching the
Fire Falls in amazement - EVERY NIGHT! - or -
Camp Curry on the log benches.
Indian Love Call song being sung.
Camp 14 with the campfire going and hotdogs roasting and mashmallows burning.
Bicycles everywhere - especially tandums.
The anticipation of the Fire Falls.
The silence and awe.
The sadness when it was over so quickly.
The freedom to drive around the valley.
Happy Isles and the ice cream there and the fisheries.
Hiking up The Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.
Hanging blankets on clothes lines attached with clothes pins to privatize your
STARS in the sky - millions of them!
Air matresses going flat during the night.
No fear of violence
Bears coming into the campgrounds and rummaging thru the garbage cans.
The Dump and with the bears.
The LONG tunnel into the park.
Sadness at leaving but looking forward to next summer and the Fire Falls, deer,
bear, getting wet on the Mist Trail.
It'll never be the same again!
Dec 19, 2005
I remember the Firefall from the times we would visit Yosemite every year, from when
I was a little kid in the early Fifties, until it ended when I was a teen in the
late Sixties. It was the highlight of our trip. I was sad that it had to end, but
understood the reasoning, the crowds were becoming too large. Still it was a
beautiful thing to see, I just wish my kids could have seen it, and that I could
La Mirada, CA
Dec 3, 2005
I have been searching for a poster to frame of the Firefall to hang in my hall. Is
the Marklin photo in poster form, by any chance? Please let me know where I can buy
a fire fall poster. Many thanks.
Oct 19, 2005
I spent many vacations in Yosemite as a child in the 60's. I grew up in Los Angeles
and it was a great place to escape the city smog and mayhem. Those of us lucky
enough to have witnessed the Firefall see it now as almost a spiritual event! I
got goosebumps when they would call down from Glacier Point "Let the Fire fall!" I
have them now as I remember this! Preceding that the sky was black, except for the
embers from the top and some moonlight, and extremely quiet, as everyone waited in
great anticipation for the signal from the top. This was high drama at it's best!
Then as soon as the embers flowed down the mountain, the Indian Love Call was sung.
A beautiful tribute to the magnificent fire streaming down the granite mountain.
Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 18, 2005
The Firefall changed my life, I'd say. My first trip to Yosemite was in 1964, with
my parents, when I was 19. I saw the Firefall then, from the valley, and was as
awed as others have described. The life-changing Firefall moment, however, occurred
the following June, when I returned to Yosemite to work at the Glacier Point Hotel
as a busboy. I rode the bus from the valley and was startled at the 40-foot-high
walls of snow along the road, near Badger Pass. The winter of '64-'65 was a record
year of snowfall. There was still a lot of it around Glacier Point.
When I entered the grand lobby of the old chalet-styled hotel I was awed again. It
was the perfect mountain lodge. Oddly (and quite out of character, as I later
learned), a female employee of my age, a maid, was sitting there on one of the
sofas, with the guests. She was the first person I met and it was love at first
sight. Only I was too naive to realize it at the time. Melanie and I certainly
felt some electric connection.
She showed me to my quarters in the employees' rooms. These were in what had been
the dining room and kitchen when the hotel was in its heyday. The female employees
lived on the basement floor below, that opened to the woods behind the hotel. The
guest rooms in use in 1965 were just a few on the main floor and the entire second
floor. The upper floors were closed off, considered unsafe (no fire sprinklers in
the hotel). The kitchen and dining rooms, such as they were at that time, were in
the main floor of the Mountain House. There were still primitive guest rooms on the
second floor of that building and late in the fall Melanie and I had to move there
as the main hotel was completely closed.
That evening, most of the young summer employees walked together to the point, to
watch the Firefall, normally the work of the bellman. Although it was arguably less
spectacular from above, it certainly had its magic, including giving me the
(seemingly unbelievable) courage to put my arm around Melanie. We eventually
married (in Eureka, CA, while attending college) and more than 40 years later still
together, living in Redwood Valley, CA.
Oh, what a wonderful place to kindle a romance! We later heard that four other
couples from that summer season at Glacier Point eventually married, including an
old couple. We took many walks and hikes together and got into fantastic condition.
When I got the opportunity to drive cars down to the valley, for a few dollars (for
those who drove up and wanted to hike down the Four-Mile Trail), I'd race down in
about 35-40 minutes and then race back up the Ledge Trail in much less time.
The Ledge Trail, as others have mentioned, was "closed" by then but employees and a
few other hardy souls still took it. It started above a talus slope behind the Camp
Curry employees' tents. At the top of the talus slope, a very narrow ledge angled
steeply upward across the face of the cliff until it reached the gorge of Staircase
Creek. That reminds me: One writer mentioned seeing a waterfall during the day
where he thought he'd seen the Firefall at night. That must have been Staircase
Falls, which is nearby.
Melanie and I would sit outside at night, looking at the stars and the various
wonderful views and get to know each other. During summer thunderstorms, we'd sit
out near the point, sometimes under that little stone shelter, sometimes out on a
bare rock, watching the storm over Half Dome and the Valley. Very exciting!
Both of us decided not to attend college in the fall term and stayed working at
Glacier Point until the road was closed by the first heavy snows of the season. In
the fall, there were few employees and everyone did almost everything. Now I did
houseman, maid, server, and bellman duties, including taking the garbage to the dump
(and feeding the bears there) and building and pushing the Firefall. I had
occasionally helped push the Firefall during the summer but now it was my job almost
all the time. It was a fun job.
As reported by others, we'd lay the fire in the afternoon and light it later, near
dusk. In the summer, the stock of red fir bark was stashed past the far end of the
hotel, out of sight of the tourists. Each day, I'd load up a 3/4-ton flatbed truck
with the bark and drive up to the point. I'd open the gates and back the truck to
the fire pit. Id take some good, big pieces of the bark and build a wall around
the pit, stuffing twisted rolls of newspaper between the bark blocks, as wicks, then
dump smaller pieces in the center, mounding it up. Then I'd dowse it all with a bit
of furnace oil. That would soak in for a while so that, when I returned later to
light it, it would always start easily.
Once, I was standing in the back of the truck, shoveling bark out, when the truck
started to roll back toward the edge of the cliff! I had to make a very quick
decision then! Do I jump and run for it, letting the truck roll over the cliff,
lose my job, and enter forever into infamy in YNP history? Or shall I try to get
into the cab and stop the truck from rolling? I decided the latter, scrambled over
the stake side, jumped down onto the running board, opened the cab door, and stomped
on the brake. No one who knows me would credit me as a fast mover but--by God--that
time I surely was! I think the truck only rolled a foot or so before I'd stopped
it. I don't believe I ever forgot again to set the hand brake!
Another fond memory of the Firefall: Melanie and I and a few other employees, in
the fall of 65, after the evening campfire programs were no longer being held
regularly, decided we'd do our own program. We fashioned megaphones of card stock.
A couple of us went to Camp Curry, the others stayed at Glacier Point to push the
fire. We made the calls that were normally done by rangers but didn't sing Indian
Love Call! I dare say we got in a spot of trouble over that little episode. By the
way, my recollection is that the calls during our time had been shortened to "Hello
Curry", "Hello Glacier", "Let the Fire Fall", and "The Fire Falls". But others
recall things I'd forgotten so I probably have that wrong.
Melanie worked at Camp Curry the following summer but I spent it restoring an old
cabin in Humboldt County. I visited Melanie for a few days at Curry and that was
the last time I saw the Firefall. Our next visit to Yosemite was in summer of 1973,
when our daughter was 2 1/2 years old. We returned to Glacier Point to see the site
bare of the wonderful old hotel and cried! We were sad, too, to walk up to the
point and see that NPS had done its famous work of obliterating evidence that the
Firefall had ever taken place. The dished out fire pit didn't seem to exist and the
guardrail went right across, with no step-back or gate. History erased by the
Ministry of Truth! Years later, when I bought the wonderful coffee-table book Great
Lodges and was sad to see that the Glacier Point Hotel was not featured because it
no longer existed. I'm certain, had it still existed, it would have had a place of
honor in that wonderful book. We've always wondered if Curry Co. burned it on purpose...
Regarding the history of the Firefall: As the ranger naturalists told it when we
were there, at least one plausible story was that McCauley started it by burning the
garbage from the Mountain House and pushing it over.
A further bit of history as it was told in the days when we were there was that
the Mountain House was the oldest building in the park and the oldest continuously
operating hotel in the U.S. (supposedly since 1872, as I recall). Odd, then, to
read in the article or one of the other postings that the Mountain House was boarded
up at some time. I think a lot of the history told then was quite iffy. At our
time, the Mountain House was kept open during the winter, for those hardy enough to
ski or snowshoe there. An old, reclusive couple stayed there every winter (I've
forgotten their names). She passed some of the time by painting scenes of the views
and they were hanging all around the dining rooms.
Redwood Valley, CA
Sep 15, 2005
I was born in 1958 and each year my father would take me camping in Yosemite and
together we would watch the Firefall. It was magical. We would wait on the summer
evening and then see the fire slowly cascade down the shear face of the cliff. Once
we watched from Glacier Point, I'll always remember the flames shooting high up into
the night sky as they were pushed over the edge, the heat on my face and the smokey
smell of burning embers. It was like no other experience.
When I was nine Dad told
me that the Firefall was finished. He told me it was gone forever. I didn't
believe him. Dad wasn't a liar or anything like that but you see the Firefall was
the Firefall. It had been around since the horse an buggy days. It had a life all
its own and it couldn't just be stopped any more than Christmas could be stopped.
But Dad was right.
Dad passed away in 1994. He had been a good man and you could even go so far as to
say that he was an American hero. As a gunner and radio operator on a B-24 bomber
during WW2 he survived 51 combat missions including the raid on the oil refineries
at Ploesti, Rumania. But Dad was frequently unhappy. As a result of aircraft
noise, and the sound from the guns, he had suffered a hearing loss that made even
simple conversation a struggle.
He loved classical music and tried very hard to
play it well but his poor hearing stood in the way. The war in Vietnam, political
assassinations, race riots and Watergate all took their toll on Dad and he became an
incurable pessimist. I was an optimist and so in the end the two of us didn't have
anything to talk about. Our outlooks were just too different. But whenever I
remember the Firefall I always smile because those are the memories that I have of
my father being happy, really happy.
Palo Alto, CA
Aug 29, 2005
I am so happy to see this site.
There is no way for those who never
got the chance to see the Firefall
to understand how amazing it was.
My family went to Yosemite each year and the Firefall was a part of our tradition.
Bay Area, CA
Aug 21, 2005
I saw the Firefall in the winter months of 1962. I was 16 years old and we lived in
Los Banos, CA. My parents and I went up to Yosemite to meet a friend of theirs from
the war years. She was an older lady and was staying with her brother and his wife
at the Ahwahnee Hotel and we were to meet them there for dinner. I don't remember
the date but the afternoon we drove up to Yosemite, there was some snow and sleet
falling and as we entered the Valley, the car in front of us spun completely around
on the slick road.
We stayed at Camp Curry and because of the time of year and the weather, it was very
chilly that night. We drove over to the Ahwahnee and met my parents' friend and had
a nice dinner in the wonderful dining room of the Ahwahnee. After dinner, we went
into the lounge at the Ahwahnee and they spoke of old times. My parents and their
friend had been prisoners of war and were interned at the same camp in the
Philippines during WWII.
Shortly before 9:00pm someone came around announcing that the Firefall would occur
in 5 minutes or so. We all went out onto the veranda of the Ahwahnee and looked up
to Glacier Point, which could just barely be seen in the dark. And there it went
exactly at 9:00, with a small crowd watching. It was a lovely experience.
Aug 7, 2005
This is a wonderful site and I am enjoying the memories. My father worked for
Yosemite Park and Curry Company as an electrician in the early 50s. Since we lived
year-round in the park, we saw the Firefall as often as we could every year.
We would get to the meadow early where we could hear the park ranger tell the story of
the forbidden love between the Indian Warrior and the Indian Maiden. When she
killed herself because she could never be with her love, the gods were saddened.
When the Indian Warrior chose to jump to his death from Glacier Point to join his
love, the Gods took pity and turned him into flaming embers so that his spirit would
be free. Each night these embers were the spirit of this Indian Warrior.
The park ranger always had his speech perfectly timed to finish as the recording of Nelson
Eddy and Jeannette McDonald singing The Indian Love Song began. Then we would hear
"Let the fire fall!" and the magic would begin.
Aug 2, 2005
My Grandmother's maiden name was Mary Curry. She was related to David and Jennie
Curry. My Grandmother and Grandfather, William Danley, moved to Mariposa in 1955. As
a young boy I spent many summers at the park. Viewing this site made me feel teary
eyed, as it brought back so much fun, playing in the park, and seeing the Firefall
at night. That time in life was simple. I will always have memories.
My father's name was Jack Danley. He was a carpenter and helped to rebuild Curry Village
in the late fifties or early sixties. I think I was about 10 or 11 years old. He would take me
to work with him. Me and the other boys would always play games with the bears.
My dad would tell me that a bear would eat me someday. I think we had no fear of the
park bears or the park deer.
Now that I am over fifty, it was not too smart, always giving those bears a bad
Through the years I have been back a few times. I think it is time again. We
will have to go back in 2006.
Thank you for letting me tell my story.
July 30, 2005
On two occasions, in '59 and '60, our family rented a cottage in Wawona for a
weekend stay. Naturally we visited Glacier Point, the tunnel tree and the Firefall
at Camp Curry. I was so deeply impressed by the natural beauty of the area that I
continued to visit the park over the years. Four years ago I left Southern
California and now live in Tuolumne County. What a privilege it is to have Yosemite
in my own backyard! I will always remember the drama of the Firefall.
July 30, 2005
I was born and grew up in San Francisco. I and my good friend, Janie Murray, had
been out of high school for a year when we went to Camp Curry for a two week
vacation in 1959. We took a train into Stockton, and then a bus....it was an all
day event. I had never before seen the beautiful Yosemite Valley. We stayed in a
cabin (on the American plan) at Camp Curry.
I will never forget that time. The
moon's reflection on half dome was incredible !! The Firefall, every evening, was
such a special event. Everyone and everything stood still. The "Indiian Love Call"
was sung....and then "LET THE FIRE FALL"!! I will never ever forget that time.
After travelling all over the world, nothing can compare to Yosemite at night.
Vivienne (Shanahan) Frost
July 24, 2005
My parents took my sister and I to Yosemite several times in the 60s. I loved
everything about the park and still do! The views from trails around the valley will
take anyones breath away! My most colorful memory of Yosemite is, and will continue
to be, of the nightly Firefall. I've been back to the valley many times with my
family and each night around 9:00 I look up toward Glacier Point and thank God I was
able to be there and see the Firefall so many years ago. It was really something to
see! I very much enjoyed reading all the comments. Thanks for the website.
July 10, 2005
I have an article that I obtained many years ago from a newspaper in Oakhurst I
think. I found most entertaining and have kept . . . true or not.
I understand that Jim McCauley was responsible for the construction of the Four Mile
Trail to Glacier Point; and he created the firefall quite accidentally. He prepared
a great celebration at Glacier Point when the trail was finally completed and
advertised it accordingly. The concessionaires were in the park were very
competitive during those days, and warned their guests against using the "DANGEROUS"
When no one showed up at the barbeque, Jim McCauley got angry and tossed the picnic
tables over the edge at Glacier Point. The noise of the crashing debris got the
attention of the people below; concessionaires and their guests. They looked up
just as Jim pushed the embers from this barbeque pit over the edge.
There's a lot more to the story if you'd like it in it's entirety. Please feel free
to contact me. I can eMail it to you.
June 28, 2005
June 20, 2005
I saw many Firefalls. The last I saw was in 68' and it was sad as it was the last
one. In 69' I was there in July at the Visitor Area hanging out with friends and I
looked up at Glacier Point and saw a glow. I asked the Ranger who was standing next
to me if the decided to start Firefall's again. He said no, why did I ask.. I pointed
up at Glacier Point and said it looked like they were getting ready as it was about
8:30 p.m. He said "oh my God!' and ran to report it. Sure enough, it was the Glacier
Point Hotel that was on fire and burned down that night.
Just the previous year, I
had lunch there with my friend on the rear veranda. I am very grateful for that
lunch. Never again will anyone have such a fine meal with such a view. It is a shame
that some fine and wonderful traditions that lasted almost a 100 years should just
fade away because of money or because of difficulties. I think that memories,
especially great one's are priceless.
June 20, 2005
Initially, I saw a DVD made by Huell Howser from California Gold which featured
Yosemite Fire Falls with old footage and interviews with Nick Fiore. Very
Does anyone remember who sang the Indian Love Song in its original form? I think it
was an old time movie with an actor dressed as a Royal Mounted Policeman uniform in
a rowboat on a lake. I sure hope someone can tell me the names of the actor and
actress to whom he was singing. Very popular couple of actors back in the 40's.
Thousand Oaks, CA
June 10, 2005
I am originally from Los Angeles. My parents went to Yosemite for the first time in
about 1950. My first visit was the summer of 1957, when I was about 3 1/2. We stayed
in the campground across the meadow from Camp Curry. I remember walking on a
footpath through the tall grass to watch the Firefall from the middle of the meadow.
It was very magical. I don't remember much else about that trip but I do remember
The last time we saw the Firefall was in June of 1967, when I was 13.
We had a room at Curry. My diary of that visit says the Merced was very high that
June and the waterfalls were gushing. In my diary I describe a campfire program
where a magician, an Irish tenor, and folk singer performed. Then there was the
Firefall. A couple of years ago I was with my wife and daughter at Tuolumne Meadows
and we met Nick Fiore, who was in charge of the Firefall. He was still full of
June 8, 2005
I saw the Firefall for the first and only time in about 1964 when I was 2 or 3 years
old. Then my family was out of the country for a few years. When we returned in 1970
the Firefall was history. I don't remember seeing the Firefall; I do remember
dreaming about it for years. My mother talked about it throughout her life (she
passed away in 2001.) She would with heartfelt emotion hearing "is the fire
ready?"..."let the fire fall"...and hearing the Indian Love Song.
We went to Yosemite once or twice a year as I grew up. My mother would always hope
that this year they would re-instate the Firefall.
North Port, FL
May 30, 2005
I remember the Firefall from a trip my father and I had taken to Yosemite when I was
7 or 8. It was an amazing, mystical experience for a child to see and hear this
spectacle played out in this truly awe inspiring environment. It has been one of my
most vivid memories from childhood. I have long regarded Yosemite as one of my
Simi Valley, CA
May 30, 2005
I get a chill in my spine just thinking about laying out
in the meadow in the 50's and 60's, hearing the calls
and watching the incredible Firefall start, build and
then slowly flicker out, all in total silence. It was an
awesome and unforgettably magical experience. I feel
fortunate to have experienced the now extinct
California tradition. Yosemite is truly an incomparable
valley. I started going there in 7th grade and in college
(Cal) I was a climber and my girlfriend Sue worked in
the Ahwahnee gift shop. Thanks for the terrific
website and REMEMBER THE FIREFALL!
May 24, 2005
Born in 1938 and was able to visit the Park in the early 50's through a charitable
group taking homeless children on outings.
Many years have past and I tell my children and grandchildren of the wonders of the
Park and especially the "Fire Falls".
The "Indian Love Call" has never left my mind and the thought of it and my feelings
at that young age have never escaped my memory. I was never to go back as the years
I just now read it was stopped in the late 60's. How sad.
I have searched the web trying to find the "Indian Love Call" as it was that night.
Not a vocal but instrumental perhaps on Xylophone or Electric Guitar. Is anyone
familiar with that rendition and more important have knowledge where I might
I know there is an album out of songs of Yosemite but I am not seeking newer
versions that have been changed.
Thanks so much and it is great to read of the past and the pleasure Yosemite has
given to all over the years!
Spring Hill, FL
May 15, 2005
I had always heard that my grandparents met dancing in Curry Village in summer 1929,
watched the Firefall, fell in love, and the rest was history - which always sounded
improbably romantic to me. Now that I know more about the Firefall, I can see it
very likely happened exactly as they remembered. Thanks for a great site.
Apr 22, 2005
I remember Henry Berrey III and
Henry Berrey IV. The Berrey family
introduced me to the wonder's of
Yosemite. The Firefalls are a part of
Yosemite history. I would like to see
the Firefalls again and share that
experience with my wife and all
who visit a world treasure, Yosemite.
Apr 20, 2005
As best as I can recall, my father, Hugh Brown, who was a member of the Bohemian
Club in San Francisco, and my mother, Virginia Brown, would perform at Camp Curry
for two weeks every August in the 1950s and early 1960s. My last visit to Yosemite
with them was in 1964, just before my mother passed away. I was ten years old. My
father passed shortly after that.
Unfortunately I then had to live in a foster home and had no one to reinforce my
Yosemite memories. However, I do recall sitting on one of the tree stumps at Camp
Curry every night to watch my parents perform. It is with great pride that I share
that my mother was one of the ones who would sing the Indian Love Call during the
I found this website because I was hoping to find some history of the performers who
entertained during the summers at Yosemite. It's been a joy to read everyone's
My husband and I were married at the Yosemite Chapel in May of 1978. I felt it was
the closest I could get to having my parents there. We go back to Yosemite every
anniversary and at least one more time during the year. It is my favorite place to
Thank you so much for posting so many wonderful comments regarding the Firefall. I
wish I had more memories to share.
Mar 29, 2005
I recall the year that the good old boys from Old Miss made the traditional call.
The one above called "Hello Camp Curry" and the one below called, "Let the fire
Mar 16, 2005
I have many fond and emotional memories
of the Firefall. The one I remember best
was when Jeannette Macdonald sang
Indian Love Call as the fire fell.
We used to
like to sit on the stone bridge across the
Merced River. You could see the Firefall
really great from there. I do miss being able
to go up there and find a camping place
almost any time.
Mar 2, 2005
I grew up from age 5 to the last Firefall in Yosemite Valley from the 40s to the 60s. I
yelled let the fire fall from camp 7 nearest to the campfire show. I went on an all day
ride on the valley floor. I would follow the local black bear as he robbed the garbage
can every night after dinner. I would yell for Elmer just before going to bed after
the Firefall. I learned all my love of nature in the valley when people were stacked tent
peg to tent peg in camp 7. I remember going to Tuolumne Meadows over a 22 mile one
lane dirt road that took 4 to 6 hours. I learned to ride a bicycle in the camp curry
parking lot with cars parked between apple trees. I remember learning about fish and
other wildlife at the fish hatchery and following a ranger on a nature walk.
I wonder where my grandchildren can learn in the new, less friendly parks. We need to
look to Europe to make the valley people friendly and still preserve the back country
for nature. I have been a conservation advocate, but we must give the public
Yosemite Valley to teach them to save the rest.
I would like to get a photograph of the Firefall or the face of Glacier Point so I
can make a quilt showing the symbol of my memories.
Feb 26, 2005
My name is Elmer. When I was around 4 or 5, about 1991, my family and I went on a
camping trip to Yosemite. I was a wild, troublesome little child, and my mother
would always yell my name looking for me. When the legend of Elmer came alive at
night, my mother and our whole camp group would be perplexed by the calling of my
name. We all thought that the other campers had been making fun of my mother and I.
This is what we thought until very recently when a ranger told us the legend of
Elmer, the lost child, the farmer, the bear, etc... I wasn't alive for the firefall
and I regret it wholeheartedly. But I thought that my take on the Elmer legend would
be worth telling, knowing that during the firefall years the name was yelled at dusk
- firefall time.
Chino Hills, CA
Jan 17, 2005
Wonderful site for Yosemite lovers.
I've yet to meet a Yosemite hater.
The demise of the firefall is often
attributed to political correctness, but
P.C. is often only the Park Service's
smoke screen for their more
mundane concerns of crowd control
and liability management.
I was a ranger's brat in the 60's
and we were staying in camp six, the
seasonal employees camp near
Yosemite Lodge (now day use
parking, sigh), the last summer of
the firefall. The rangers were really
struggling with people sleeping in
the meadows that year, Curry
Meadow being the most popular
because it was the best place to view
The hippie movement was gathering
force and Yosemite is a wonderful
place to spend the summer in a,
shall we say, carefree fashion. It all
came to a head on or about the
Fourth of July, when the Park service
decided to clear the Meadow. A "riot"
ensued. I don't remember that
anyone was hurt. The mounted
rangers were defeated by people
throwing firecrackers. Back then the
rangers in the enforcement division
were not professionalized; they were
mostly teachers off for the summer
and a few "vacationing" policemen.
The mounted seasonal rangers
were mostly were just teachers who
brought their horses.
After this traumatic experince, the
Park Service brought in National
Police from Washington, D.C. to
augment the Rangers. They were
housed at Yosemite Lodge. Trainers
were brought in for the Rangers and
also for their horses. After their
training, you could wack those
horses with a 2X4 and they wouldn't
So anyway, the Park Service kept
control, but the Firefall was doomed.
They wisely waited out the summer
to execute the cancellation. The
cancellation may have been wise, or
at least prudent (remember the
summer of 1968?), and by the time
the youth movement had faded and
Yosemite was again a family
vacation paradise, naturalism was
the dogma with the National Park
Service priesthood, so its
reinstitution is unthinkable.
But the Ledge Trail is still there...
Robert T. Anderson
San Francisco, CA
Jan 12, 2005
I have also seen the magic of the Horsetail Firefall
in February 2000 and was able to get the magic on
film. We are now involved in the Yosemite Moon
Writing Contest and have extended the deadline as
the conditions should be perfect this year to catch
"once in a blue moon" event called the "natural
firefall" of Yosemite Valley. The photo image taken
by Richard Marklin of the Firefall, May 1963 are so
similar to the "Natural Firefall" that I used it to
compare the two. Plus the writings of your
contributors are inspiring to me and I hope they will
inspire our contestants so I have put a link to your
Dec 30, 2004
just what is the magic of Yosemite?! many of these stories and emotions, below,
ring true for me. I started my yosemite experience in 1954 in stoneman campground
next to curry, behind the gas station. Then we graduated to the free for all
camping at camp 14 and once stayed for a month. I remember my father letting me put
quarters in the old ice machine and waiting for a second or two until the large
block of ice would come thundering out. we sat in folding chairs at the edge of the
camp 14 meadow and drank in the wonder of firefall or participated in the program at
curry, hearing the indian love call. after meeting the Keith Bee family, who
oversaw the curry evening program in those years, we had a picnic at our campsite
one year with all the curry performers joining us including Poogie Poogie the
magician. ron bee and i used to fish and climb rocks and swim. I got to know every
bike, horse and pedestrian trail in the valley. I remember being in the valley when
the secrete service spent days deciding where the safest meadow was to land
president kennedys helicopter. I was walking out of the camp curry cafeteria one
morning when i glanced at a newspaper in a stand declaring that marilyn monroe was
dead, and it was on stage at camp curry one night that my sister and i were asked to
do this tropical dance on stage, jumping between two long clicking bamboo poles and
having a great time making fools of ourselves. as with everyone else i could go on
and on but i have to say that the firefall is the one tradition that i miss the
most. it truly was one of a kind. every now and then an unusually large ember would
be pushed over and it would bounce and careen exceedingly farther down the
cliffside, exploding into a brilliant shower of sparks everytime it hit the granite,
and we would feel exceptionally blessed. I used to stare up at the mountainside
until every last flickering ember was gone before turning back. i still go to
yosemite now (age50) and i go through withdrawls if i have to skip a year. despite
the man made problems and the often misguided efforts to solve them, i still praise
God and give Him the glory for creating a beautiful place for us to enjoy that no
man or expanse of time alone could have created. i have been told that mother
nature, time and glacial forces are responsible for the granduer of yosemite, but
credit goes to Almighty God as it bears His unmistakable handprints alone.
Dec 21, 2004
I was a summer "coolie" (a name given to employees) from 1947-1952. One of my
fondest memories was when a group of students from Old Miss worked in the Valley. One
night one of them who was a porter at Camp Curry had the duty of calling the
firefall and when his time came he called in a melodic southern drawl, "Let the fire
fall, You all".
Another memory was of how we would put on the gullibe tourist. We would amble up
behind a couple of them while they watched Glacier for the stream of fire and discuss
between us our concern about a buddy who at this time was probably half way down the
ledge trail and our fear of him being deluged with flaming embers. I guess we were a
At other times we would get a bunch of "peasnats" (tourists) to stare at Half Dome
where we said the firefall could be seen.
Maybe the dumbest stunt was to suggest they go down to the garbage pits to see the
rangers being fed.
Nov 11, 2004
I worked in the Valley during the sixties and saw many, many Firefalls. It was very exciting for me to find the Firefall site. I have read every comment and they are all very touching. The explanation of why it was discontinued answered my many questions of why. They told us we were watching the last Firefall sometime in the autumn of 1967, but apparently there were a few more. Does anyone know the duration of the Firefall? My brother would often time the Firefall and I believe that three minutes was typical and on occasion it would last as long as five minutes. Correct me if this is wrong. Firefall was special but being in Yosemite made it even more special.
Many of us from the South worked in the Valley for several summers and met some very special people from California and other western states. Those were special times and it is very sad that we have lost contact with such great people. Two of my best friends married girls from the Bay Area they met in Yosemite. There is one guy I have seen over the years on national TV commenting on Mount St. Helen. The busboy at the Yosemite Lodge is now Dr. Malone.
I get back to the Valley about every five years. For those that think it has been ruined by the crowds have been brain washed by the press. It is as good as ever. One last question. Do any of you remember the swimming spot on the road to El Portal we called "steamboat".
Thanks to all of you for your comments on the Firefall. It brought back some great memories.
Oct 17, 2004
I'm helping a friend on a project and need any contacts that have actual film of the Yosemite Firefall in action, be it family vacation films or professionally shot footage.
Thanks and one love, Jim
Oct 15, 2004
I lived all my life until I was 70 in the East -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. I had the good fortune to be able to spend a long weekend traveling from SF to LA, to attend a business meeting there; went to Yosemite, and of course witnessed the Firefall. It so struck me that when I was planning a 2 month vacation with our family, that was set up as a "must see". When we made the trip our seven children ranged in age from a Sr in High School, to a kindergartner.
We recently, at a family reunion, spent one evening reminiscing about our various family vacations. We had each person prepare, beforehand, a list of the 10 most memorable events, sights, etc. from the 20 or 25 family vacations we had. The Firefall at Yosemite was on the list of 4 of the 7 children! That's a very high rating, much higher than even I expected beforehand. So I'm extremely glad that when we had the chance, we experienced it.
Oct 5, 2004
I worked in Yosemite Valley for 5 summers from 1962 through 1967. I calculated that I had the chance to see the Firefall 450 times and I guess I saw it just about every night. It was something that you just never got tired of watching. We always called out for "Elmer" after the Firefall and the sound of other people calling for Elmer echoed throughout the valley.
I stayed in the employee tent cabins at Camp Curry and worked at the Camp 14 tent store for 3 summers and the Village store for 2 summers. I climbed to the top of half dome on my day off and to the top of Vernal Falls several times after work in the evenings. I climbed the Ledge Trail behind Camp Curry one evening with a buddy and watched them push the Firefall off Glacier Point. Got a ride down to the valley after the Firefall with some visitors so we could be back to work the next morning.
I remember the smell of campfire smoke in the mornings as I walked to the Camp Curry cafeteria for breakfast. And the fluffy little clouds floating down through the valley so low that you could almost reach up and touch them -- those and the memories of the Firefall are what I remember most about Yosemite Valley.
Sep 26, 2004
I was very small when we went to valley on a camping trip. The year would have been around 1965. We were in the ranger's office when I noticed a sign announcing the time of the Firefall. It was the one and only time I remember seeing this incredible sight.
As I grew, this event become even more important when I found out my great uncle, Laurence Degnan, had written about it in his book. Since this site reaches so many people who love the history and traditions of Yosemite Valley, I would love to hear from those who not only remember the Firefalls, but Degnan's bakery and restaurant in the Old Village, next to Yosemite Chapel. Your memories would be a great gift to my dad, who is trying to put together a complete family history. Thank you so much for your consideration.
San Martin, CA
Sep 26, 2004
I realize that this is a bit off topic of the Firefall discussion. But one of the last post's mentions something about people calling "Elmer" at night. First, I thought it was "Albert" and that seems to be what everybody says when I go. So what exactly is the name? Also... I don't know the story behind that and would be very interested in knowing.
[Enjay:] The word definitely was "Elmer" rather than "Albert". I can't be sure of the origins although there are many theories on the subject as you can see just by searching for "Elmer" on this page. I found a web page out there today that claims the tradition is unique to the Pinecrest campground in California, but I assure you they are quite mistaken. When I was young I heard "Elmer" being yelled at every campground we ever stayed at in California. And I'm sure it's not unique to California either. If anyone does run across a well-researched history of the tradition I'd be thrilled to hear about it.
Bay Area, CA
July 26, 2004
I had the pleasure of seeing the Firefall one time back in 1954. As I recall, it was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen in my life. The vivid scene of orange glowing embers falling from Glacier Point to the base of the valley was something that you can never pass from one person to another and get the impact of seeing it in person. Thank you Camp Curry for showing one of the most spectacular shows of all time.
July 19, 2004
A Message to Kiki from San Francisco (post below):
I read your message on the Yosemite Firefall website and am interested in knowing where on the web you've seen pictures of it, and if there are any pictures of the different singers who sang the "Indian Love Call". My grandmother who died at of the age of 70 I believe, in 1963, was one of those singers (her daughter, my mother, is now 82.) All I know when she did it was that it was not during my lifetime (I'm 51); I figure since some messages mention a recording that it probably maybe was before that came about, and that my mom must have been a child at the time.
Any info you might have about this would be very helpful. My grandmother's name was Maud Fluno (maiden name Sloan, but I'm pretty sure she was married at the time.)
July 4, 2004
I saw the Firefalls in the mid 60s. It was a very fulfilling experience with many rich emotions. There was something about the camp, the night, the people and the program. It just all came together and every time I think of it I am almost transported back there to that night, with those people and that program.
And I can still hear the voices calling out to the mountain, the guitarist singing "Indian Love Call" and the people watching and listening in silence, as the fire fell.
New Orleans, LA
June 30, 2004
Yosemite has been a summer tradition in my family for about 30 years now. Every July we pack are bags and stock the trailer for a week stay in upper pines. My first year was July 1984 which happens to be the year I was born. Hearing stories from my grandparents, about the burning logs falling from Glacier Point and why people yell "ELMER!" every night in the camp grounds is something I'm going to always remember.
I'm a Jr. Ranger!
Justin R. Duarte
May 30, 2004
In 1990 I attended a ranger talk at Glacier Point. The ranger told us something about the history of the Firefall. He also imitated the shouting between Curry and his employees at Glacier Point.
Unfortunately (being german) I had some problems understanding what he was shouting exactly.
With the help of the Web I was able to identify one phrase: "Let her go, Gallagher". But I didn't find the other words somewhere. Also there seems to be some special meaning to "Let her go, Gallagher", as this call was also used during the Civil War. Can you explain, what it means?
If, you have an email address I could send you a short mp3-file with the shouting. Maybe you can tell me that he shouts. It is definately not "Is the fire ready"/"The fire is ready". It sounds to me like "Ready, Camp Curry" but the ranger also tells something more that I can not understand. Best regards, Stefan Fuchs.
P.S.: I'm in the process of making a DVD out of my old video material and I want to add subtitles. That's why I need the words that he is shouting.
Apr 20, 2004
Hi, I've contributed to this wonderful site before. I love every poignant story about the firefall and Yosemite that has been contributed. I'm writing to update my "Yosemite Dreamin'" website URL. There you will find links to a story and a poem about the firefall and information about books about Yosemite. Since I've moved from the Yosemite area the title I chose for the website is all the more meaningful to me.
Apr 17, 2004
Oh how I remember the Firefall in Yosemite.
One year my friend and I took my parents up to yosemite. My mom who was from Colorado and in failing health, and my dad who was 19 years older than my mom agreed to go with us.
We rented one of those small trailers, I think they were called scotties and headed for Fresno, etc.
I especially enjoyed sitting there looking at my mom and dad in the light from the fire that we had and waiting for them to say "Let the Fire Fall". Now that is really weird because it has been so long ago now and yet I still remember those words. Grateful, Gary D. O'Dell
Gary D. O'Dell
Mar 31, 2004
My dad took the family from Stockton, and moved us all up to Big Oak Flat , Ca. by
climbing Priest Grade. I never got to see the Firefall for a couple of years . Mr. Lester Peters had hired him to work in a saw mill in Big Oak Flat. Then later moved the saw mill to Tillicume meadows which is out near what is known as Cherry Lake now.
But one summer. We were all loaded on an old truck with a flat bed, and took all the
kids from Tillicume Meadows, to see the Firefall. I had never seen anything so beautiful.
At that time in 1947 there was nothing in Yosemite like there is now. It was beautiful, with no signs posted anywhere, just woods, mountains, and the very few people who lived in the area. It makes me sad when I see something about Yosemite on the news, it looks like a commercial circus.
I am going to make a trip back in July of this year 2004, and go and visit Gray Meadows and Tillicume Meadows. In 1947 there was no name for what they are calling Cherry Lake now. Groveland was a very small town with a store, a postoffice and station to get gas. I know it will not look anything in 2004 as to what it looked like in 1947.
We use to go and buy supplies in October, from the Groveland store...50lbs salt, 50lbs flour, 50lbs sugar cases of canned milk. Then when the first snow came the road was closed for the winter. The last winter I remember, we had 5 feet of snow.
I will go back and remember, my childhood, before I get too old. I will not forget though. I am in the winter of my years, it will be nice to go back in a full circle...
Eleanor Ruth Palmer (maiden name Martin)
Gravois Mills, Missouri
Mar 26, 2004
I can barely remember the Firefalls. I was born in 1960, so this should give you some idea of how old I was at the time.
I just saw a documentary on Yosemite, and there was no mention of the Firefalls. I was not even sure if it still took place; but after coming here, I learned that it is now part of history.
I am not sure why the Firefalls no longer take place, except perhaps for safety or maybe political reasons. Anyway, I sure wish I could witness the Firefalls today since I was quite young when I saw them, and have a vague memory at best.
Mar 13, 2004
I came to Yosemite in 1960 out of my housing project home with my parish priest, his nephew, and my younger brother, Sonny. We saw the Firefall, and like many things we saw on that long and wondrous car trip, the Firefall changed my life. I had just turned 13 two weeks earlier, and, "LET THE FIRE FALL!", made me understand what the possibilities were in this world and in my life!
It was just so beautiful and unexpected...... And the call was so melodic in that beautiful place! I hear it to this day!
Jan 11, 2004
I have been drawn as long as I can remember to Yosemite; even before I knew the rich history of the Dohrmann Family in Yosemite Valley and the work my grandfather and his business partners did to further the enjoyment of visitors to Yosemite, serving as President and Chairman of the Yosemite Park Company, prior to its merge with the Curry Company to form the YP&CC. [Yosemite Park and Curry Company].
I visited often as a child with my siblings and father Alan Dohrmann. Witnessed the next to last Firefall and a number before that. Everything about Yosemite is magical for me and I return each year, when I am able.
Nov 23, 2003
My grandfather and two daughters then living in Berkeley stayed at Camp Curry in about 1901. I have photos of four Yosemite Indians living in the valley at that time.
The Holmes family arrived at Camp Curry by stagecoach [have picture] from Merced. Mrs. Curry rang a big triangle at mealtime and cooked all the meals. The stone building now used by Sierra Club and stone bridges are evident in pictures [confirm date?] No mention of Firefall.
At least 4 tent cabins are shown but no telling how many there were. The Indians shown were very short appear under 5 feet tall. Thanks for opportunity I worked there summers of '43,'44 and '45 [VJ DAY] but that's another story.
Walter H. Howe
Elk Grove, CA
Nov 15, 2003
During my six plus decades on this earth, I recall 6 or 7 forks in the road, where my life might have turned one way or another. One of such forks was the two summers, one fall, one winter and one spring I was employed by Yosemite Park and Curry Company at the front desks of the Ahwahnee Hotel and at Camp Curry, in 1959 1961, in addition to other roles, including entertainer. That incredible time period changed my life forever, and the Firefall played a huge role during that time of my life. That period had such an effect on me that I am writing my personal memories of that time of my life, tentatively titled: Yosemite 1959- 1961: Exploits of a Former Employee.
This web page tells much of the impact of the Firefall on the lives of Park visitors and residents, since it started in 1872 and had its untimely, politically correct demise in 1968, by the National Park Service. I am grateful for being able to read the volumes of comments about how the Firefall touched the lives of people in Yosemite, on this web page. To them, I add my small input.
The literature published by Shirley Sargent [Yosemites Innkeepers, Ponderosa Press, Second Edition, revised 2000] points out that James McCauley, while he had a hotel atop Glacier Point, had built a big fire at the edge of the cliff and pushed it over, to the joy of the people below. After he left in 1897, entrepreneur David Curry was enthralled with the idea. As the story goes, David Curry had a huge voice, and he originally hollered up [presumably to the man called Gallagher doing the fire pushing] LET HER GO GALLAGHER! [In later years, Curry, and others seemingly changed the call to LET THE FIRE FALL.]
In my memoirs I have a chapter entitled, The Untold Story behind the Firefall. In it, I offer my perspective from the viewpoint of an employee and on stage entertainer at Camp Curry. Everything that Ive read on this web page is true. But there is my untold portion that only someone in my position might add.
The Untold Story Behind the Firefall Everyone thought the Firefall at 9 PM happened because someone from Camp Curry, hollered up to the top of Glacier Point, "Let the Fire fall." And then from the top of Glacier Point at the Glacier Point Hotel, pushed burning redwood bark embers over the mountain towards Camp Curry, where it harmlessly burned itself out. Then someone at the Glacier Point Hotel, someone hollered back down, "The Fire falls." This was only partially true; the hollering happened, but really mainly for the benefit of the tourists!
The people at the top of Glacier Point and the man hollering up could barely hear each other. It was beautifully choreographed. At precisely 9 PM, the lights were turned off at Camp Curry, the Ahwahnee Hotel and the Glacier Point Hotel. The Desk Clerks on duty were responsible for doing this; along with the entertainers performing on the Camp Curry stage. In addition, the desk clerk on duty at the Ahwahnee Hotel was responsible for flicking a red switch on a power panel behind the front desk after the other lights were out. That red switch behind the Ahwahnee front desk was flashed three times, which flashed a red light atop the Ahwahnee roof, which signaled the people at Glacier Point to push the embers over, and start the operatic tenor or soprano singing the Indian Love Call... When I'm calling you, o-o-o; Do you love me too, o-o-o, o-o-o....?
So sorry to burst your bubble, but it was a beautifully choreographed charade, which became Yosemites Trademark for many years. I know. I turned the switches on and off. I was an entertainer at Camp Curry Stage and turned the lights off; I sometimes played the scratchy phonograph at Camp Currys stage for the soprano. I was a Desk Clerk at Camp Curry and the Ahwahnee Hotel, and turned the lights off. And I was present atop Glacier Point when the embers were pushed over the cliff, and could barely hear calls up from Camp Curry. I only saw the red light atop the Ahwahnee Hotel roof blink on and off the designated three times at 9 PM.
I am writing these memories for the benefit of my family, co-workers [past and present] and members of Yosemite Gateway communities, such as Mariposa, where I now live to read about what the Yosemite of the late 50s was like for me. I originally intended to limit this to only a desktop publication suitable for them, with only a few copies. However, if any of the readers of this input are interested in sharing their similar memories with me, you may e-mail them to me at the address below.
I have used none of the postings on this web page, and I will keep any e-mail to me as private and confidential, and not use it in my memoirs; that is, unless you specifically tell me it is OK for me to do so anonymously.
Michael E. Lichtenstein
Retired in Mariposa, CA
e-mail address: email@example.com
Michael E. Lichtenstein
Nov 14, 2003
I was born in '27 and from the earliest times I can remember (around 1932) my family made the annual week long trek to Yosemite. We could just drive in, find a spot in one of the several camping grounds along the river, pitch our tent and then go register. There was always plenty of spaces to set up camp in those days.
I remember swimming in the river and meeting friends each year whom we had met in earliers years. I recall my parents stashing my brother and me in a sort of child care park in Camp Curry where we were watched after by adults while my parents made their routine hike up the trail and back down to Glacier Point.
But most vividly I recall the Firefall. I've attended many nightly performances at Camp Curry after which the "Let the fire fall" command was shouted and the embers descended. The place became as quiet as a silent prayer in a church for a moment or two and then the "Indian Love Call" would be played on the stage.
I've watched the falls from the road sides and meadows on the other side of valley and on moonless nights the feeling that you were the only person in the valley watching this incredible vision seemed very real.
When the coals ran out, the Firefall didn't just stop. It sort of slowly faded until the last of the glowing embers reached their final destination.
How lucky I was to live in California in those days. I'm not much interested in visiting the valley today. My trips are generally confined to an occasional drive from Lee Vining up and over the Tioga Pass to see and picnic in the hight meadows and then continue out the western end of the park and down the Big Oak Flat road back to town. That is still relatively unpopulated and absolutely beautiful.
Thanks for your web site and an opportunity to recall those days once again.
Oct 4, 2003
I thank the good Lord that I was able to enjoy the Firefall on many occasions. What a feeling to sit in a meadow and listen to calls back and forth from Camp Curry to Glacier Point, then to see the Firefall from the top of the point, truly an awesome sight. It is a memory I will treasure forever.
Cape Fair, MO
Sep 30, 2003
I worked as a busgirl in the Glacier Point Cafeteria the summer of 1959 during my break from college. I remember the head bellman at the hotel getting the fire started at 10 AM in order to generate enough coals for the Firefall each evening. I remember hearing rumors that the Sierra Club was starting to get upset about the number of trees being used regularly for this project and, perhaps, that eventually led to the demise of this activity.
The ritual of calling from the valley floor to Glacier Point and then back again was really something to witness and on a clear full moon night, the event was even more impressive.
Mountain View, CA
Sep 27, 2003
I have often wondered if the "Firefall" from Glacier Point had its origins in Yosemite's "natural firefall" on El Capitan. In 1978 I was fortunate to capture a rare "perfect alignment" of this event, which can be seen among the thumbnails at http://www.lucenaturale.com/yosemite.htm, and in larger form at: http://www.lucenaturale.com/firefall1.htm.
During the 14 years I gave slide shows and photography talks in Yosemite, I always closed the shows with this image. I would have to believe that the folklore of the Yosemite Indians must have had legends about such an extraordinary event.
During the 50s and 60s, in my youth, our family often camped in Yosemite, and of course we would enjoy the Glacier Point Firefall every evening --- but the "real" Firefall is even more awesome. Although I have seen the "Horsetail Falls Firefall", as many call it, on a couple of other occasions, it was not as truly unbelievable as it was during a magical two minutes in late February of 1978.
Carmel Valley, CA
Jul 30, 2003
Back in 1968, when my wife and I had heard it was to be the last summer for the Yosemite Firefall we decided to take our young daughter and son camping in Yosemite valley so they could see this beautiful sight. Our hope was that they could see it before it was gone forever. They were pretty young so I don't know how much they remember (they probably spent the whole time poking each other). But at least they can say they were there. I remember we were camping in Camp Curry and at night, about 8:30 - 9:00 o'clock we would hear the calling back and forth from the valley floor to the rim of the cliff near the fire. I recall the ranger on the valley floor yelling "Hello, glacier", and the Ranger on top would yell "Hello, Camp Curry". Sometimes there would be additional exchanges that reminded me of yodeling. Finally the Ranger in Camp Curry would yell "Let the fire fall". We would all then look up and see the embers begin to cascade over the rim and fall all the way to the valley floor. 3000 feet. Straight down. Exactly as depicted by the beautiful picture on this website.
Too bad they quit doing it. It was a great tradition.
My wife reminds me that my in-laws spent their honeymoon in Yosemite in 1931. When they were there, the Firefall had already been a 50+ year tradition. It lasted a total of 88 years. Thanks to "political correctness" it will never return.
Los Gatos, CA
Jul 29, 2003
Greetings. What a wonderful site and what wonderful memories this collection of comments has churned up in my nostalgic mind.
I, as many others have, camped nearly every summer in the 1950s and 1960s with my family in the Yosemite Valley, hiking the Mist trail up to Vernal Falls, off to Glacier Point, and once or twice up the back side of the Dome for the hardiest among us.
This valley and the surrounding backcountry is still, in my opinion, the most magical, awe-inspiring special place I have ever been to. There is so much natural majesty, that my travels to many of this country's most beautiful National Parks has been unsurpassed by Yosemite's pure elegance, jaw-dropping views, and spiritual history. It is such a shame that Yosemite has been recently so tainted by traffic congestion and urban style disrespect in general. I feel privileged to have experienced it in a better time, fresh, clean, and revered. Besides, where else in the world could there have been generated better bear stories than the 50's in the Yosemite Valley. "Let the Fire Fall!" Thanks again!
Jul 14, 2003
Thanks for the memory I shared with my mother sometime in the late forties. We shared a cabin at Camp Curry then and truly remember the beautiful Firefalls...
South San Francisco, CA
Jul 6, 2003
Henry Berrey was my grandfather and a great man. My father (Henry Berrey IV) tells me storys of the Firefall and how amazing it was. Also how he wished I had seen it but obviosly now that is not a possibility. All the people now living in Yosemite are truly blessed. Do not take it for granted, it is a beautiful place and my father did not realize that until it was gone. Everyone should appreciate it.
Henry Berry V
Jul 2, 2003
I was one of the lucky kids growing up in the 50s who spent 2 weeks each summer camping in Yosemite Valley with my family. Mainly we were at Camp 14, but sometimes we went up market and camped at Housekeeping Camp (which I believe was called Camp 16 in those days). I looked forward to the time when I would be old enough to work in the Valley, and actually spend the whole summer there.
Eventually the time came when I graduated from high school, and I spent three wonderful summers working for the old Yosemite Park & Curry Co. My first job, in 1959, was in the Curry Cafeteria. I recall one busy morning there when I made 110 gallons of coffee for breakfastsome people thought it was the best coffee they ever had, and others thought it was the absolute worst. The following summer, in 1960, my status improved, as did the tips, when I landed a job as waiter at the Curry Coffee Shop. There we developed the ability to balance on one hand large trays full of hamburgers, cokes, fries etc. A highlight of that summer was one hot afternoon while serving a table on the open air terrace I turned a bit too abruptly and a glass of ice water flipped off my tray and down the neck of a lady in a low cut sun dress. Fortunately for me she was either too stunned or too hot to ring my neck.
But the best summer of all was in 1962. That year I not only met my future wife (now of 39 years) who was working at The Lodge, but I was promoted to Bellman at Camp Curry where the tips were so good you could easily cover the next years fees and expenses at U.C. Berkeley and afford to keep the old 53 Olds running. An unexpected bonus of the position was that one Bellman on the evening shift could earn an extra $1.65 by volunteering to call the Firefall.
On several occasions that summer I increased my paycheck by climbing on top of a massive boulder near the top row of tent cabins just before 9 oclock. From there I could look up through the trees to Glacier Point to see the light signaling they were ready. At that time I would suck in a lot of air, cup my hands around my mouth, and bellow Heeellooo Glaaacciieeerrrr!!!! Then I would cup my ear to listen for the response, Heeellooo Caaammmppp Cuuurrryyy!!!! Finally, I would bellow Leeettt tthhee fiiiirrreee faaallllll!!!, and the response would come back The fiiirrreee faaalllsss!!! Usually everything went off like clockwork. But once in a while a wind would be blowing across the cliffs hundreds of feet up, and I wasnt really able to hear the response to my call. On the other hand, the wind often made for a really special firefall because it would fan the glowing embers out over the cliff face.
West Vancouver, Canada
Jun 29, 2003
This is a great project. Thanks. When my parents first brought me to Yosemite (1956), my reaction was "Someday I am going to live here!" That first night we stayed in the CC tents and when I saw the lights blink off and on, heard "Let the Fire Fall" followed by singing of the Indian Love Song -- I was smitten! We then spent the night at the old Glacier Point Hotel and enjoyed the burning of the red fir bark and preparation for the Fire Fall. What a magical experience!
When I started high school and through college every spare moment was in Yosemite, hiking, backpacking, just enjoying.....got to spend a few summers working as a VIP at PYHC, and had many wonderful conversations with Henry Berrey and others. This summer my wife and I, and a couple of friends won the lottery for the loop trail -- so, a love affair that began in the mid-50s continues today.
National Science Foundation
Jun 3, 2003
I want to thank everyone for ther nice words about a special place in my heart. So I wrote this poem for the ones who know the Firefall and the ones who don't.
Let The Fire Fall
I heard of this fire
that falls free to the ground
ambers so pretty making some sound
tall on the mountain top
for everyone to see
a river of fire can you believe
I want so bad to see it today
but told it was stopped along time ago
to many people were coming to see
wearing and tearing and ruining the park
only waiting to see the fire at dark
the damage was hard and rough on the land
That the park was begining to fall by our hand
falling from nature as it shouldn't be
so no more Firefall it must be
to save the park from all wear and tear
meadows flat and smoke everywhere
the park won't last at this speed
so stop the Firefall for all to see
this must happen for it must be
if you want the park for everyone to see
it's our job to save this place
and not let it go to any waste
but if you left it for me to call
I would say let the Firefall.
I wrote this from my heart so all see that yosemite is special and must stay that way for future famlies to see, yes the Firefall was God sent and only so many got to see, but now it's only going to be memories.
Jeff Evans (Maui)
May 14, 2003
In the spring of 1947, as a college student in Boston, MA, I hitchhiked cross country to San Francisco. From there I got to Yosemite and got a job in the cafeteria, working for Yosemite National Park and Curry Co., and living in a tent at Camp Curry. Every night, promptly at 9 p.m. came the voice singing 'Indian Love Call'. Then - 'Is the fire ready?' - 'Yes!' - then, 'Let the fire fall!' What a sight! It fell at least 800 feet to a ledge, in what seemed like a river of fire.
When I had free time I used to get a ride to the top of Glacier Point and helped pile the red cedar bark for the fire. It was a wonderful view of the valley - 7 miles long and a mile wide, with Half Dome at the far end. Matches were printed of Yosemite by the Curry Co., and Firefall was featured on the cover. I still have a pack!
Pocono Pines, PA
May 9, 2003
I was in Yosemite last weekend. It was raining and the waterfalls were engorged beyond belief. I took my new family of Angela 24, August 2, and Patience 6 months for the first time. We went to see my Cousins Jamie and Nadine, who go there every year. I have only been there twice. Jamie has four kids JC 16, Jack 14, Samantha 12, and Madison 10. I saw this amazingly magical painting on the wall inside the dining lodge over the front fireplace mantle at Camp Curry, just beyond the main door. It depicted a waterfall of deep red and purple flame coming down the what I guess is Vernal Falls. It was entitled, FireFall, and I was enchanted.
At first I thought, this was something that actually happened once, like during a forest fire, and the waterfall entrained the fiery froth down the falls. Then I thought it was just a fanciful notion of some artist type that had spent too much time on hallucinogenic drugs!
I asked Jamie about it. He is four years older than I am. At 49, he remembered the FireFalls very well from the early sixties. He told me they were real, I was incredulous! He said they used "timbers" and I imagined large burning trees being bull dozed over the edge. From my reading at this web site, that doesn't sound true. I guess they used bark and firewood. It must have made a mess though.
I was thinking, maybe, if there was an environmentally sound way to reinstate this tradition, then there couldn't be any objection to it from the strict environmenatlist NAZI's that have taken over the park.
I know of a material that is at the bottom of the ocean. It is frozen methanol hydrates.
You could light it and I believe it would look like burning embers but once it hit the bottom of the falls it would either be consumed completely by the flame or evaporate! No mess! No burning of precious bark and pine cones! So there should be no environmental objections.
I would like to start a national movement to bring the FireFall magic back to Yosemite. I want my children to know the wonder of the FireFall tradition. Let's make Fire from Ice, to bring back the FireFall!
Las Vegas, Nevada
May 8, 2003
We moved to San Fran from Va. in 1963 and the first thing I learned was of the majesty of Yosemite by a Sierra Club member (thanks, Byron). Being from Va and West Va we thought we had seen mountains! We loaded up the Oldsmobile convertible, totally unprepared for the wonder of the valley, Ahwahnee and the Firefall.
Over a few years we "imported" parents and friends to Calif...and always heading first to Yosemite, where one of my treasured recalls is climbing Sentinel Dome with dad to touch the tree! And making snowballs wearing shorts. And the disbelief of the waiter when I ordered a soft boiled egg at that altitude. Oh yes, and the bear casually eating behind our tent cabin one year--I tried to awaken my husband exclaiming, "A a--a-a BEAR!!" He said "Sure" and rolled over. Then he was suddenly standing saying "WHAT?"
The magic of the gathering at Camp Curry, the faces of small awed children and the refrain of the "Indian Love Call" are etched upon my mind indelibly. I, like others, ache to see another Firefall.
St Paul, MN
Apr 28, 2003
As a child, my parents and I looked forward to the Firefall each night in the spring and summer months. Doing away with this after 100 years is yet another example of political correctness.
warner j. mc intire
Apr 4, 2003
My mother had been an opera singer in new york in the '40's. She and my father met in central park and fell in love -- then raised a family in oakland, composed of my sister and myself.
Every year we would make our trek up into the mountains in our '48 studebaker, packed to the brim. We camped in Camp 12, as my mother and her family had for entire summers. We were able to camp for 3 weeks for a number of years and then 2 weeks, and down to one. We would pack up the car and move to another campground -- 14 or 15 to get our additional weeks in!
It was on two occasions that my mother was hired to sing the Indian Love Call at Camp Curry for the Firefall. What an emotional experience -- even for the young girl I was at the time.
Thank you for the opportunity to share. I would love to talk to others, first-hand, about their Yosemite experiences! I'm now 48 and will be getting married (my second marriage) in the chapel and receptionaing at the Awahnee -- truly a dream come true!
Mar 10, 2003
I practically grew up in Yosemite valley, as a child and thru my life until now, we would get out of school and pack up the VW and head to yosemite. We stayed in different sites but mostly camp 12 which is now Lower River Campground, by the stables. We would build a plastic fort around the trees and set up camp and off into the meadows.
My stories are from 1957 until now. We spent 3 months each summer and other weeks thru the year. I would like to write about everything I know but it would take some space and time. But I do know the Firefall well and many stories to go with this experience.
Just to bring back a fond memory which a lot of people will remember is Elmer the bear. If you know the history, then you remmember Elmer the bear. When waiting for the Firefall we would run around yelling EEEELLLLMMMMEERR, then wait for someone else to yell EEEEEELLLLLMMMMEEEERRR.
It was like yesterday that I was there, if you would like to know more or even talk about old times email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This web site is the best so far. If I'm off on the campground number forgive me.
Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
Feb 28, 2003
I inherited a large photograph collection from my aunt. I found a metal slide box that contains slides dated 1952 that were made by my late uncle who lived in California. There are two Yosemite Firefall photos. I was just amazed when I saw them, as I was not familiar with the Firefall. The slides are in great shape and have retained their color. There was a full moon and the nearby mountains are visible. I also found a Yosemite guidebook that belonged to my uncle and has info on the Firefall. Thank you for your website, it's great :-)
Jan 27, 2003
I was touched and astonished that so many of the comments contributed by others reflected my exact sentiments and any of them could have been written by me!
As a young girl, I spent many vacations camping in Yosemite with my family in the 1950s and a few more with my own young family well into the 1980s. There was indeed something magical and wonderful about those Yosemite Valley nights.
I remember when my greatest goal in life was to return when I was old enough to work and live in Camp Curry. Unfortunately, that never happened but I can still call up that flutter in my chest just thinking about what a wonderful thing that would have been.
Thank you for affording those of us with dreams and memories of Yosemite Nights a place to express ourselves and let the "fire fall" a little longer just one more time.
Lake Oswego, OR
Jan 20, 2003
I stumbled onto your site and read most of the letters that have been sent to you! And some names ring bells.
I was born in the park in 1941. My brother was 4 years behind me! I can remember the park so well. Dad worked for Curry at the bus garage so we got to go up for the day and walk around and go to the movies. I also worked there for the park service for 30 years on the road dept. So I was lucky I got to se a lot of changes! Plus I lived there for 10 years right by the cemetery. Some good some bad.
I heard the Firefall was stopped because the folks were stomping the meadows down killing the grass and the traffic jam each night! I also feel like it is a loss but can see why! No matter what they do its still HOME to me and I love to just look! It's the best place to go and get with the spirit of Yosemite!!!
Jan 19, 2003
I just read your history of the Yosemite Firefall and it brought back so many memories. I showed the picture you have of it to my son and he had no idea what it was, which struck me as odd.
I remember summer nights and the firefall as a young teenager and how awesome it was, but it had just never occurred to me that my kids hadn't seen that in their visits to Yosemite.
It may have been a man made spectacle, but it was as beautiful as if someone was pushing the water over the top... No matter how it got there, it was a site to see as it came down.
Jan 10, 2003
Thank you for your wonderful website about the Firefall. It brought back some very special memories for me. When my dad, Tony Sordelet, passed away recently, I shared one of those special memories of Yosemite at his memorial service.
"As many of you know, I love to travel. What you may not know is that I inherited my love of travel from my Dad. In the 1950s and early 60s, we would pack up the car every year and hit the road for one of those classic 'are we there yet, dad' American family vacations. A favorite destination was Yosemite. This was a Yosemite before the crowds descended, a Yosemite where you could pick wild crab apples from the trees below Glacier Point while watching the Firefall and then walk back to your $6-a-night Curry Village tent cabin by flashlight."
My husband and I will be visiting Yosemite again this May to remember dad on what would have been his 82nd birthday. I just wish I could do that while watching the Firefall one last time.
Dec 31, 2002
I was telling one of my co-workers about the Firefall, and on a lark we did a search and came up with this great site. What memories this brings back to me!
I am 52, born and raised in Southern California and went to the park for many years during the 60's. My best memories are hanging around on the bridges, playing guitar, and listening to Wolfman Jack for the first time.
Thanks for posting some great pictures, one of which is now my desktop on my computer. I was there in the summer of 67 on a night when it was estimated that over 100,000 people were in the valley. Don't know if that is true or not, but it sure seemed it at the time! Thanks for the memories. Gary Horn, Hendersonville, TN
Oct 19, 2002
Just got back from yet another trip to Yosemite. Strangely, on this trip I purchased a Firefall postcard as a reminder and the subject came up several times in our tour group. Then I found your site and had to contribute.
In the late 1940s my parents would take the July 4th holiday (no paid vacation then) and we would come to Yosemite. This was pre-teens for me. While I don't recall much of the trips I do recall the Firefall; both from the bottom looking up and the top looking down.
Indeed, my mother tells me that on four different times the Ranger at the top let me light the Firefall. I'm delighted that I was able to contribute directly to the history of this fine event.
As I sat in the patio of my room at the Yosemite Lodge this last trip I was able to look up directly at Glacier Point where the fire fell. Could almost see it again.
Best on your site.
Santa Maria, CA
Oct 4, 2002
Thanks for a very interesting website. My family camped many years in Yosemite and I too was born in 1954.
I vividly remember the Firefall. I had the chance to see the Firefall at almost eye level when we did the 6-day mule trip to the back country, high sierra camps (May Lake, Glen Aulin, Tuolumne, Sunrise and Merced). We viewed the Firefall from about 10 miles away.
I had thought that trip was in Aug 1968 but your site quotes the firefall ending in Jan of 1968. No matter, it was still an unusual way to view the firefall.
Boca Raton, Florida
Sep 19, 2002
Having recently acquired a PC as a means of communicating with my far travelled expatriate Scottish family I was Surfing a few weeks ago and came upon your interesting article. My wife and I were in Yosemite and Sequoia last Fall and as I'd heard of the Firefall but was a few years out of sync to see the spectacle!
This was to bring me back a memory of 1940 when at school in war-time Scotland. A mobile cinema unit visited our village (we did'nt have electricity in those days) and one outstanding memory was of a colored Travelouge and so we say farewell etc. -- of Yosemite and the spectacle. But I never forgot it and was entranced by your photographs even though I waited almost 50 years to visit the real thing.
Most entertaining! Every success to you from my beautiful part of Scotland's Scenery.
Glamis by Forfar, Angus
Sep 19, 2002
There was a row of houses bordering the meadow in the valley that housed Curry employees. The Bevington's and Joice's were good family friends since my folks lived there in 1948 and 1949, so we spent some wonderful times watching the Firefall from their front lawns.
No matter how young or old, I'll never forget how awestruck everyone was when you heard those famous words, "Let the fire fall!"
Any one else out there born in Yosemite?
Aug 25, 2002
Our family went to Yosemite for 2 weeks every Summer of our childhood. We camped in Wawona, but went to the Valley to watch the Firefall until it ended, sadly. It was the Highlight of our vacation.
Everything about Yosemite is magical, but the Firefall was surreal. We would watch the floor show and when they started singing the Indian Love Song, while the fire was falling, I still remember well. My mom would always sing it to us and we had to listen to my brother walk around for weeks later, when he was little, mimicking the guys who yelled "Let-the-Fire-Fall"!!!!!
When I saw the special on KCET, I called my mom and dad and told them to turn it to that channel. Of course, my mom called back in tears.
Aug 13, 2002
I saw the Firefall every summer for several years.
One time was in 1962 I think. We camped in the park for a week. There were bears in some camps. We went fishing. We waited for hours to see president Kennedy as he visited the park. My sister taught me to put raisins on my peanut butter sandwich ........ and the highlight of every day was the Firefall spectacular.
People would drive and walk from all over the valley to set up chairs or snuggle together in blankets in the valley below and watch the event. I can understand the damage all the people must have caused.
I'd sure love to see it just once more.
Kevin S. McCartney
Jul 27, 2002
I am so excited to find this site.
I spent much of my childhood in Yosemite in the late 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. We always stayed in Camp 14. I made so many wonderful friends, but have lost touch. My name then was Patsy Groves.
Tubing down the Merced time after time and diving off of Stoneman Bridge and watching the Firefall with my friends was something to look forward to all year.
We recently returned to Yosemite for a family reunion. I couldn't wait to shout "ELMER" at dusk. I did, and sadly, there was no response!
I have tried to tell friends about lying in my cot at night listening to calls for "Elmer" echoing around the valley, smelling the musky camp fire smoke (still love that), watching the stars through the tall, tall trees and listening to the rush of the Merced River, so close by.
First thing each morning, all the new friends would gather for a day of tubing down the Merced and jumping off of Stoneman Bridge (illegal then and now).
The descriptions of the Firefall by other contributors were perfect. It would be difficult to think of anything to add. I just remember wishing it would last longer. I dreaded the end, I loved it so.
I would love to hear from anyone who also wants to share Yosemite memories.
Estes Park, CO
May 29, 2002
My memories of the firefall, as well as the valley where I was born and raised, are still very vivid. It was a part of my life that will live forever.
I happened on this site by accident and was pleased to see the name of an old aquaintance in the reader contribution section. Nancy Moe Eckart, then just Nancy Moe.
I remember sitting on the benches and just watching in amazement as the fire fell to the valley below. I often wish I were still there.
May 15, 2002
[Editor] Hi Kris. My name is Enjay Sea (pronounced On-Jay See :). Thanks for your comments, and good luck with your research.
San Jose, CA
May 15, 2002
Actually, I'm doing research on Yosemite and the National Parks and was hoping I could get your name to include with the web address in my bibliography.
Thanks for the great stories, I was just doing research and found this great treasure. Thanks again!
May 12, 2002
Hi, It's Evelyn Sichi again. In response to a contributor's question about the Glacier Point Hotel, the sad answer is that the hotel burned to the ground some years ago.
My husband and I went there on our honeymoon 40 years ago and were also shocked when we first returned to Glacier Point and found it gone.
If you want more information, try to find a copy of "Yosemite's Innkeepers" (revised in 2000) by Yosemite historian, Shirley Sargent. One of my "Yosemite Dreamin'" webpages features books by Shirley which are carried by Amazon. This book is listed there. The URL for this page is:
From there you can link directly to Amazon. They actually feature pages taken from the book, including a full index. You may also find it at other actual or online booksellers or perhaps at (or through) your local library.
If you love all things Yosemite, I know you'll love the book. You'll also find out all kinds of things about other past Yosemite hotels. By the way, she's written many other great books about Yosemite. I've been lucky enough to have met her and she's a wonderful person.
Corpus Christi, TX
April 23, 2002
I am looking for a print of the Firefall. Is Judy Simpson's photo on the home page available in print? Or are there others available and where? Thanks very much.
April 22, 2002
Thanks for the site (and memories of the sights!)
From 1959 to 1967, I saw the Firefall many times. It was pure magic and has had a resounding influence on my love of Yosemite.
My family would camp in the Valley for two weeks every summer (moving after a week) and the Firefall was the grand culmination of every day. When older, my brother and I were allowed to leave the usual viewing area (meadow between Camp Curry and Camp 14) and see it from a variety of vantage points alone. I think my favorite was from Sugar Pine Bridge.
In the morning when I would first wake up, I would rub my eyes and look first to Glacier Point in warm fondness, and think "Yes, it happened!"
An altogether magical experience was to be at Glacier Point. The musical tinkling sound as the red fir embers cascaded away is still with me.
I have been using red fir bark for firewood ever since (tip: good for bar-b-que.)
Like the waterfalls, the wind could blow wisps of red "comets" to and fro as the fire fell.
The evenings when it was too windy or rainy and the Firefall was cancelled was like "a day without sunshine."
Thanks for the memories.
P.S. My Dad also has Stereo Realist slides of the firefall.
P.P.S.S. Thanks for the info on the origins of Elmer.
February 21, 2002
Hi, I've written before to tell how much my husband and I loved the Firefall. It led to a story about it. There is a new URL for the story, "Let the Fire Fall", which I've listed and which links to a poem which says a lot about the Firefall.
The story and poem are linked from our creative writing website, "Yosemite Dreamin'" Drop by and visit us. It's a place to share your ideas about Yosemite.
Thanks for listening.
Corpus Christi, TX
February 20, 2002
I am 52 now. Every summer my family would go to Yosemite or Bass Lake. A bear came into our campsite one night and ripped our aluminum icebox open and was having a snack when my dad shoed him away. He had brought a wooden spoon and iron skillet into the tent each night just for that purpose.
Our family could barely get all our stuff in our yellow Nash Rambler station wagon. It was fun to go upvalley to the dump site and watch the bears munch on stuff after our dinner time.
In camp at dinner time someone would always start yelling "Elmer, Elmer, Come to Dinner." I know other people remember that because at the Seattle Mariners games whenever Edgar Martinez (the Mariner designate hitter) comes to bat they always yell/sing "Edgar" in the same way and to the same tune as the Yosemite "Elmer."
Now about the Firefall. We would walk to Camp Curry after our dinner and sit on wooden tree sections, or "rounds." These rounds were maybe 3 or so feet in diameter and about one or one and a half feet thick (tall). We would watch the ranger-led slide show. He had a small stage thing and would either show slides or just talk about things.
At dusk or just a little after, we would all stand up and walk around 180 degrees to the other side of our "round" and sit back down, now facing Glacier Point. The Ranger would yell "Are you ready, Glacier Point?" then someone up there would yell "we are ready Curry Village" then the guy down here would yell "Let the fire fall!" and then the guy up there would yell, slowly, "The fire falls" and then down it would come.
It was magnificent. I saw those rounds were still there, when I was last in the Park about 10 years ago. It felt good to write this. Thanks.
January 12, 2002
I have been trying to do some research on some of the places in California's past. I found information on Sutro's baths in San Francisco, and was very pleased to find this site. However, I can't seem to find any reference to the Glacier Point Hotel.
This was one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. It had a broad entry to a lobby built with what seemed to me to be massive timbers and across the lobby was the breathtaking view over the mountains.
I went up there one weekend when I was in college at Fresno State, (this was about 1956 or 1957, in the spring). The school employment agency called our dorm and said they needed a few students to work on a 3 day weekend in Yosemite. Several of us volunteered. My group was sent to Glacier Point. It was one of the most beautiul memories of my life. We slept in small rooms under the main lobby, if I remember rightly. I don't remember seeing the falls; I think I was working in the coffee shop at that time. Everyone who worked there told tales about the important people who came there. Kings, prime ministers, presidents, etc.
I was living out of the country for some years and never did hear what happened to the hotel. About 10 years ago, I wanted to show the hotel to some friends from Europe, but it was no longer there. It was a shock. I would really appreciate a lead or some reference to the history of the hotel. Or, if someone remembers it; could you tell me what happened to it?
I have been feeling as if I am in a time warp and am only imagining the whole thing. (But, I did find a cupboard handle in a pile of dirt, under the site of the hotel which looked like something I remember from there.)
Please let me know if any of you remember it.
January 9, 2002
It is so nice to hear of others' memories about the firefall and growing up under the cliffs of Yosemite. I started going to Yosemite before I can even remember. My parents spent their honeymoon in a Camp Curry cabin. We would spend several weeks every summer in the valley and we always camped in Camp 14. I love it when people remember the numbers of the camps back then!
From the meadow, you had a pretty good view of the firefall, but not nearly as good as on one of the tree stumps in the Camp Curry amphitheater. We always tried to get the biggest stump first and reserved it with a cozy blanket that our mom wrapped us up in as the end of the program neared. The only part of the program that I really remember is, of course, the calling for the fire fall and the Indian Love Song. But does anyone out there remember the fellow who we referred to as the "green cowboy"? He had a bright green cowboy suit and carried a guitar, singing cowboy songs. He was a regular entertainer at the camp program.
Anyway, I think that the firefall created memories for us that are similar to those we still get nostalgic about when we go to Disneyland. Our children need more of the mysterious and magic in their lives. I take my children to Yosemite every summer now and it is wonderful even without the firefall, but I still sit with them around our campfire at night and tell them the stories of back then and hope that they will get a sense of how magical it was.
November 24, 2001
I saw the last Firefall on Jan 28, 1968. I was almost 19. Having worked on the high circuit for, ummmm...several summers in the late '60's, I cannot explain the loss I feel to anybody that was not there. The Firefall was almost a religious experience. Heck, it was. If there was a way to do one last one, even in the safe time of winter, no fire hazard and few tourists, I will be one of the first to financially sponsor a Firefall. I won't be on Glacier Point to push because I want to be in Camp Curry to watch! You can be assured all my kids and grand kids will be there to see one of the most beautiful events I have ever seen in my life.
Thank you for a beautiful reminder of how our valley used to be.
Ukiah, California, USA!!
November 1, 2001
I was born in 1960 and as a child we'd often go to Yosemite. My mother had often been asked/volunteered to sing the Indian Love Song during the "preps" of the Firefall. It is one of my deepest, fondest memories of the park, and regardless of the people (then and now) that downplay it as "commercialism or hype", I say as a child that I was mesmerised by it, for years, and STILL flash back on how wonderous it was.
Mountain View, California
October 13, 2001
My brother and I spent our summers growing up in Yosemite Valley as did our mother. Our grandfather was a country doctor from Oakland who traveled to The Valley every summer with his family. He became the doctor to the Indians in the valley during the summers. The Indians would construct a teepee for their family in Camp 14 on the site where the river and the meadow meet and the family would stay there year after year, all summer long.
Our mother's memoirs are collected in a beautiful book written by Shirley Sargeant, Enchanted Childhoods. My brother and I grew up in that amazing valley and always camped in Camp 14, as close to the teepee site as possible. The most magical experience was The Firefall. We have some beautiful memories and pictures taken of that spectacular event. I will never forget "The Indian Lovecall" and the guest vocalist who sang it each night at the Camp Curry Program. The calls to Glacier Point and Camp Curry brought chills and goosebumps....every night! .....I only wish my own children could have experienced it.
PS....Our mother always told us that "Elmer" was an elderly man who sold fruits and vegetables out of a cart, pulled by a donkey. Each evening before supper time Elmer would come through the camp selling his fruits and vegetables. Then one night Elmer did not come...... and campers began calling his name. For years and years, campers called for Elmer each evening before dinner. I hope they still do. Thank you for this website!
Sharon Mole Saladin
Walnut Creek, California
September 8, 2001
I remember the Firefall. Almost every year, beginning in the late '50's, my parents, or just my mother, would pack my brother and myself to Yosemite for 4 or 5 days. The highlight of the trip would always be the Firefall. Exquisite and haunting, the event always stayed with me - the flashing of the lights, the hail to Glacier Point and those magical words: "Let the fire fall." and "The fire is falling."
I understand the logic behind the decision to end the Firefall, but I do miss it. It is a sweet and enduring memory.
September 7, 2001
I recently revisited Yosemite and was doing a search on websites when I came across this website on the Firefall of long ago. I remember the Firefall many years ago when as a child our family used to come to Yosemite to camp every summer. I remembered some things about it, and this website helped rejuvenate all the things I had forgotten. Thanks for putting this together.
On a sidenote: Is there a history about "Elmer" the bear that anyone knows about? I rememember that as well, just wondering how it all started. Thanks again.
August 1, 2001
I recall the beautiful wonder of the "FireFall" as a very small child. It was like fireworks on the 4th of July in it's excitement but only more grandeur! I saw it only once, maybe twice! And, the next time at Yosemite it was no more =(
I was sad when they ended it! I don't know what year that was? My siblings were there the year they discontinued it (approx.). I am sure some of my cousins have likely seen it back in the '60's also.
I sure wish they'd resume the "Firefalls" again for future families and ones today! It's great to see others remember the "Firefall" also!
Russ D. (PARR) Merryman
Long Beach & San Jose, CA
July 30, 2001
Hello to my favorite website - I've written before sharing family memories of the beloved Firefall and and telling of our website: Yosemite Dreamin'. I just wanted to show an address change for that website and remark that we've added a new poem about the Firefall. I hope you get a chance to read it. I also linked to the previous contributor's poem about the Firefall and enjoyed it. Keep up the good work. Thanks again.
July 9, 2001
I went to boarding school with Anne Adams, daughter of Ansel Adams. Their home was in Yosemite Valley behind Best Studios. I went up to visit during the summers of '51 and '52. What a magical time it was. Every night I was there we would watch the Firefall. Being young and a little boy crazy, I would always enjoy the dances at Camp Curry, but something wonderful and magical would happen to me during the Firefalls.
It was a marvelous thing to watch...it was magical. Generally at the beginning of the Firefall people would ooh and ahh, but when it ended there would pretty much be silence. It wasn't like the things we watch today...fancy shows and Las Vegas entertainment. It was personal and it touched the very soul of those who watched. I really feel sorry for those who never saw it and who will never have the opportunity to see and experience it. The powers that be had to do what they had to do, but a piece of magic has been removed from our lives forever.
Walnut Creek, CA
July 8, 2001
I stumbled upon your website the other day and it brought back memories from my childhood. I was born in Yosemite. I lived there for six years. They were definitely etched into my mind. I was curious about why the Firefall was stopped so I asked my father who became the District Ranger in the Valley in 1968 just after the decision to stop them. Here is what he wrote to me:
Once again Yosemite is facing the same problem with too many cars in the Valley to see the Valley. The National Park Service is trying to cut down on the number of cars but we lazy Americans don't want to give up our cars. History will repeat itself if we don't learn.
"The Firefall decision was made in the fall and/or winter of 1967. The last firefall was in Feb of 1968 and I went to the Yosemite Valley as DR in May of ?68. I was really not part of the decisions but got my share of questions - why? The problem was twofold: One the parking problem at Firefall time was so bad around Ahwanee Meadow it took up to three hours to get the cars unscrambled each night when the fall was over.
Two, the other problem was fuel. The only and best fuel was red fir bark. The company with service approval over the years had stripped every dead red fir tree along the Glacier Pt Road of its bark 20 to 30 feet up the tree for a distance a 100 yds or so off the road. Quite simply without some significant road building into unimpacted areas the company was out of fuel.
Interestingly enough even though the company mildly protested the decision I am sure they were glad to stop it. It was a costly proposition. Even though there were a lot of visitor questions there were really not all that many protests."
June 29, 2001
In short, my love affair with Yosemite started when I was very young and one of my earliest memories are the Firefalls. My grandmother had a little place in Wawona, so my parents and I spent a lot of time in Yosemite. My father loved camping in the Valley so I was able to watch the Firefall on a regular basis. As I recall, we used to watch the bears at the dump then turn to watch the Firefall so I got a double shot of excitement every time.
Since that time I've grown to love the trails of the Yosemite wilderness and the excitement of standing atop the Half Dome and now find my self (just like my parents used to do) in Yosemite at least once a month. Usually more. Almost every time I go, I look up at the point and in my mind and heart I can still see the Firefalls and sometimes even feel the excitement.
I also dabble in poetry and one of my earliest poems is called "Let The Fire Fall" (now with a link back to this web site). Thank you for, once again, allowing me to relive that wonderful memory of the Firefalls.
June 8, 2001
I am drying the tears from my eyes as I type this. The beauty of the stories I have read here, have touched me deeply. I am inspired to add a couple of my own recollections as well.
I was born in Modesto in 1958. My family camped in the valley many times every summer. The Firefall is still so indelibly etched in my mind that I can still smell the pines and hear the chants and sounds in the air. I know I was not more than 3 or 4 years old when I realized how very special and inspiring the Firefall was to me. Though I saw it many times, goose bumps on my arms, I would still hold my breath when the calls came out; the responses were heard; and the ashes would fall. There are no words that can describe the feelings I experienced every single time I saw it. The beauty of it was overwhelming.
I have been married for 20 years now and although I have tried my very hardest to express the experience to my husband, I can never seem to put the memory adequately to words.
On a trip I made back to the Valley a few years ago, I was in the gift shop and I found a shirt which had a beautiful depiction of the firefall on it and it was not until that moment that I realized the Firefall had been silenced for 30 years! I knew I was fairly young when they ceased but I had never realized I was only 9 years old when they ended. To have such brilliant and vivid memories of something you experienced so young in life is a treasure I will have forever.
I so clearly remember sitting on my grandfathers or my fathers lap, waiting for the beautiful fire to come cascading over the mountaintop. I unfortunately lost my grandparents not long after the Firefall ended -- and somehow tied up in my memories of them -- I can still see the campground and feel the wonder I experienced and shared with them at that very special moment in time.
Yosemite remains one of the most special places for me in the world and I go back whenever I can get a chance. In the quiet time between sunset and darkness, if I close my eyes and concentrate real hard, I can hear those voices, see the cascading fire and bring back some of the most extraordinary memories of my life.
The most wonderful thing about this web site, is that there is somewhere we can all go to relive and remember something that touched so very many of our lives. I am touched and inspired by the effort you have put forth to bring this sight to life so we can all share a little small corner of our lives with others. Thank you!
May 14, 2001
I was five years old when I first remember the Firefalls. The year was 1954. My grandparents would camp in Camp 12 for a month then go to Bass Lake and camp for a month. They had done this for 12 years. This year my parents brought me and my 3 year old brother, Craig, for the first time.
I can only remember one thing from that trip. I remember our parents let us watch the Firefall from the cots in our grandparent's tent and then it was bed time. It was better than Disneyland, better than Knotts Berry Farm, better than anything I had ever seen.
Now at 51, it remains one of my most fond memories. You see, we continued to go camping in Camp 12 every year since I was 5 that year. I have been married for 23 years. I proposed to my wife under the Firefall area. We had our engagement dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room and we have camped every year married and now with three children. We have tried to preserve our memories with our children, with great challenge over the intentions of the National Park Service.
We campers, along with our memories, are an endangered species of Yosemite. Children's imaginations are for life, if we can only live them for just a little while.
God has blessed us with a great deal of Yosemite Memories that have enriched our lives.
Brian H. Ouzounian
Santa Monica, California
May 13, 2001
I grew up in Yosemite valley, so the Firefall was very much a part of my childhood every single night. In the earlier years, my bedtime was so doggoned early that I watched the spectacle out my bedroom window while lying in bed. Now THAT is luxury!
My first date with my future husband (also a Yosemite resident) was an evening spent at Glacier Point, watching the huge pile of glowing embers being pushed over the edge of the cliff. It must have been a magical night, as we are still married 40 years later!
Nancy Moe Eckart
April 29, 2001
Thanks for the memory! I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, and remember the Firefall, even though I only got to see it once. The ranger would start out calling "Hello Glacier" two or three times, and then "Let the fire fall!"
At the time, there were other tourist activities in the park, but I can only remember two of them: rafting in trains and watching bears feed at the dump. The rafting looked like fun! Kids would create chains of air mattresses, with each kid holding onto the foot of the person in front, and float down the Merced River, in the valley. Watching the bears feed at the dump was even weirder, as there were grand stands set up so park visitors could all watch the bears scavenge for food in the park dumpsters!
Anyway, somewhere around the mid 60s, the park service embarked on a "back to nature" program, so the tourist trap things were done away with. I do remember, on the same trip where we saw the Firefall, we went up to Glacier Point during the day to see the spot where they pushed the bonfire off the cliff. That day, there was a man with about 50 of the balsa wood gliders that sold for a dime, back then. He was throwing them off Glacier Point, and observing the flight. I remember watching one for 5 minutes until we couldn't see it. I don't think they'd let people do that anymore either.
San Francisco, California
April 3, 2001
I just turned 49. I don't remember the name of our campsite, or the river we camped by. But I do remember several trips to Yosemite with my family, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Every night just before 9 we would walk out to the riverbank and wait excitedly for the great Firefall. The cool air, the sound of the river, the night sounds, the hiss of the gas lanterns, all added to the total effect of camping in this great park. I remember all the ooohs and aahhhs from all the campers gathered at the rivers edge as the fire fell in long streams with sudden bursts of larger amounts of coals and embers.
I seem to remember that in the daytime water would fall down the same place the fire appeared to fall the night before. I don't know if this is true, but it is a great memory, even if it is flawed. I always wanted to go ot the top to see the mysterious mechanism, or to the bottom to see where the ashes fell. Were there a dozen men flinging coals off with shovels? Was it a big tractor pushing large piles of burning wood? It was probably something much simpler. I never found out, but am glad I didn't. Just like I am glad I haven't figured out how a magician does his tricks. Once you know the secret of the magic, it isn't magic anymore.
Thank you Yosemite, for filling my young heart with magic and excitment. Few images stir my heart with remembrances of happy times past. I still have my Firefall postcard. And I always will.
April 3, 2001
Thanks so much for your site!
My CD of vintage Yosemite music includes Gilbert Wilson's "The Firefall Song" and many others related to the Firefall. Hear excerpts at http://www.YosemiteMusic.com.
I would love to hear from any relatives of Yosemite songwriters. These Firefall stories are priceless gems!
March 30, 2001
I am in the process of transcribing my 89-year-old cousin's memoirs, in which she mentions the Yosemite firefall. I witnessed many Firefalls as a child growing up in California, so know firsthand what they were like, but I decided to see if anything was available on the Web to describe them as a part of my cousin's memoirs.
I was moved to read your account, as I, too, remember so well the exquisite beauty of a Firefall. What I didn't see in the account is any mention of the sound of a firefall. Only once did my family and I go up to Glacier Point for the Firefall, but I still remember the sound so well. It was like a million tiny bells all ringing gently together as the embers fell. It was absolutely incredible.
Thank you so much for preparing this site. I am definitely going to tell my family about it.
Port Townsend, Washington
March 6, 2001
My great-grandfather, Gilbert Haven Wilson, was a music professor at the Claremont Colleges in San Bernardino. He died in October, 1963. His obituary noted, "He was the composer of Long Live America and The Firefall Song and sang the latter composition for the first time at Camp Curry, Yosemite."
Our family does not have a copy of the song, but we would like to find one.
February 28, 2001
Very interesting site. Just a note. A picture similar to that on your front page is found on the cover of Life Oct 19, 1962 Special Issue.
December 4, 2000
Just FYI: the Firefall is shown in the movie "The Caine Mutiny." Very nice website!
November 30, 2000
Almost every year, as a child, our family of 5 would pack up our car, we 3 children sleeping in the back seat with the floor space packed even with the back seat so that we could ride with our heads touching the back of the front seat and our legs up over the rear of the back seat - and sleep that way as our parents drove through the night so we would arrive at Yosemite, Camp 14, in time to set up camp and get settled in before time to head out for the day.
But before dark we were sure to have all our camp in order so we could walk through the meadow at dusk, see the deer, cross the road, and then go over to Camp Curry in time to sit for the "program", wait for the calls back and forth to the top of Glacier Point and Camp Curry, and then listen to the beautiful female voice sing "Indian Love Call" as the fire was pushed over the top of Glacier Point in a glowing fall of fire.
Or sometimes we would just stop at the road, sit down and wait for the fire to fall, turn and walk back through the meadow to our campsite. Every night, it was a real treat, and was never missed. It was the highlight of every day, and put a warm close to every lovely hour spent at Yosemite when it's campsites were known by numbers and not names, and when camping in Yosemite was like real camping, not waiting in line for a camp spot, or waiting for a whole year for a reserved space, then climbing onto a tourist bus with a hundred other campers.
Camp 14 was "our" campsite. We never camped anywhere but there. Many a year we would cool our watermelons in the ice cold river water running by the campsite and never worry that they would be stolen. I remember the garbage cans being rummaged by bears every night. No one really feared them. And "E-l-l-l-m-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r" the bear that everyone always called at dusk as a tradition. And the stars - oh, the stars!
I remember when they stopped having the Firefalls because it was causing too big a tourist draw to Yosemite - the fear of the destruction of the valley. I felt that part of my childhood was taken away from me. This Yosemite Camp 14 and the Fire Falls which were so much a part of my life were being taken away because of the destruction people cause. I felt one of my homes was being taken away from me - and my summer nighttime lullaby - The Indian Love Call and those unforgettable Firefalls.
I hope there is at least some movie film of it - in color. I cannot tell you how many post cards I bought with the Firefalls on it back then. Oh - if only I had one today, I'd scan it into my PC and make it my wallpaper - forever!
July 16, 2000
I graduated from Stanford in 1961 and spent that summer working as the Desk Clerk at the Hotel at Glacier Point. My buddy from U.C. Berkeley was the Bell Hop. He built the fire every afternoon and pushed off the firefall every night.
One day he told me I had better come out one night and push off the firefall because one day it would be no more "and you call tell your grandkids you did it!" So I did, but I never dreamed the firefall would one day be just a memory.
His words were so prophetic and so sad!
Newport Beach, California
May 30, 2000
I just wanted to thank you for this site. Just wanted to share my website with you. I did a piece of artwork, that got named by a friend of mine "firefall" after the Yosemite event!
It's a water fountain on fire, but not nearly so grand. :) I find the mix of water and fire to be deeply moving, and can't imagine what the "real" one much have been like! Thanx for sharing it with those of us who never got to see it ourselves!
San Francisco, California
Jan 17, 2000
What a wonder to stumble upon your website while surfing the net for Yosemite photos. I have told the almost mystical stories of watching the firefall to my children many times. Having visited the Valley hundreds of times since I was born (in 1945), any reminiscing almost always tugs at the heartstrings.
Do you know that, in 1968, when they stopped the firefall, I wrote to the Dept. of the Interior offering to pay for one so my wife could see it. Of course, you can guess what the response was.
Do you suppose there are enough people around today who would want to see it again? I'd be willing to ramrod a drive to start it up, let's say, once or twice a month during the summer (unannounced, to keep the crowds down). Any takers?
To say that I am a Yosemite buff is definitely an understatement. I have written a novel and a screenplay about the Indians living in the Valley just before it was "discovered" by the Whites in the early 1850's. The lead character is, of course, Tenaya. And sadly, no, I haven't found a publisher or production company willing to take it on, though the writing is good (if I may toot my own horn). As any unpublished writers already know, it's nearly impossible to get stuff out to the public these days, but I'm still pitching.
Thanks for "appearing" out of the blue, and I hope to hear from all who even just want to yak about the good old days in Yosemite. Please feel free to publish my e-mail address. [email@example.com]
Scotts Valley, California
Dec 21, 1999
My mother remembers the Firefall. Will there ever be another, maybe for charity?
Thank you for this history page.
Dec 11, 1999
What a wonderful surprise to find this excellent story of the Glacier Point Firefall. I remember so vividly walking from Camp 12 across the meadow into Camp Curry, sitting on wood benches under the pines to enjoy family nightly entertaiment with singers, dancers, accordian players and comedians. The highlight of the evening just before returning to our camp would be standing quietly looking upward to Glacier Point.
First the Curry stage lights would be turned off and on to signal Glacier Point and a voice from the stage without microphones would yell "Hello, Glacier Point" and listening very carefully we would hear high up above us "Hello Camp Curry" and then the command was given to "Let the fire fall" with a return response of "The fire falls." And down the craggy cliffs started a symphony accompanied by the "Indian Love Call" that I shall never forget.
After a few minutes the "falls" tapered off to just a few embers leaving us all in a quiet reverence yet with a joy that we had just witnessed a very special celebration in Yosemite. I wish my children and grandchildren could have experienced this with me. Thank you again for helping to refresh this memory for me.
Sep 5, 1999
After reading the colorful descriptions and beautiful words spoken and written about the nights gone by in years passed when the "Firefalls" fell in Yosemite Valley, I feel a very close and real connection to the miracle of the "Firefall". It is more real to me than anything I can physically reach out and touch this very moment.
I can, through the willingness of those who have cared to share, feel the uplifting grace and power that swept everyone off their feet as they watched the cooling embers slide down the cliff of Glacier Point!
My family and I have been coming to celebrate life for awhile in Yosemite Valley on my Birthday for the last fourteen years since we first found Yosemite after we moved to California. I have found Yosemite to be my Heaven on earth!
Recently, on June 1, 1999, we attended the 100 year anniversary celebration of Camp Curry where in the evening the Firefall calls and love song were reenacted. I could no more hold back my tears then as now as I have just been through your web site dedicated to the Firefall. Thank you all for making the Firefall live in me...
Aug 8, 1999
I just got off the phone with a friend from back east. I was attempting to tell him about the Firefall...and my memories of a childhood camping with my family at Yosemite. My words absolutely failed to express what it felt like.
I decided to get on the computer and see if I typed in 'firefall', what I would find.
When I found this web site tears came to my eyes! Bless your heart for beginning such a wonderful project! This is so wonderful. Reading the sweet recollections of now grown children who were, as I was, fortunate enough to witness it!
One year we watched it from Camp Curry and the next from Glacier Point. I remember having to leave early to get to Glacier Point, probably to get a parking place?!
I would second the recommendation of buying the tape from "California's Gold" in which Huell Howser interviews people who saw it for years and years. Made me cry. I think if we try to analyze why witnessing the Firefall was so special, we'll lose it...it just was, and I feel blessed that my parents felt strongly enough about camping that Yosemite in the summer was a tradition! So much so, that I don't want to go back in the summer now, I want to keep my memories of it pristine. I would like to go back in the winter....thank you again for this wonderful site!!!!
San Diego, California
Jul 29, 1999
When my father, Forrest Michaelis, was 17 years old, during the summer of 1937, he was employed by Yosemite Park and Camp Curry Company to build and push the Firefall off Glacier Point. He would go out in the afternoons and collect the wood, take it to Glacier Point where he built the fire himself, called down to Camp Curry where the evening program MC would call back up to him and pushed the red-orange coals over the mountain's edge. He mentioned that he used a megaphone to do the calls down to Camp Curry.
I asked him where he stayed at night, and he said he lived in a dorm type tent for the male park employees. The door to their tent faced Vernal Falls. So they could open the door and have this incredible sight.
He said he wore regular street clothes and leather boots and used leather gloves to handle the pole. He said that after pushing the fire over, he would also be responsible for closing the gate before going home. The gate was part of the fence that prevented anyone from going too close to the edge.
I did ask him if he had any photos of the Firefall that he or his mother took and he said he'd look, but he only has the one -- a commercial photograph that he bought. I know my grandmother donated her collection of Yosemite photographs to the Los Gatos Historical Museum. I believe it's in Forbs Mills here in Los Gatos. I will search them out for you and see if I can get copies. One thing I remember about my grandmother is that she always had a camera with her on trips.
I am an artist and very excited about this Firefall memory and plan to do some oils from my own memory of it and from a photograph I have seen in my parents home. All this because of your web site!
San Jose, California
Jul 13, 1999
On a hunch, I typed in "Firefall" as a keyword in a search box. To my delightful surprise, the result of this was discovering your beautiful website which I immediately shared with my husband.
Long before finding your webpage, our family had often reminisced about Firefall and wished that it could be there again. Out of these discussions grew a story which I've included on one of the webpages "LET THE FIRE FALL!" on our website "Yosemite Dreamin'" Please visit our pages and sign our guestbook. Thank you for all of your work on your website.
Jul 2, 1999
by Stephen Price
I have always felt a mystical, magical attraction for Yosemite. When I was a child this was the traditional summer vacation spot for our family. Each year, from as early as I can remember until I was 15 or so, we would strike out into the Sierra Nevada range to set up camp in Yosemite Valley. We repeated this foray so many times that much of the associated preparation, and indeed the many actual experiences and activities we undertook, became beloved rituals, inducing an ecstatic reverie akin to chanting a mantra.
Living in the northern Bay Area of California, the trip to Yosemite took at that time, before the large interstate freeways, about six hours. In order to get there early enough to pick a choice campsite (we would plan on arriving around 10 am, then take up station watching for signs of imminent departure of those whose vacation was drawing to a close) we would arise at 3 am. I would pull on the jeans and shirt which I had folded and placed at the foot of the bed the previous evening and groggily amble out to the kitchen to join my two older sisters as we waited for mom to complete the first ritual -- the preparation of the predeparture cocoa. The kind you cook up, with real milk, sugar and cocoa -- that gets a thick scummy film on it as it cools in the cup that clings to your spoon. Yummmers! Then, cocoa finished, we'd gather up last minute items that had not yet been packed in the flurry of activity over the previous few days and head out front to the car to which my dad had already hitched our small utility trailer, loaded with tent, sleeping bags, and boxes of clothing, food, utensils and all the other stuff necessary for a two week "wilderness" expedition.
I loved the early morning road trip that ensued! The East Bay was much more sparsely populated then, and the towns were more distinct pockets of flashing traffic signals and train crossings separated by bands of farm land. My sisters would return to sleep soon after starting out but I would resolve not to miss anything, so I took up a position between Mom and Dad in the front seat where I would stare out into the remnants of the night and marvel at the mystery of the silent darkness flashing by.
After two or three hours, as the eastern horizon was becoming edged with cerulean, we would be reaching Tracy, a knockabout town at the top of the California central valley. We would pit stop there for breakfast (mmm-mmmm, restaurant pancakes, nothing like 'em!), although the establishment we usually chose was right next to the railroad, and therefore was frequented by hobos -- particularly plentiful in the early summer crop picking season. Thence down trough Modesto and over to Merced ("Gateway to Yosemite" said the arch across their main street) then eastward into the foothills to begin the long ascent into the Sierras. After an hour or so, the rugged dry canyons would yield, in the cooler elevations, to dense stands of sugar pines, lodgepole and majestic Ponderosas, with their wonderful jigsaw puzzle bark. The air became heady with their fragrant aroma -- down would go the windows of the car as we would breathe deeply and smile, once again being amazed that trees could smell so much like spun sugar. Almost there!
The approach to Yosemite from this direction is particularly poigniant. The vistas become increasingly enticing as one gains higher elevation. Almost without warning, we disappear into the blackness of the Wawona tunnel, boring straight and true through the mountainside. All eyes fasten on the impossible smallness of the opening at the far end, which grows larger and larger until *****BOOM***** we erupt from the far opening, with the full majestic panorama of Yosemite Valley spread before us. "OOOOOHHHHHHH!!", we all chorus. The effect is...well...orgasmic!
Considering all those vacation periods in the aggregate, I would estimate the total time I have spent camping in Yosemite at over 6 months. Many things about the park have changed over the years -- a reservation system for campsites, limitation on length of stay, restriction of auto traffic within the valley -- all accomodations to the growing pressure from the swelling tide of human population. The most difficult of these changes to endure, however, was the discontinuation of the nightly ritual of Firefall.
On the valley floor, at the base of the sheer granite wall which rises some 3000 feet to Glacier Point, stands the modern descendant of a peculiar economic enterprise, Camp Curry, which was established back in the early days following Yosemite's "discovery" -- back when dinosaurs roamed the region, and John Muir rode around on their backs. Curry and Company served as the Walt Disney for this particular magic kingdom, escorting folks up from Merced, and providing rudimentary lodging and eats for the city-weary campers. They constructed a second accomodation at the peak of Glacier Point, as well, so those venturesome souls who wandered up to the top -- either by the so called "ledge trail" which led from the base of the granite up a progressively narrowing rill on the face of the valley wall, or the supposedly less arduous "four mile trail" -- could have a place to stay and enjoy their accomplishment.
At some point, somebody got the idea of building a fire on the bare granite atop the pinnacle and, when 'twas reduced to a bed of glowing embers, pushing the remains over the edge, much to the apparent delight of onlookers at the valley floor. The conflagratory mass would drift fairly vertically down onto the first narrow ledge below, a distance of almost 1000 feet as I recall. Being as the human animal loves the creation of ritual (like 3 AM cocoa) the nightly extinquishing of the clifftop campfire grew into a wondrous happening, and through the 1950's it ran something like this:
A truck would be dispatched into the hinterlands of the back country to forage for a sufficient quantity of bark to build a mound six feet tall, and a similar measure in diameter at the base. This would be delivered to the site at the edge of the cliff, where it would be ignited in midafternoon. Throughout the afternoon and early evening, the day's quota of gawkers would arrive to marvel at the vista of massive granite edifices, billowing waterfalls and verdant valley spread below. Some (like us) had stopped along the way to picnic, take the short hike up to Sentinal Dome to see "the world's most photographed tree" or visit the Mariposa Grove, an ancient family of giant sequoias, where they might see "the second most photographed tree", the one with a tunnel through the base that you could drive your car through. Others lingered over dinners in the hotel restaurant, while Chinese waiters bantered and banged doors as they scurried along walkways behind the hotel bearing trays to and from the dining room.
As dusk would fall, and the last vestiges of sunlight slipped from the high country, and the view became more surreal and indistinct, the assemblage would gravitate to the edge of the precipice, thankfully behind the security of an iron railing. I, as a smaller boy, would be hoisted to my father's shoulders where I would tightly grip two hanks of his hair (he was prone to leaning forward over the railing to inspect the winking of flashlights and the slow crawl of headlights from deep in the valley as campers emerged from the cover of the forest into the tall, cool grass of the meadows seeking a clear view of the impending event).
Down in Camp Curry, as the appointed hour drew nigh, the campfire show would be concluding. The lighting on the stage would be extinguished, a signal to those above that the audience was waiting. On Glacier Point, the fire would now be a heap of radiant embers, a background on which I swear I could see moving ghost faces dancing in violet, orange, crimson agony. From behind the crowd would step a lone man, barrel chested and swarthy, sucking on a hemisphere of lemon -- a last minute vocal cord tuning. In later years lesser individuals would resort to a megaphone, but tonight we would get the show "au naturel". Stepping out to the edge, he would listen for the initial shout from below, as indeed, the whole gathering listened.
"Halll-ll-ooooo Gla-aaa-cierrrr Po-iiinnnt!"
And the answering bellow, from the top sounding louder than any man ought to be able to shout, but to those below the sound trickled down clear and high and sweet....
"Halll-llll-oooo Caaaammmmp Curr-rrrraaaayy!"
Then from below, the command...
"Let the fiii-iire fa-aa-aaallll!"
Followed by the final reassurance....
"The fiii-yuuuure falllls!"
Then, taking up a pushing implement with a ten or twelve foot iron handle, he would rake the embers over the edge. Great swirls of sparks would fly upward with each sweep, and those who had stationed themselves a tolerable distance from the blaze initially, now found exposed skin growing dry and uncomfortably hot.
In short order, it would be over. The large gate would be swung back closed and chained and we would retreat from the edge, following the trail lit by a hundred flashlights back to our car for the trip back down to the valley.
Below, on a still night, the shimmering plume of embers could hang for a remarkably long time, ever so gradually fading to darkness, so for those watching from the valley the conclusion of the event was less defined, more open to individual interpretation.
My wife and I, and my children, returned to Yosemite the last time in 1986, a short visit, only 3 days. We stayed in a tent cabin in Camp Curry. We went out into Stoneman Meadow one evening and lay down in the grass, staring at Glacier Point and the sky. Firefall had become a thing of the past by then, discontinued due to ecological considerations, I suppose. It was already well past dark; the stars were strikingly clear. As we all contemplated the same section of sky, a meteor flared briefly above the dark granite rim. "Ooooohhhhhhh", we unisoned.
I feel very fortunate for that.
The hotel on Glacier Point had burned to the ground -- I'm not sure what year. The tree atop Sentinel Dome has died as well. Too many families posing their kids in the crook of that old gnarled pine, it just couldn't take it. The tree with the tunnel -- gone too. Strange, even too much foot traffic around those massive sequoias that otherwise can survive 2000 years can kill them off.
Visiting Glacier Point can still be a haunting experience. I recommend you arrive in the late afternoon and plan to stay a few hours. Watch the sun go down. If you're not in any particular hurry, time your visit to coincide with the full moon -- the silvery light on the granite is for lunatic lovers.
And who knows -- if you're in no particular hurry to get there (I know I'm not), we may meet, though don't expect me to be extremely sociable. You see, I've left instructions that upon my death, my ashes are to be transported back to Glacier Point and are to be flung out over the edge to join those that drifted down that cliffside those many years ago.
Apr 16, 1999
I came to your site looking for prices on cabins and such. When I came across the "Firefall" page, I was completely clueless as to what this event was. As I read through some of the contributions of the people who experienced the Firefall first-hand, I was in total and complete AWE.
I thought I had experienced everything Yosemite had to offer, until I read these personal accounts. Goosebumps rose on my skin, and for a minute I could imagine this incredible site. How lucky these people were to have experienced such a memorable, bonding moment. I will probably never experience it in my lifetime, but it feels good knowing that the others have. What an awesome memory they must have.
Running Springs, California
Dec 29, 1998
Thank you for the web site, and thanks too to the several readers who said things more eloquently than I can.
The first and only time I saw the Firefall was in June 1956... a discharged GI from the Korean War, going across the country and returning home in the east. It was spectacular, and of course memorable. I know I'll never forget the experience.
I've been back to Yosemite 3 or 4 times with my wife and twice with my 4 children. I try to explain and describe the Firefall -- but one can't really.
I am somewhat angry about its discontinuance... I don't think it harmed or altered nature to a great extent. But the environment protectors "must know what's best?" Firefall natural? No they say, but they don't object to the unnatural para-sailing that occurs from similar heights into the valley!!
Henry H. Broer
Dec 22, 1998
I am glad that four of my children witnessed the great Firefall several times during their lifetime. I spent many summers setting up a 4x5 view camera and trying to get a good photograph of the Firefall. I finally got one during the summer of 1967. Hard to imagine that it was 30 years ago.
Sep 27, 1998
Great to see that picture of the Firefall and read all the interesting histories by your readers and viewers. You might like to visit www.lushtone.com and hear classical music of Yosemite, including "Firefall" inspired by the Firefall. I too remember it well as a child in the meadows.
Sep 8, 1998
I really enjoyed this web site on one of the truly unique historical events that took place in our great Yosemite Park. I have never seen the Firefall and I feel a loss because this is something I really would have liked to have seen and attended.
I am 34 years old and I would have been about 4 or 5 years old when they ended the Firefall. I am very surprised my father didn't take me to see it. Maybe he didn't know about it at the time because they moved out here a year before I was born in 1963.
My interest was sparked by our local PBS television show "California's Gold" hosted by Huell Howser. Had it not been for his special on the Yosemite Firefall I would have never realized or have been able to envision what it must have been like.
I really hope someday that it may return so I can see it. I suppose the visitor traffic is already a problem so I imagine the Firefall event will forever remain in history. Regardless I am still a fan of this great story and I'm sorry I never got to see it.
Canoga Park, California
Aug 20, 1998
I am putting together a CD-ROM product on Yosemite and I am looking for color footage of the firefalls from the valley floor. Ideally I need the Firefall from start to finish and shot from a tripod, but anything close will do. If anyone has audio recordings of people calling up for the Firefall to begin and the response as well as the song sung by the sisters while the Firefall was going, this would be great. Thank you.
Jul 23, 1998
I was delighted to find this site. I took my husband to Yosemite a few weeks ago -- he had never seen it before. I tried to describe the firefall for him, but words simply cannot do it justice. It does sound silly, I suppose, to someone who has never seen it. But as a child, I thought it was the most magical, awe-inspiring thing I had ever seen. To be out in the woods, in the dark, breathing that cold, piney air, and see the fire falling in gorgeous imitation of the waterfalls we had seen all around us during the daylight hours, was truly spellbinding.
We always marveled at how the entire park full of people would fall into a hush, cooperating in this splendid event, so that the voices could be heard clearly, calling to one another across the valley. My recollection is, the campfire leader would quiet the crowd, then cup his hands around his mouth and call, "Helloooo, Glacier!" And in a few seconds, someone up at Glacier Point would call, "Helloooo, Camp Curry!". And those of us in Camp Curry were always astonished that we could hear the words so clearly, although faint and ethereal, echoing off the granite cliffs. Then the guy leading the campfire would call, "Let the fire fall!" And the music would begin.
And the fire would fall, tumbling down the dark face of the cliff in majestic, glowing slow-motion. And lovers would hold each other, and children's jaws would drop as they stared, and this entire community of people shared this wonderful moment together.
I do hope that someday they find a way to bring it back, at least once a year or on special occasions.
Jul 15, 1998
We visited Yosemite often. The folks said once that at Glacier Point when I was about three, I suddenly bolted for the edge and might have gone over if someone hadn't grabbed me. We once arrived at Arch Rock Entrance Station so early that the rangers wouldn't let us enter until later when we wouldn't disturb sleeping campers. We fed cookies to the deer until the ranger saw how disciplined we were, and let us enter, with the promise to be quiet.
Other things were very different then, too. Every night the rangers emptied scores of garbage cans in a clearing alongside the Merced River downstream from the campsites. Cars parked across the river turned their headlights on, and dozens of bears came out, rummaging among the cans, growling and fighting with each other.
Also every night, was the Firefall. A bonfire of red fir bark was built on Glacier Point every evening at 7 PM. By 9 PM it was just a huge pile of red-hot coals. A program was held in the amphitheater at Camp Curry, at that time more entertainment than nature-oriented.
At 9 PM, the audience was asked to be quiet, the lights were flashed off-on-off, and the ranger called in a long, drawn-out voice through cupped hands, "Hello Glacier!" The response was barely audible, "Hello Curry!" Then, "Let the fire fall!" And while a woman sang "Indian Love Call", they slowly pushed the pile of coals off the cliff, to fall in a long stream a thousand feet or so onto a ledge near the base.
For an impressionable kid, the combination of calling, singing and Firefall was profoundly moving. My own family saw it in 1963 after we moved back to California. After 1968, the practice was discontinued as causing too much congestion and damage to the meadows, and only incidentally as being inconsistent with the natural beauty of the park.
When we visited Yosemite with our kids in 1963, and were walking through the meadows, we were often stopped by frantic tourists wanting to know where the Firefall was going to be, and whether they had time to get there. They could hardly believe that it was magnificently visible from almost any point in the valley, and all they had to do was park where they were, and look at Glacier Point.
On that same trip, I wanted to climb the 'Ledge Trail' to Glacier Point, considered so dangerous in my youth. I couldn't find any reference to it on the available maps, and the rangers at the information center denied any knowledge of it. Consulting a 30-year-old map I'd brought along, I found it clearly marked, and precisely located in relation to a number of local landmarks. One evening after supper I set out to find the trailhead, and it soon became obvious that someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to eradicate every trace of it as far as I could go up the talus slope. Later, at Glacier Point, I couldn't find any trace of that end of it either.
Back at home, researching it, I found that it had indeed been steep, narrow and sheer, marginally safe going up, but most intimidating going down. They therefore restricted it to one-way up, but even then a few people lost their nerve part-way up, and became a real problem. The last straw was apparently a lady relative of the Secretary of the Interior or some such, who got stuck, and was immobilized by panic. She raised so much hell that the trail was closed, and its approaches obliterated.
Palo Alto, California
Jun 13, 1998
I enjoyed reading the history of the Firefall in Yosemite. As a child, our family spent our vacation every year in Yosemite, and the highlight of every evening was watching the Firefall. Whether or not we watched the program at Camp Curry, we would make sure we were there in time for the Firefall.
Back at home, my mother would turn out the lights in the living room, and she would sit down at the piano and play "The Indian Love Call" and we would all remember the Firefall. I'm sorry my daughter was born too late to see it.
Los Gatos, CA
Jun 3, 1998
Thanks for the memories!! My first Firefall was in 1952 with 5 more over the years. The years have not dimmed the joy and awe of that glorious event. The Firefall is something I will always hold in my heart. My only regret is that my son was not born until 1970 and never got to see a firefall.
I close my eyes and can see the fire falling, hear the calls back and forth, smell the campfire smoke and pine trees and feel the slight chill of the summer night. The Firefall might be gone in actuality but it will be with me forever.
May 9, 1998
Great Site! I was looking for something that hopefully addressed the Firefall and this is the only place that addresses this event with any detail. I witnessed the Firefall when I was 8 years old in the summer of 1967, just before they stopped it. We were vacationing in Lake Tahoe and then Yosemite that year. I think the reason that the Firefall had such an impact on me is that I had no idea it was going to happen until it did.
Ironically, we had not intended to stay at Camp Curry. However, there were no available campsites in the valley at that time, only tent sites in Curry itself. After a long, frustrating day, my stepfather basically gave in to the family and we checked in to the permanent tents, which I can still remember very clearly. We were told of an evening program, and my guess is that the park personnel assumed that we knew of the Firefall because we were not told about it.
After dinner we went to the amphitheater, which I remember as being rustic in the sense that you sat on tree stumps. There was a little show that had rangers talking about the park and a female singer who sang alone and then led a sing-along. I recall Red River Valley as one of the songs, and there was a family near us that sang in harmony with each other. Being the only musical person from a non-musical family, I remember being envious of them. As it was just about dark, the ranger said something about "It must be about that time" and he yelled to Glacier Point and they yelled back. I remember being awe struck that they could hear us and we them.
Then the announcing ranger said "Let the fire fall!" and the combo played while the woman sang the Indian Love Call and then it happened. I was stunned. Our family just stood there. I really didn't know what to think at the time, but upon recollection, it is amazing that the stream of light was so even for being hot coals that were pushed over the point. And it gave the illusion of coming reasonably close.
The part that really was amazing was how the fire faded out to blackness at the end, and the silence afterward, which was eventually broken by cheering and clapping. Being that we were in the camp itself and that I was a child, I was not aware of any traffic jam or that people all over the park were watching the event.
I like what has been said about this event being like a bonding moment. During the Firefall, many people stood together and held each other. It was very moving, and spectacular in the sense that it was very unique yet somehow made sense. Perhaps because during the day, one can see waterfalls everywhere you go while you are staying in the park, and then this firefall sort of emulates them, only at night.
My stepfather, knowing how much I was impressed by the event, was the one who gave me the sad news about the stopping of the Firefall. I was crushed. We hadn't any decent pictures of the event other than a crusty old postcard my mother kept over the years and gave me recently.
I would like to know more about why it was stopped, and about the recent talk of doing it again on the anniversary or on July 4th. Again, thank you for your web site, and I hope to hear from you.
Apr 3, 1998
Your article was beautifully written and wonderfully evocative of a time long gone, but always remembered by those of us who were there.
It does seem silly... tears over some fire pushed over a cliff... But there's some primal appeal about it... First, there's something about fire that ignites the human spirit and draws people together...
But beyond that: The majesty and magic of fire in the sky!! Fireworks!! Shooting Stars!! Burning embers taking flight in the night!! It was a rare thing. Where else did you ever have a "Firefall?" I venture to say: nowhere.
You also touched on something very important -- the shared experience. It's why a church service or a bullfight or a concert are so captivating. It's not what you're seeing, but that so many people are experiencing the same thing at once -- something with emotional and spiritual content -- something that speaks to our souls. A rare thing.
But as you also pointed out... The enormous scale of the place is underscored by the Firefall. The embers tumbling, seemingly in slow motion, and when they land, they're still only halfway down that towering granite wall!!
The first time I went to Yosemite -- I was probably 10 or 11 -- I remember standing by my mother's side watching the firefall on the last night of our vacation. I was so sad that our adventure in this magical place was ending... But I vowed quietly to myself that I would return.
And I did. Many times.
For me, Yosemite's remarkable powers of inspiration and renewal have never diminished... And the Firefall remains a sparkling memory... One jewel in a treasure trove of Yosemite memories.
Feb 26, 1998
Great family gatherings
on Yosemite's floor
so many summers
and memories by the score.
My heart beat wildly
all through the day
thinking of nightfall
and firefall display,
nothing as grand
nor nothing as wild
had ever been seen
by this innocent child,
mighty bold fire
to the valley below
for all of us to see,
oh such delight
I see in minds eye,
against a black sky.
Marble Falls, Texas
Feb 26, 1998
I too recall the Yosemite Firefall with wonderment. I was born in '57, and my grandfather would take me to the park each year. The firefall ended when I was 11, and I was heartbroken. Those few moments on those summer evenings in Yosemite were indeed awesome, as it seemed even then as if it was something that was too special to last.
There was a comradery among the park guests, a feeling of closeness that came from being a part of the experience, that I have never felt before or since. Thinking back it seems almost unreal. I'm glad others are sharing their memories of it now, to confirm what I felt.
Santa Clarita, CA
Feb 22, 1998
Your descriptions of the Firefall brought back my fondest memories of childhood summers in Yosemite. The Firefall was always the most wonderful and magic moment of nighttime in the valley.
Thank you for reminding me of those very special times in my life.
Feb 15, 1998
Do you have any personal memories of the Firefall you would like to share? Or perhaps you have additional information about the history of the Firefall, stories regarding your own experience of the Firefall or stories of others' experiences. Or maybe you have comments on the history you've just read, or corrections you feel I should make to the document? If so, I would love to hear from you.
Click here if you wish to contribute to the Yosemite Firefall project.
Kenneth Brower. 1990. "Yosemite: An American Treasure," Special Publications Division: National Geographic Society, 199 p.
Laurence Degnan, Douglass Hubbard. 1971. "Yosemite Yarns," The Awani Press, 24 p.
Huell Howser. 1996. "California's Gold: Yosemite's Firefall," Huell Howser Productions, KCET / Los Angeles. 30 min.
Hank Johnston. 1995. "The Yosemite Grant, 1864-1906: A Pictorial History," Yosemite Association, 278 p.
Richard Jorsi, Alfred Runte, Marlen Smith-Baranzini. 1990. "Yosemite and Sequoia: A Century of California National Parks," University of California Press, 146 p.
The Modesto Bee. 1990. "David & Jennie Curry," McClatchy Newspapers Inc.
Shirley Sargent. 1975. "Yosemite & Its Innkeepers," Flying Spur Press, 176 p.
Shirley Sargent. 1988. "Yosemite: The First 100 Years, 1890-1990," Yosemite Park and Curry Company, 95 p.
Shirley Sargent. 1993. "Enchanted Childhoods: Growing Up in Yosemite, 1864-1945," Flying Spur Press, 114 p.
Jeffrey P Schaffer. 1992. "Yosemite National Park: A Natural-History Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails," Wilderness Press, 274 p.
This history was posted on Jan 25, 1998 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the last Yosemite Firefall.