Widow's Tears

Yosemite National Park / near Yosemite Valley / near Merced Canyon, California, USA

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 1
Widow's Tears
Widows Tears appears to suffer from a case of mistaken identity with the neighboring Silver Strand Falls (at least according to a lot of what's out in the literature). Many observers (including myself) knew that Silver Strand Falls couldn't be the often-quoted 1170ft unless they counted the watercourse that you couldn't see below Hwy 41. In older Yosemite literature, Silver Strand Falls was also called Widow's Tears (probably by the same guy who once named Ribbon Falls "Virgin's Tears"). After sifting through the fog of misinformation and trying to match them up with field observations, I tend to think it's Widow's Tears that's 1170ft.

Even with all that said about its gaudy height numbers, this is really an ephemeral waterfall with a real short season. To see it, we had to time our visit and know where to look. And given its paltry flow, it was even harder to photograph. Then again, I have seen trip reports of people ice climbing in the Winter when the falls is frozen, and we must say that the ice that accumulates probably would make this falls look wider than it really is.

In another interesting bit of trivia, I once overheard a tour operator tell a story about a widow who couldn't stop crying after losing her husband. It wasn't until after she saw this waterfall that she stopped crying - hence the waterfall's name. I'm not sure if this is true, but it is quite a story.

Directions: To get a view of this elusive ephemeral waterfall, look for an unsigned pullout on the Route 140 just west of the Pohono Bridge. These pullouts are generally on the north side of the road (though I suppose there might be others on the south side of the road). It's east of the Route 120/140 junction so you went too far if you made it there.

I also noticed that it was possible to get a suboptimal view of this waterfall from the Valley View Lookout (signpost V11).

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Widow's Tears (left) and Silver Strand Falls (right) from within the Merced River Canyon
Widow's Tears seen from the Valley View LookoutWidow's Tears seen from the Valley View Lookout

Widow's Tears from a different pullout seen between trees in April 2005Widow's Tears from a different pullout seen between trees in April 2005

Widow's Tears from a pullout as seen in April 2005Widow's Tears from a pullout that's the same as that at the top of this page. Photographed in April 2005

Widow's Tears seen along with Silver Strand FallsWidow's Tears seen along with Silver Strand Falls

Widow's Tears not doing so well in April 2004The falls not doing so well in April 2004

A bear in Yosemite near Fern Spring in April 2004Although bear sightings seem to be getting increasingly rare these days (last time I recalled spotting one in Yosemite was in Memorial Day Weekend 2004 at the Glen Aulin Camp), this photograph marked the last time I successfully photographed one. This was near Fern Spring when we were looking for Widow's Tears, and it was taken in April 2004.

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Bottom up sweep of both falls from the Merced River Canyon

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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