Tuolumne Meadows – the River

Cascade of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Last summer I spent two weeks camped at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. I chose a campsite near the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Perhaps 50 yards downstream from my campsite, a resistant ledge of granite  stretches across the river and channels its flow into a narrow slot. Here the current gains velocity as it thunders forward and downward into a deep pool below. The raging current creates a huge whirlpool before the water roars off again at a right angle. It surges along the vertical lower edge of the ledge on which I stand.  Eventually it slows as it enters a stretch of quiet river.

As I stand on the broad granite ledge I can feel the roar through my boots. I try to imagine the power and energy constantly going down. It’s huge–at the same time intimidating and exciting!

The river thunders on through day and night, fed by innumerable snowbanks and streams throughout a broad watershed of high ridges, peaks, valleys and two glaciers on Mts. Lyell and McClure. As streams gather and descend to form the river, their many cascades and rapids are generating energy also.

When moist air blows in from the Gulf of California, thunderstorms bring rain to this broad watershed. The river rises higher. Its roar increases. It overflows part of the ledge away from the main flow, shortcutting directly to the river below the cascades. I can guage the river’s flow by observing how much water takes this shortcut, or how close it is to doing so. At night I can see the foam of the shortcutting water as it tumbles over the downstream face of the ledge.

This energy and power in the rivers is all around me. As a member of this world of mountains, rivers and seas, I know I’m part of a truly awesome, wonderful world and universe. Thank God for putting me here and making me a part of this!


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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