Frazil Ice Phenomenon: Watch White Lava Flowing Down Yosemite National Park Streams


Look at the frazil ice phenomenon in Yosemite Creek!

It’s like a lava-like slurpee-flow!

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Frazil ice in Yosemite Creek. Photo by National Park Service

Summertime visitors to Yosemite National Park miss many of the unique events of winter and early spring. Frazil ice flows are dramatic natural events that occur in the waterfalls of Yosemite Valley during March and April.

During some mornings in Yosemite Valley, when streamflow is relatively high but temperatures are below freezing, some creeks may seem to be full of slush rather than full of water. This is frazil ice, which forms when mist (for example, from a waterfall) freezes, then floats down the creek.

This strange phenomenon can occur in fall, winter, or spring, as long as there is relatively high flow over waterfalls and Yosemite Valley has overnight lows below freezing. Since it is entirely weather-dependent, it’s difficult to predict in advance, but usually occurs in the morning, before 9 am.

I would like to experience this rare phenomenon in a stream once. I have already witnessed this event in Antarctica. Overthere we used to call it ‘pancake ice‘. Our nature is awesome!

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