John Muir


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Circa Date

circa 1887



was observing in the entire current of the fall was spread out thinly to a width of 1000 feet or more & carried away horizontally along the face of the cliffs towards Indian Canon, all its [wh] (wild) thunder tones hushed the whole wild torrent (was) tamed to a mere rain hardly more noisy than [dew] [a] heavy [fall] rain [shower]

In the warm sunny season of May & June when the snow is melting fast, then the falls play their loudest music. The heavy tones like those of a great organ or the muffled thunder claps & gasping drumming sounds occur at variable intervals & are readily heard under favorable circumstances a distance of four or five miles

The Upper Fall possesses far the richest as well as the most powerful voice of all the valley falls Its tones vary from the sharp hiss & rustle of the wind among the glossy leaved (of the) live-oaks, & soft sifted hush tones of the pines to the loudest rush & roar of stormwinds & avas [avalanches] [& thunder & [rain]] among the crags of the summit peaks all these & many more are in such abundance as we might expect when we know the richness of the field whence these waters were gathered.



But with these there are mingled others differing from any of its early day utterances on the mountains, such as the loud thunder claps or such as might [belong to falling boulders of great size on huge bass drums] come from a huge drum beaten by thunderbolts. These are formed by heavy masses of water striking full upon a projecting ledge. I have watched the fall in every stage of water & I know that those explosive thundering tones are never produced when the stream is so low as to be dissipated into whirling clouds or spattering rain torrents before reaching the two ledges that project from the face of the wall. The higher of these is about a thousand feet below the head of the fall the lower about 1200. On the other hand I have watched the fall during windstorms when the heavy solid headed comets were shot past these ledges & after being swayed clear of them I have seen a single comet-like mass separate from all the rest of the fall strike full upon one of these ledges (by itself) & produce the sound in question, the high upward rebound of spray showing that a considerable quantity of air had been entangled in the water which doubtless produces the peculiar explosive sounds

When the water is high these thunder tones as well

Date Occurred


Resource Identifier

MuirReel32 Notebook01 Img013.Jpeg

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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