Name of Waterfall

Ribbon Fall


Ribbon Fall is located directly west of El Capitan on the north wall of Yosemite Valley within Yosemite National Park. The best views of the falls are from Southside Drive about 1/5 of a mile east of the junction with the Wawona Road at a large pullout where both Ribbon Fall and Bridalveil Fall can be seen. Ribbon Fall can also be easily seen from Crocker Point, Dewey Point and can partially be seen from Valley View along Northside Drive.With a sheer drop of 1,612 feet Ribbon Fall is the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the United States, and is among the tallest sheer waterfalls on the planet. Ribbon Creek drains an area of about 4 square miles immediately to the west of El Capitan, the collective waters of which intersect Yosemite Valley about 3,000 feet above the valley floor. As the creek runs off the edge of the valley, it carries down a slightly corkscrew-shaped plain of rock which causes the falls to twist off axis and fall to the right of its original course. The stream stays in contact with the cliff face for perhaps the first 200-300 vertical feet of the falls, and then free-falls for over one thousand feet before it sprays onto a steep skirt of the cliff face and veils the final distance to the bottom of the cliff. This contact with the cliff disqualifies Ribbon Fall from being considered a truly free-falling waterfall in that it does retain some contact with the cliff face, however the fall is entirely uninterrupted (i.e. there are no pools or pauses in the fall), so it is still appropriate to consider it to be the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the country.
Ribbon Fall occupies a deep alcove directly to the west of the massive granite monolith El Capitan and because the falls cannot be easily seen from many of the signature views around Yosemite Valley, they are not regarded nearly as highly as Yosemite Falls or - especially - Bridalveil Fall which is situated directly across the valley. But also because Ribbon Creek drains from such a small area, it retains a consistent flow for only about half of the year, usually peaking in volume between mid April and mid May, and then quickly diminishing and running completely dry by July at the latest in most years (if not earlier).Lafayette Bunnell reports the Native American name for Ribbon Fall to be Lung-yo-to-co-ya, which literally means "Pigeon Basket", likely an homage to bird nests which could be found in the vicinity of the falls. Because of this native title, Bunnell attempted to apply the name Pigeon Creek Fall. Later, the falls were commonly known as Virgin's Tears as a somewhat tasteless comparative to neighboring Bridalveil Fall. At a further later date James Hutchings interpreted the name of the fall to mean along the lines of "the graceful and slender one", and it is said to be this interpretation which inspired the name Ribbon Fall (again using the singular form on the suffix).

Other Names

['Lung-yo to-co-ya', 'Pigeon Creek Fall', 'Virgins Tears']



Absolute Magnitude


IWC Rating (International Waterfall Classification)


Total Height (ft)


Tallest Drop


Number of Drops


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Maximum Width


Average High Volume (Cubic ft per second)

20 cfs

Average Low Volume (Cubic ft per second)

0 cfs


90 degrees

Run (ft)


Watershed or Feeder Stream

San Joaquin River Ribbon Creek