Why Waterfalls?

Upper Mesa Falls between West Yellowstone, MT and Ashton, IDUpper Mesa Falls between West Yellowstone, MT and Ashton, ID

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8-October 2006: Using waterfalls as the destination of various trips and excursions has changed our lives. While the stress and drama of life in a big city and increasingly competitive world persist, it's nice to know we have a means of getting away from it all. Even people not in the big cities but have accessed falls (as well as other scenic features) are already "mellowed out" and proceed on a much slower pace of life. Regardless of whether it's a local day trip on a weekend morning in the Los Angeles area or a multi-week getaway overseas to places most people only dream about, we always return from these trips and get back to reality with a new perspective on life as well as a healthier state of body and mind.

So what is it about waterfalling (a coined expression that's short for visiting waterfalls) that provides such benefits?

The answer to this question lies at the heart of the answer to why we bend over backwards to visit these forces of nature. There are numerous benefits and properties about them. I'll delve into each one that I'm able to come up with so far.

Among the waterfall topics discussed on this page are...

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Waterfalls come in an endless variety of shapes, sizes, and characteristics.

The powerful and towering Yosemite Falls in full spring flowThere are the thundering and powerful types that drench its onlookers and command attention with their sheer volume and size.

The delicate flow of TvinnefossenThere are delicately flowing graceful types that relax you and mesmerize you with their intricate beauty.

The jaw-dropping beauty of the scenically located McWay FallsThen there are the ones situated in impossibly scenic locations where its settings are every bit a part of the natural beauty.

Unusual waterwheels on LeConte FallsMoreover, there are unusual cascades that bend your mind and leave an impression as a result of their strangeness.

In essence, no two falls are the same. Therefore when it comes to them, the saying "once you've seen one, you've seen them all" doesn't apply. In fact, you could spend your life waterfalling even in a particular region let alone the world. And with the diversity of nature's watery grace, you're guaranteed a different experience with each falls you see. In fact, you could get a different experience with the same waterfall depending on the weather, flow, circumstance, etc.

In any case, this particular aspect of waterfalling has allowed us to make it a lifelong scavenger hunt. Thus, we never tire of visiting falls and we long to see new and different ones each opportunity we get. And as we describe in the next topic, it also resulted in our quest to see them expanding to a more global hunt.

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The existence of waterfalls depends heavily on a combination of climate and geology, and to a lesser degree the disruption of waterflow by humans (a negative impact). Yet despite these constraints, you'll find them in a variety of places. Such locales include mountains, rain forests, canyons, desert gorges, and even coastal cliffs. And in addition, such terrain exist in various spots around the world.

Consequently, a waterfall hunt provides an excellent excuse to travel the world or to thoroughly explore a particular region.

In our experience, world travel [for waterfalling] has...

The Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
  • broadened our view of the world
  • allowed us to learn new cultures and meet different people
  • provided us a greater perspective about our place in the world
  • taught us to not take things for granted

Even when we explored more thoroughly a particular region, we appreciated the subtle cycles and rythms of nature in addition to seeing the falls. We naturally interacted with our surroundings and ultimately better learned how the natural world works. Ultimately, our observations and interactions made us understand how we impact the environment and thus allowed us to take more meaningful action to perhaps give future generations a chance at appreciating the very things that we were able to enjoy. In a way, we better understood how to live with the world and respect nature rather than trying to destroy it.

Havasu Falls in the desert climate of the Grand Canyon And given the diversity of the falls and how they're intricately tied to a healthy environment, we also got a chance to see the various climates and habitats that they reside in. Thus, we were able to appreciate falls existing in the forbidden arid climates of the deserts or the drenching rainforests or even the melting ice and snow causing waterflows that perform towering cliff dives as well as mountainous tumbles much to our delight.

Adding all of it up, we feel we're getting the most bang for the buck in terms of getting a good variety in our life's experiences. And a good variety ultimately yields a fulfilling life.

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Waterfalls are naturally beautiful. Not only does infrastructure and tourism money have a tendency to go towards them, but many people want to bring them to their homes by building (landscaping) them in gardens (and if you're really rich, building them indoors).

People enjoying a swim at the scenic Pools of Ohe'o in Maui Why are we drawn to the beauty of waterfalls?

Well they present a certain reassuring sense of order in a chaotic world of everpresent randomness. The order is evident when we see its graceful patterns or awesome geometric shape gaudily showing itself to us. When we see a natural waterfall flowing and mesmerizing us, we get the sense that things feel "right" and healthy. In fact, since life revolves around water, you can make the argument that they announce the health of the ecosystem (and in the larger picture - the world). A healthy flow over the falls means the watercourse can support various life around it naturally as nature takes its course. A nonexistent or poor flow (usually interrupted by humans) means life struggles to hang on and somehow species must cope or die. It's as if resources are siphoned away from the natural order and sent to fulfill whatever intention the people performing the intervention may have.

Månafossen with rainbow in Norway With their thundering splash of water and rainbow-causing mist, we simply can't ignore the commanding presence of a waterfall. Visit a natural waterfall and it's easy to appreciate nature and desire to protect it for future generations. In fact, waterfall moments can be so special that you'll remember them for the rest of your life. As a result, we'd bend over backwards (whether we're physically exerting ourselves, spending time, and/or spending money) to see them.

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Most of the healthy falls (with a few exceptions) exist away from urban developed areas. Often this means they're away from roads so you'll have to make some effort to reach these falls. It also means a visit to a waterfall takes you away from the stress and craziness of urban areas.

In the high country moors of the Hardanger Plateau in Norway as we hiked towards Valursfossen Since many falls require some degree of walking or hiking to reach, it's a great reward for the exercise you're going to get. In some cases, a rigorous or lengthy trek to a waterfall makes the whole trip even more memorable and the destination that much more impressionable.

It's a well known fact that people who are more active tend to be healthier even later in life. What a great way to be healthy and soothe your soul with a waterfall fix!

Other added health benefits include breathing clean air since hikes generally take place in less developed areas. Also the soothing and relaxing effects inherent in the motion and mistiness of the falls are good for the mind (as well as the body). These are welcome benefits especially if you're seeking to get away from the rigors of a busy "9-to-5" life.

Imagine relaxing before this waterfall - the Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah We've observed that we tend to be mellowed out when we go on nature trips - especially to waterfalls. When we compare this to people who have gone on city vacations, the mellowing effect isn't nearly as pronounced. In fact, mom and I have observed people leaving Las Vegas in haste and even get in accidents! Meanwhile, we took our time to go home not eager to return to the rigors and craziness of the rat race.

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Supported by all of the above points, I can certainly argue that waterfalling is indeed a worthy investment of your resources (i.e. time, money, exercise... basically any means of effort).

A few more properties about waterfalls that amplify their worthiness are:

  • they're genuinely attractive and not contrived tourist traps
  • you can still visit them even when the weather isn't cooperative
  • they make for great bonding experiences (family, friends, or even strangers)
  • they lead you to other sights and experiences that you'd otherwise miss

As mentioned earlier, most falls exist closer to nature rather than the city. Thus, it's too costly and inefficient to contrive something that comes close to rivaling the natural grandeur and beauty of a waterfall. As a result, these silvery curtains are not contrived tourist traps since their genuine beauty and attractiveness alone can draw the wandering eyes of people. Hence, it's reassuring to know that you're spending your precious time experiencing something that's real and not wasting it on something artificial.

Walking in the rain under rejuvenated waterfalls at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand Secondly, you can still visit falls when the weather isn't sunny or fine. This means that you don't have to sit inside all day long if it's raining or otherwise cold and gray as long as you have falls to enjoy. In fact, photographing them is often enhanced when under cloudy skies, and rain gives more life to them. So regardless of the random state of the weather, it's nice to still make the most of your time - rain or shine.

Thirdly, we've experienced great bonding experiences as a result of waterfalling. I've taken my parents to see them and I believe it has definitely kept us from drifting apart from societal pressures and even enhanced our family bond. My wife and I have found a strong passion for travel and nature after she introduced me to visiting falls to get away from the rigors of trying to compete to earn a living. I have also taken friends along for some waterfalling and they would still remember fondly those moments. Spending such time together has made our bonds even stronger and well beyond casual friendship or mere acquaintances. And, even in the case of randomly meeting strangers where you don't expect to spend time with them, it's often a fun and pleasant surprise to converse with them about their travels all with the waterfall bringing us together.

Relaxing before the skyline of Perth after ending our waterfall touring in Western Australia Finally, I have to admit that waterfalling isn't everything in life - though I may make it sound that way in this website. However, waterfalling can lead you to other sights and experiences that otherwise would be overlooked. It could give you the excuse to see a natural bridge or natural arch that's nearby a cataract. Perhaps, a neighboring secluded beach, giant trees, or fossils can be seen on the way. As a result, theming your trips to waterfalls can actually expand your tastes and experiences (despite all preconceived notions of a themed trip).

In our experience, we have learned to appreciate natural arches and bridges, caves, wildlife and trees, landscapes, and charming towns or even cities; all in different countries and regions; and all of which started from waterfall-themed travel.

With so many positive things coming out of waterfalls, there really isn't a reason for not seeing them. So what are you waiting for? Get on out there and take a hike!

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