Tueeulala Fall

Yosemite National Park / Hetch Hetchy, California, USA

About Tueeulala Fall


Hiking Distance: 4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 90-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2002-05-31
Date last visited: 2011-06-04

Waterfall Latitude: 37.96438
Waterfall Longitude: -119.77262

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Tueeulala Fall (when it’s flowing) is probably the first waterfall you’ll notice as you approach the parking area for Hetch Hetchy.

This tall, plunging waterfall together with Wapama Falls complements Kolana Rock and the Hetch Hetchy Valley panorama.

Tueeulala_Fall_008_05312002 - Tueeulala Fall in high flow on a hot day at the end of May 2002
Tueeulala Fall in high flow on a hot day at the end of May 2002

I tend to think of panorama in much the same way that Bridalveil Fall complements El Capitan and the Yosemite Valley panorama.

Although Tueeulala Fall is reported to be 840ft tall, there seems to be some discrepancy in either its reported height or in the reported height of the adjacent Wapama Falls.

The latter is listed at 1,341ft even though they both look like they’re practically falling from the same cliff and ending up in the same reservoir!

Nonetheless, Tueeulala Fall does have a taller freefall of the two since Wapama Falls is really broken up into a series of shorter (albeit powerful) drops.

Hetch_Hetchy_031_06042011 - Tueeulala Fall in low flow in early June 2011 even though this was a high snowpack year
Tueeulala Fall in low flow in early June 2011 even though this was a high snowpack year

We’ve visited Hetch Hetchy numerous times, and over the years, we’ve come to learn that this waterfall typically had a rather short and enigmatic season for flow.

The Enigmatic Tueeulala Fall

The very first time we visited this waterfall was at the end of May 2002.

During that visit, it was flowing vigorously (causing flooding on the Wapama Falls trail).

In all the other years since, it was rare to see this waterfall flow appreciably in late May or June (a time when I’d expect this waterfall to be at its best).

Hetch_Hetchy_009_scanned_05312002 - If Tueeulala Fall had good flow, then it's likely that the bridges beneath Wapama Falls would be flooded, which was the case when this photo was taken at the end of May 2002
If Tueeulala Fall had good flow, then it’s likely that the bridges beneath Wapama Falls would be flooded, which was the case when this photo was taken at the end of May 2002

Indeed, I’ve seen it dry up or trickling by April on a year when its flow peaked in March (in 2004).

Then, on our early June 2011 visit (a year with unusually high snowpack at 200% of average), this waterfall was wispy as apparently we had shown up too early by a couple of weeks.

Moreover, we showed up in April 2005 (another heavy snowpack year) and this waterfall was almost dry while the rest of Hetch Hetchy had already run through its snowpack.

So given the above observations, it really bothered me why this waterfall behaved as inconsistently as it did while most of the other waterfalls in the park were pretty predictable.

Hetch_Hetchy_003_scanned_05312002 - Looking right up at Tueeulala Fall in high flow
Looking right up at Tueeulala Fall in high flow

So in light of our observations, the following is my best theory on how we could experience flooding in late May 2002 and then never see this condition again despite a couple of years of record snowpack…

My Theory on when Tueulala Fall flows and why

For starters, two things must work in succession.

First, there has to be snow (either from high snow pack accumulations or from accumulation in a late-season storm).

Second, while the snow is still present in the drainages responsible for both Tueeulala and Wapama Falls, there must be hot weather to ensure the snow melts rapidly.

Hetch_Hetchy_025_06042011 - Julie checking out Tueeulala Fall when it wasn't flowing that great even though it was raining on a heavy-snowpack year in early June 2011.
Julie checking out Tueeulala Fall when it wasn’t flowing that great even though it was raining on a heavy-snowpack year in early June 2011.

This would quickly release the water locked up in the snow pack thereby increasing its volume and rate of flow (while also rapidly depleting the snow pack thereby keeping its flow season short).

So to make a long story short, both events (i.e. presence of snow then hot weather) must occur immediately in succession.

Otherwise, Tueeulala Falls would remain either wispy or non-existent.

One thing that does seem to be consistent about this waterfall is that its flow would last no more than two months or so.

Hetch_Hetchy_006_04302005 - In this year, we showed up to Hetch Hetchy in late April 2005, which was another heavy snowpack year, but it even seemed like the nameless waterfall on the far left was actually doing better than Tueeulala Fall
In this year, we showed up to Hetch Hetchy in late April 2005, which was another heavy snowpack year, but it even seemed like the nameless waterfall on the far left was actually doing better than Tueeulala Fall

However, this two month window depends completely on when the last snow has fallen, which we’ve observed could be finished as early as April or as late as July.

Indicator of Dangerous Conditions?

Finally, one thing this waterfall can do for you is that it can tell you whether the trail to Wapama Falls is flooded or not.

If you see it flowing as well as you see in the photo at the top of this page, then it’s a pretty safe bet that the trail will be flooded.

Under such conditions, the trail could possibly be dangerous as some parts of the quick-flowing stream may run over the trail between the footbridges beneath Wapama Falls.

Hetch_Hetchy_hike_058_04242004 - When Tueeuala Falls has low flow, the footbridges beneath Wapama Falls would be a cake walk, but if Tueeulala Falls has high flow, then you have to prepare to get really wet or even turn back
When Tueeuala Falls has low flow, the footbridges beneath Wapama Falls would be a cake walk, but if Tueeulala Falls has high flow, then you have to prepare to get really wet or even turn back

However, if you see this waterfall having wispy or non-existent flow, then it’s unlikely that the trail will be neither flooded nor dangerous.

If you’re just going to this waterfall, you’re looking at a roughly 4-mile round trip hike.

However, if you’ve already made it to the base of Tueeulala Fall, you mind as well visit Wapama Falls as well (just another 1/2-mile further).

I’ve put the trail description (including the first 2 miles that the two waterfalls have in common) on the Wapama Falls page.

Authorities

Tueeulala Fall resides in Yosemite National Park near Groveland in Tuolumne County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Hetch_Hetchy_022_06042011 - Unnamed waterfall
Hetch_Hetchy_034_06042011 - Looking back at the footbridges and both Tueeulala and Wapama Falls under more average conditions (this was taken in early June 2011)
Hetch_Hetchy_008_04302005 - Often times, we see this unnamed waterfall perform better than Tueeulala Fall (like in this late April 2005 photo). In fact, our Topo! map mislabeled this waterfall as Tueeulala Falls!
Hetch_Hetchy_009_04302005 - Here's Tueeulala Fall in April 2005 in a thin state.
Hetch_Hetchy_001_03192004 - Looking across the reservoir towards an unnamed waterfall on the left doing about as well as Tueeulala Fall on the right.  This photo was taken in March 2004
Hetch_Hetchy_023_03192004 - Looking directly up at Tueeulala Fall from its footbridge in March 2004
Hetch_Hetchy_001_05312002 - The tandem of Tueeulala Fall and Wapama Falls as seen from the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the end of May 2002
Hetch_Hetchy_001_scanned_05312002 - The panorama of the inundated Hetch Hetchy Valley as seen from O'Shaughnessy Dam at the end of May 2002
Tueeulala_Fall_004_05312002 - Looking up at Tueeulala Fall in high flow during our late May 2002 visit
Tueeulala_Fall_007_05312002 - Looking back at Tueeulala Fall in high flow during our late May 2002 visit
Hetch_Hetchy_012_scanned_05312002 - Looking up at Tueeulala Falls in high flow at the end of May 2002
Wapama_Falls_004_05312002 - Another look at the flooded conditions at Wapama Falls where this photo was taken in late May 2002

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The trailhead for this waterfall is shared with Wapama Falls and Rancheria Falls.

Check out the Wapama Falls page for driving directions as well as a trail description (which encompasses the route you’d be taking for this waterfall).

For context, Tueeulala Falls is in the Hetch Hetchy section of northwest Yosemite National Park. It would take us around 1.5 hours to drive here from Yosemite Valley, which itself would take us around 6 hours to drive there from Los Angeles. From San Francisco, it would take us around 4 hours to go straight to Hetch Hetchy.

Right to left sweep of the panorama at the base of Tueeulala Falls before sweeping up to its top


Sweep from the O'Shaughnessy Dam of the inundated Hetch Hetchy Valley including both Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls in full flow

Tagged with: hetch hetchy, tuolumne county, evergreen, big oak flat, shaughnessy, yosemite, california, waterfall, sierra



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