Understanding Cause of Yosemite's Rockfalls

Yosemite experiences rockfalls every year. Most make little impact, but others like the one in 2008 near Curry Village or in 2009 behind The Ahwahnee are reminders that rockfalls can occur close to popular trails and facilities.

Many of Yosemite’s iconic domes and cliff faces were formed by a geological feature called exfoliation joints (rock fractures parallel to the topographic surface). These fractures are also likely the cause of many rockfalls, yet we know little about how they are formed and how they grow.

Yosemite Conservancy donors funded new research that gathered measurements and developed models to predict the formation of these exfoliation joints.

The better we understand these geological features, the better we can manage rockfall scenarios while also providing visitors with the most recent educational information on this amazing landscape.

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Project Notes

The project promotes visitor understanding of rockfalls and also serves to increase safety by expanding our knowledge of rockfall hazards.

Greg Stock
Geologist
Yosemite National Park