What is it about waterfalls that draws people to them? They’re often isolated and difficult to reach as they nestle among lush landscapes and high cliffs falling into deep valleys or turbulent rivers. Waterfalls heighten the senses in a visceral experience. We can see them, hear them, feel them and taste them. Waterfalls are powerful and raw. They are nature. Waterfalls help us connect with the natural beauty of the Earth.
Here are the top 5 waterfalls to visit in your life time.
Spreading across more than 5,600 feet and dropping 345 feet, Victoria Falls are one of the most majestic in the world. The indigenous call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “the smoke that thunders”. The southern African falls are located on the Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The first European to see the falls was Scottish Missionary David Livingstone. He viewed the falls from what is now called Livingstone Island. Livingstone named the falls in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Not only are the falls wide but they fall in one sheet rather than cascading. The spray rising from the falls as they hit the river can be seen for miles. Although the Victoria Falls are not the tallest or widest waterfall in the world, they are considered the largest because of the combination of height and width. The Victoria Falls travel over a high plateau into the First Gorge. Peak flow can be witnessed in April while during the dry season, it’s possible to walk through the First Gorge. The falls can clearly be seen from both the Zambia and the Zimbabwe borders. Europeans began settling the area in the early 1900’s and tourism grew through the century. Victoria Falls have an interesting feature “Devil’s Pool”. On Livingstone Island in Zambia at the edge of the falls, the area features a rock barrier with an eddy where brave swimmers sit just before the water around them falls over the plateau.
Maybe one of the most well known of the world’s waterfalls is Angel Falls in Venezuela. They are the highest uninterrupted waterfalls in the world. Angel Falls plunge more than 3,200 feet. They are named for American pilot, James Crawford Angel, who flew over the falls in 1933. The indigenous have called the falls names meaning “waterfall of the deepest place” and “the fall from the highest point”. The majestic falls tumble over the Auyán-Tepuí plateau over the “Mountain of the Good of Evil” and into the river of the Canaima National Park. Located 400 miles southeast of Caracas, the Angel Falls are difficult to get to. Tourists must cross the small village of Canaima, hike and boat upstream to see the falls. The falls are located along the fork of the Rio Kerepacupai Meru that flows into the Churun River. Despite the falls isolated jungle location, tourists flock to see the amazing sight. One of the most recognized of the world’s waterfalls, Angel Falls have been featured in films and documentaries.
The Iguazu Falls cascade at the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. Iguazu means “big water” and the Iguazu falls are the biggest system of waterfalls in the world. Spanning 1.5 miles, the system consists of between 150 and 300 waterfalls depending on the water level. Most of the falls are located on the Argentina side. The heights of the falls range from 197 to 269 feet. The terraced falls form the U-shaped “Devil’s Throat”. Visiting the Iguazu Falls is amazing because you are nearly surrounded by the powerful rush of water with nearly panoramic views. The Iguazu Falls are accessible to tourists. They can be reached from Puerto Iguazú in Argentina, from Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, and from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. An extension of a walkway along the Brazilian side of the canyon reaches the base of Devil’s Throat. Touring companies also offer helicopter tours.
The American and Canadian Niagara Falls may be the top waterfalls for tourism. They parks receive about 20 million visitors a year especially in the summertime. The Niagara Falls consist of three separate waterfalls located on the Niagara river between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls includes the large Horseshoe Falls which are in Canada and the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side. The Horseshoe Falls stretch 2,600 feet and drop more than 180 feet. The smaller American Falls are about 1,060 feet wide and drop between 70 and 100 feet. The color of the water cascading over the falls is unique due to finely ground rock and dissolved salts due to erosion. Erosion moves the waterfalls back one foot per year. The easily accessible Niagara Falls have been a tourist attraction since the mid-nineteenth century. The Maid of the Mist has sailed tourists to the base of the falls since 1846. Visitors to the park can also enjoy being behind the Bridal Veil Falls in the Cave of the Winds. The parklands in both America and Canada provide close views of the falls. The Niagara Falls have been featured in film and have attracted honeymooners and daredevils. Many have attempted going over the falls in specially made barrels and tightrope walking across the waterfalls.
The Dettifoss waterfalls are located in northeast Iceland in Vatnajökull National Park and are the most powerful European waterfalls. The source of the falls is the Vatnajökull glacier. The multi-step series of waterfalls carry grayish white water as they drop 144 feet from the wide Jökulsá á Fjöllum River to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon causing high splashing spray. The Dettifoss stretch 330 feet wide and are dramatic to view. Dettifuss is accessible to tourists and a must see when visiting Iceland. The waterfalls are located in the Diamond Circle, a tourist rout around Húsavík and Lake Mývatn in North Iceland. The views are best on the east bank of the falls.