Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

August 25, 2023


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Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Author: Ray Boren

Although the scene might seem like an imaginary backdrop for an epic fantasy or dream, the panorama of California’s Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View overlook has to be one of the classic real-world vistas on planet Earth. This photograph, taken looking east on the afternoon of June 1, 2023, features several of Yosemite National Park’s iconic landmarks. These include El Capitan’s monolithic granite cliffs on the left; the white-water tresses of Bridalveil Fall, to the right; and a slice of distant Half Dome, peeking over a ridge near the image’s center.

This vantage point and others provide insights into the geologic processes that formed, and are still shaping, this valley in the Sierra Nevada range, such as ancient glaciation, rockfalls and other erosion. National Park Service informational signs and online resources tell us that, after millions of years of geologic uplift, today’s Yosemite Valley location was topped by various types of Cretaceous granitic rock — 3,000 feet (914 meters) deeper in this cleft at the beginning of the Ice Ages. A sequence of advancing and ebbing glaciers gouged the landscape from one million to 250,000 years ago, sculpting a U-shaped valley.

Between 30,000 and 18,000 years ago, a shallower glacier approached today’s Gates of the Valley, then retreated. The glacier’s terminal moraine created a natural dam, which impounded a lake. Sediments from that now-vanished lake covered and leveled the valley floor, which is today coursed by the Merced River and blanketed with forests and meadows.


Yosemite National Park, California Coordinates: 37.8651, -119.5383

Related Links:

Yosemite Falls and Merced River

Provo Canyon’s Bridal Veil Falls