Falling Waters Nine: The Cascades, Illilouette and Ribbon, Yosemite National Park

Spring, 2013

We’ve made two trips to Yosemite National Park, but didn’t manage to see all of the waterfalls in the park. This post addresses three that we didn’t spend as much time at during either visit.

Our first trip was to celebrate a milestone birthday for me. When I asked Mark what he wanted to do for his milestone, he said “New Zealand.” Clearly, I need to raise the bar for my own celebrations! The second trip was for a family reunion with Mark’s family, a delightful gathering with Mark’s parents, and two sets of aunts and uncles, along with several cousins we hadn’t seen for a very long time.

I noticed that the park website uses the singular version of fall, rather than the plural version that I’ve used all of my life. National Geographic refers to any specific waterfall in the singular, and uses the plural to refer to waterfalls in general, so I’ve been trying to do the same.

For visitors entering the park at Arch Rock, The Cascades is the first waterfall they will see. This is a series of tumbling waterfalls and cascades, with a total height of 750 feet over five drops. The Cascades originates with Cascade Creek, and is joined by Tamarack Creek after about 250 feet (the cascades,) creating a magnificent fall of 500 feet on its way to the Merced River.


Tamarack Creek on the left, Cascade Creek on the right

Illilouette Fall is a 370 foot fall fed by Illilouette Creek. The name is an anglicization of the Miwok name that sounds roughly like Too-lol-lo-we-ack. (Yes, it looks French, but it isn’t.) There is no known translation. Illilouette is in a small side canyon that can be seen when hiking to Vernal and Nevada Falls.


Ribbon Fall has a drop of 1,612 feet, and is considered to be the longest single drop waterfall in the United States. It dissolves into a fine mist before it hits the bottom. Fed by melting snow, there’s no flow for much of the year, which would explain why we didn’t see in on our first visit in the fall, 2009.

The Native American name was Lung-yo-to-co-ya, which means “pigeon basket.” The name may refer to the numbers of birds that build their nests here.


Wikipedia lists 21 waterfalls in Yosemite. We’ve seen only a third of them. Perhaps we need to go there again.

About kcbernick

I love to travel.
This entry was posted in California, National Parks, USA Travel, Waterfalls, Yosemite National Park and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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