The Waterfalls FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Kabwelume Falls


Welcome to the World of Waterfalls FAQ! Here, we present the most commonly asked questions about the topic of waterfalls as well as provide answers to them.

Scroll down this page to see these questions and answers.

Can't find your question? Feel free to post your question. Or, you might be able to find a question that someone else has asked here.




Q: What is the tallest waterfall in the world?
A: While there maybe differing conventions on what constitutes a waterfall possibly resulting in different answers to this question, the current consensus for the title of tallest waterfall in the world is Angel Falls in Venezuela. It is said to have a total drop of about 979m (or 3230ft) with a freefall of 807m (or 2647ft).

We've also put up a pair of Top 10 Tallest Waterfalls lists based on separate height criteria and we've restricted the candidates to only waterfalls we've seen (so we may better judge whether the waterfalls are for real or not):

Q: What is the biggest waterfall in the world?
A: Well, the answer depends on what you mean by "biggest."

If we're talking about the largest singular waterfall in the world, that could very well be Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border in Africa. It's a massive sheet of water spanning a whopping 1.7km (a little over a mile) in width, 108m (360ft) tall in height, and having an average annual flow of 1088 cubic meters/sec (38,430 cubic ft/sec).

If we're talking about the largest falls including all its constituents, that could very well be Iguazu Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border in South America. Over its 275-plus distinct cascades and waterfalls that comprise the larger system of waterfalls, its rim spans 2.7km to 3.2km (depending on who's figures you believe) in width, 64m (210ft) to 82m (269ft) in height, and an average cumulative annual flow of 1746 cubic meters/sec (61,600 cubic ft/sec).

Note that I'm noncommital about giving a definite answer because the answer to this question could change with differing criteria on what makes a waterfall legitimate, what is your criteria of "the biggest", and even manmade interference that might alter the waterfall's status and health.

Q: What is the most beautiful waterfall in the world?
A: I'm certain there will be disagreements regardless of how this question is answered because it's completely subjective and related to one's own experiences and exposure to the waterfall in question.

But if you want to know our opinion, we think Iguazu Falls is the most beautiful as it tops our Top 10 Best Waterfalls List.

Of course, there are many other waterfalls that we think are just as beautiful as those on our Top 10 List for one reason or another. For example, we have regional top 10 lists to try to acknowledge other beautiful waterfalls in particular regions we've been to.

Q: How are waterfalls formed?
A: Waterfalls are formed through a combination of geology and weather/climate. I wrote an article going into details about the process of waterfall formation, which you can read here.

Q: How do I determine a waterfall's height?
A: There are several methods in which you can estimate or measure a waterfall's vertical height. I wrote an article going into the various methods about this topic, which you can read here.

Q: What types of waterfalls are there?
A: There are various ways to categorize or classify waterfalls. The two that I'm aware of have to do with identifying a waterfall's shape and determining the volume of water present in the waterfall itself. The shape-based method results in categories like plunge, horsetail, fan, punchbowl, segmented, tiered, cascade, block, etc. Meanwhile, the volume-based method results in a logarithmic scale (like the Richter scale for earthquakes) resulting in Classes 1-10 developed by Richard H. Beisel, Jr. I wrote an article that discusses these classifications, which you can read here.

Q: Why are waterfalls important?
A: The answer to this question contains some degree of subjectiveness. However, there are some proven scientific benefits as well as applications for both energy and home improvement among others. I wrote an article addressing this question, which you can read here. I also wrote an earlier article about what waterfalls mean to us personally and why we care, which you can read about here.

Q: What is the most unusual waterfall in the world?
A: Of the waterfalls we've been to, we think Waterwheel Falls and LeConte Falls on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park, California get our vote.

The reason why is because they're the only waterfalls we know about where you care more about how far the water is thrown up instead of dropping down!

Q: What is the most powerful waterfall in the world?
A: This really depends on what you mean by "powerful." Now before I go into some technicalities, the popular answer is undoubtedly the big three simply because they're the biggest legitimate waterfalls left on earth: Iguazu Falls, Niagara Falls, and Victoria Falls.

But let's break down what it means for something to be "powerful." I can think of two interpretations.

First, you can talk about power in terms of the amount of force the waterfall exerts. So if you can imagine yourself at the base of a particular waterfall, how much is the waterfall going to crush you? More accurately, how much volume of water is in the waterfall and how fast is that volume of water moving? Given this criteria, you could argue the most powerful waterfalls in the world could be between the Horseshoe Falls portion of Niagara Falls or the Devil's Throat portion of Iguassu Falls. Why? Because those are the parts of the waterfalls where there's the most volume falling vertically a pretty significant distance (thus picking up a good amount of speed thanks to the pull of gravity).

On the other hand, you can also talk about power in terms of the amount of pressure the water in the waterfall is being subjected to as it's moving or being ejected. Under this criteria, waterfalls in the chute category are favored because water tends to be forced into a narrow channel thereby increasing the pressure that the waterfall is subjected to. Therefore under this criteria, the world's most powerful waterfall could very well be Murchison Falls in Uganda because the Nile River is squeezed into a crevace only 6m wide at its base. Therefore, you have an extremely pressurized ejection of water with perhaps even more force than that of the Big Three.

Q: What are the most popular (or famous) waterfalls in the world?
A: This is not an easy question to answer because what's popular to some people may be obscure to others. So we're going to answer this question based on what we think are the most visited. Granted this is more biased towards waterfalls with the easiest access from heavily populated areas, but isn't quantity of "votes" (i.e. visitation) in the spirit of what it means to be famous in the first place?

  • Niagara Falls - the most famous waterfall in the USA and possibly the world with around 20 million visitors per year and still rising.
  • Iguazu Falls - definitely South America's most famous waterfall with around 750,000 visitors per year.
  • Victoria Falls - Africa's most famous waterfall I think gets around 400,000 visitors per year.
  • Yosemite Falls - Yosemite Valley's crown jewel is seen by nearly 3 million visitors per year.
  • Multnomah Falls - the prime waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge gets nearly 2 million visitors per year.
  • Lower Falls - Yellowstone National Park's iconic attraction gets well over 2 million visitors a year.
  • Snoqualmie Falls - Washington's most famous waterfall gets around 1.5 million visitors a year.

Of course in addition to the number of visitors, you could also make a case for waterfalls that get lots of publicity as well as Google inquiries, but perhaps not as much visitation as the waterfalls mentioned above. Such waterfalls that fall into this category include Havasu Falls, Angel Falls, Kaieteur Falls, etc. Of course, quantifying how much publicity a waterfall gets is difficult since I don't think people keep track of these things. In any case, other candidates that might fall into this category can be found on our Top 10 Best Waterfalls of the World List.

Lastly, there are waterfalls famous in specific regions. You can see which ones they are for the places that we've visited by looking through our Regional Top 10 Lists, which includes:



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What Other Visitors Have Said Or Asked

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which city has the most waterfalls in the US 
I heard that Asheville, NC has the most and was wondering that's true.

Water speed  
It appears to gather speed as it approaches a waterfall (just before the drop) but can see no reason for this, is it just an illusion?

Big three - in what sense? 
Your website says Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, and Niagara Falls are the biggest legitimate waterfalls. What do you mean by "biggest"? There are plenty …

When do you say "falls" and when do you say "fall" 
It's a waterfall, but the name is falls. When is is singular and when is it plural?

What do you call people who visit waterfalls? 
People who aim to climb mountains over 3000ft (Munros) in Scotland are Munro Bagging. Is there a name or term for people who visit/collect waterfalls? …

How do waterfalls move? 
I'm doing a project in Earth Science about the location of waterfalls over time. I know that the water erodes the lip of the waterfall, causing it to move …

Measuring Speed of the Water 
How would one measure the speed at which the water from a waterfall falls at? Is there a tool for this?

What is the name of the waterfall that has the greatest amount of water? 
i need to find out the answer for my geography homework

Dry waterfalls 
What are dry waterfalls and why are they dry?

Waterfall Tourism $$$ 
How much money is generated in the US by tourism to waterfalls? How much globally?

Horsetail Waterfall 
What causes the effect of indecresent light off the granite,through the waterfall?

Most Powerful Waterful? (alternate criteria) 
What if you define most powerful in terms of height times flowrate?

What is the name for the little jets of water that shoot off a waterfall? 
You often see little jets of water separate from the main body of a waterfall and fall on their own distinct trajectory. I remember seeing a name …

What would cause a mid ocean waterfall? 
Been trying to look around for information. Though seems there isn't any being there is no precedent for it. But under what kind of conditions would have …

What is meant by 'number of drops' of the waterfall? 
I've seen Victoria Falls with a classification of 1 as its number of drops, and Angels with that of 47; what does it mean?

What's the first waterfall ever formed? 
What's the first waterfall ever formed?

Do waterfalls go up instead of down sometimes? 
Do waterfalls sometimes go up instead of down?

What waterfalls allow you to walk or climb behind them? 
I've heard of only a handful of these, such as Dry Falls in Georgia, but I know you would have much more experience in the matter. My husband and I also …

Swimming Near Waterfalls? 
Are there any waterfalls in the U.S. that you can swim near, or at the base of? I imagine it would have to be a tiny waterfall! Thank you, Allison

Where does Angels falls water come from? 
I asked this because I don't see any pictures I saw detailing the areal top view or picture of the tepuy where falls is located. Is there a big river …

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a waterfall? 
What are the advantages people get from the existence of a waterfall?

What happens to a waterfall over time? 
What happens to a waterfall over time? Does it erode or what?

Waterfalls And Their Qualities 
What are the erosional qualities of waterfalls?

Click here to write your own.

What causes a waterfall to change shape or form on the way down? 
At a Holiday Inn in Tucson they have a waterfall in the lobby that pours over a flat ledge, about ten or twelve feet wide) and the water falls in a flat …

What country has the most waterfalls in the world? 
or what country is most famous for its waterfalls? Thank you in advance.

How many waterfalls drop directly into the ocean? 
I would like to know how many waterfalls flow directly into the ocean? I know the Waterfall Bluff in South Africa is one. How many more are there?

How many waterfalls are there in the world? 
I need to know this for my homework.(GR5)

Is there a waterfall that you can camp by and swim in? 
I'm looking for a romantic vacation where there is a waterfall that you can camp out by and swim in. either in the U.S. or North America or even a island …

Why do many wide waterfalls have a horseshoe shape? 
I've noticed that the rim of many wide powerful waterfalls seem to have a horseshoe shape across their widths. Why is that?

What speed does the water fall at? 
What speed does the water fall at?

Mountaintop Waterfalls 
I would like to know how enough water accumulates at the top of a mountaintop to cause a plunging waterfall.

What creates the wind at the bottom of a waterfall? 
Is it due to the water moving air out of the way as it falls, or is it just due to the force of impact when water hits the bottom? How can you predict …

Where does water in waterfalls come from? 
I recently visited Tallajuah falls in Georgia, and the falls appear to have an inexhaustible amount of water. Where does it come from?

How would a waterfall effect the movement of aquatic organisms? 
Is the movement of aquatic organisms effected by a waterfall? How does a waterfall effect the movement of aquatic organisms?

What are some effects waterfalls make on the earth? 
I've heard about the tallest or biggest waterfalls but no one ever talks about the changes or effects the waterfall makes on the earth. I've checked lots …

Do you sell photographs of the waterfalls? 
I am looking for photographs of waterfalls and wonder if you sell photos in various sizes? Please e-mail your response to Sherrie.Quinn@USE.salvationarmy.org …

How are cascade waterfalls formed? 
I know that they are obviously formed by water, but what is the exact process? Is it simply erosion?

Where I can get comparative ticket prices for the world's most popular waterfalls? 
Do you know where I can get comparative ticket prices for the world's most popular waterfalls?

Feature request 
You have super wonderful site !!! How about adding some more features here: Create a table with information as: 1 - Waterfall accessibility …

Iguazu Waterfalls - Why Would People Visit These Specific Waterfalls? 
Why would people visit these specific waterfalls?

Click here to write your own.



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