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Ooh, aah: Take in Yosemite views — by computer

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webmaster | 05/15/12

FRESNO (AP) — Just in time for spring snowmelt: a web cam pointed at one of Yosemite National Park’s main attractions, the soaring 2,425- foot Yosemite Falls.

The HD camera went live on North America’s tallest fall Monday, allowing anyone with computer access to watch in stunning detail as shadows race across the towering granite monolith over which Yosemite Creek crashes in a series of plunges and cascades. It’s updated every 30 seconds through a high-speed DSL connection.

To those for whom the park’s breathtaking scenery revives the soul, getting a fix of spiritual uplift just got a little easier. For people who’ve never been to Yosemite, perhaps seeing one of the park’s main attractions in real time will prove too enticing to resist.

“In a lot of ways I equate it to all of the beautiful picture books that we’ve had on our coffee tables, or the art from the 1870s that made Yosemite exciting to people around the world when they saw it for the first time,” said Michael Tollefson, president of the nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy, which placed the camera there. “This is a great way to communicate in today’s media what the park is and to get people excited immediately, for better or worse.”

It’s the fourth webcam the nonprofit has set up — the other three are pointed toward the park icons Half Dome and El Capitan. It joins a smattering of others across the nation, including one at Yellowstone’s renown geyser Old Faithful, as technology, in varying degrees of clarity, increasingly connects America’s natural wonders with fans around the world.

Unlike the new 24/7 camera at Yosemite Falls, most of the webcams that exist in national parks are there for purposes other than entertaining and enticing. Some pull double duty monitoring air quality, others are there for weather updates or road conditions. Most are low resolution and so remotely located that they are updated infrequently through dial-up connections.

Often they are attached to research projects. When they break down, it can take days or weeks to get them fixed. At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a webcam shows traffic on the boat launch ramp at Bullfrog, Utah. One webcam at Sequoia Kings Canyon national park provides a view of a single oak tree so students can monitor its life cycle. At Little Big Horn National Monument, a camera offers a distant, grainy view of the military cemetery.


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