Name of Waterfall

Sentinel Fall


Sentinel Fall is easily seen many areas throughout Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Pullouts along Southside Drive near the Sentinel Beach picnic area provide the closest roadside views, while nearby Leidig Meadow allows views with less foreshortening (and no roads to besmirch the vistas either).Sentinel Fall is the tallest waterfall on the south side of Yosemite Valley and the second tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park at just shy of 2,000 feet. Sentinel Creek drains from a small basin along the Glacier Point Road and intersects Yosemite Valley at an elevation of over 7,200 feet above sea level. The falls consist nine distinct steps ranging from 50 to 500 feet in height, with four of them dropping at least 200 feet each, but due to the immense size of the falls and the lack of easy up-close access, the exact height of each tier is difficult to determine.
Sentinel Creek has the largest drainage basin of the more minor waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, and coupled with substantial soil retention through the basin the stream manages to flow for longer periods than any other seasonal waterfall in the valley. However even during exceptionally heavy snow years the falls will shrink and dry out entirely by August, though it usually runs dry July. On our most recent survey the falls were only a few weeks from drying out in mid-May of 2013 (a year with abnormally low snowfall in the Sierra).
Regarding how the falls have been mapped, the USGS Half Dome quadrangle shows Sentinel Creek flowing to the northeast of a small domed knoll at about the 7360 foot mark just above the falls. Photographs of Sentinel Falls however show the creek breaking into Yosemite Valley to the southwest of this knoll. While this doesn't indicate the falls to be any taller than previously thought, it does explain why the falls do not appear to dogleg to the left immediately after the first tier of the fall.Sentinel Fall and its stream were named after nearby Sentinel Rock. The USGS inventories the placename using the singular form "Fall", but Mike Osborne's excellent book Granite, Water and Light: The Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley cites the falls using the plural "Falls". Both may have been correctly used at one time or another, and its understandable since there are multiple steps that the term "Falls" may be more appropriate, but we're going with the USGS judgment on this one until we see historical evidence to support otherwise.

Other Names




IWC Rating (International Waterfall Classification)


Total Height (ft)


Tallest Drop


Number of Drops


Average Width


Maximum Width


Average High Volume (Cubic ft per second)

10 cfs

Average Low Volume (Cubic ft per second)

0 cfs


85 degrees

Run (ft)


Watershed or Feeder Stream

San Joaquin River Sentinel Creek