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 for a moment.
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?
Why do we care about waterfalls so much?
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.
Let’s delve into each one that I’m able to come up with so far.
IF YOU'RE GOAL-ORIENTED, THIS ACTIVITY IS FOR YOU!
One of the major things about chasing waterfalls that we’ve figured out is that they make the perfect goals for a hike or for a trip that encompasses one or more of them.
With waterfalls serving as a hiking or trip goal, we’d know where we’re going, roughly how much time to budget, and we’d ultimately wind up with a sense of accomplishment while getting all the other benefits of spending quality time in Nature (e.g. exercise, quality time, rejuvenation, precious memories, etc.).
We have an anecdotal example where we managed to get a mother and two kids into waterfalling after some initial resistance.
When we went with that family to Eaton Canyon Falls, we barely got out of the parking lot and onto the trail when both kids already asked to go back to the car. Of course, neither Julie nor I were having any of it and we didn’t give in. It also helped that Tahia kept everyone moving along. Meanwhile, I was keeping the mother company in the back of our group since I was the person who made sure no one was left behind.
After the initial resistance and complaining (especially one of the kids who took frequent water breaks and miscellaneous stops along the way), we’d eventually make it to the waterfall after a little over an hour’s time of walking. By that time, all the delays and complaining went away and everyone went into the water to play and take pictures.
On the return hike to the parking lot, the kids were actually racing each other. It was clear that everyone was well past the inertia of getting started, and they embraced the moment of spending time without iPhones, other electronic gadgets, or plastic toys.
Since that first visit, they’ve gone on other hikes to a waterfall as a family (with us accompanying them on some of their excursions), and it wound up being a classic example of how a clearly-defined worthwhile goal converted a hesitant family into an eager family looking forward to go on more of these excursions.
It definitely helped to know that there was a goal as opposed to hiking with no goal and always wondering when to turn around (often times missing the highlight(s) of the trail or having that feeling of wasting precious time).
As a corollary to the goal-setting property, waterfalls also brought out the collectors in Julie and I. Thus, we’d never get tired of seeing new waterfalls or even familiar ones in different circumstances. Indeed, it can easily become a lifelong endeavor. It has certainly become a lifelong activity for us, which is clearly evident from the volume of waterfalls around the world that we’ve visited and documented in this website.
The key property that waterfalls possess that enables this tendency to continue on this scavenger-hunt-like activity is that no two waterfalls are the same. Indeed, the saying “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” doesn’t apply.
You could certainly spend your life waterfalling even in a particular region let alone the world, and with the diversity that waterfalls present, you’re practically guaranteed a different experience with each falls that you see. Heck, you could even get a different experience with the same waterfall depending on the weather, flow, circumstance, etc.
THE PERFECT EXCUSE TO EXPLORE THE WORLD AROUND YOU
When Julie and I got into visiting waterfalls locally, it didn’t take long before we realized that they existed in places we didn’t expect. In fact, there were enough waterfalls in various spots that it never became tiring to us.
Indeed, we quickly learned that waterfalls became the perfect excuses for us to see the world around us.
As a result, we not only sought out more waterfalls locally (inducing us to visit and learn more about our the places we didn’t even know that were literally in our own backyard, so to speak), but we started planning trips further afield in search of them.
And the consequence of expanding our search for more waterfalls in more distant places meant we were visiting and learning about the world.
Heck, many of the waterfalls weren’t on the typical tourist itinerary so we also happened to visit places quite off the beaten path, and we felt like we gained experiences that were uniquely and authentically ours as opposed to a cookie-cutter tour that everyone else was doing.
Indeed, waterfalls were our excuses to travel, and before we knew it, we became bon-a-fide world travelers.
And that, in turn, benefited us in such profound ways as waterfalling quite literally broadened our view of the world, allowed us to experience and learn about new cultures while meeting (and understanding) different people, provided us with a greater perspective about our place as well as how things worked in the world, and most importantly, taught us to stay in the moment and not take things for granted.
There’s not a moment in time when I’m at work, and I’m already thinking about the next place to chase waterfalls and experience the world around us. It makes us feel alive, enriched, and enlightened.
While waterfalls may seem like an arbitrary pursuit (in much the same way people go on wine tours around the world), we’ve learned to make them our excuse to truly live. Travel writer Rick Steves had a couple quotes that pretty much summed up what travel through waterfalling has done to us…
“Travel is intensified living … and one of the last great sources of legal adventure”.
“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.”
BEAUTY THAT YOU CAN'T IGNORE
Waterfalls are naturally beautiful. You can’t help but to take photos of them when you finally gaze upon one.
Not only that, but money for tourism infrastructure and promotion tends to go towards waterfalls. Heck, I’ve even seen a lot of people try to bring that slice of Nature to their homes by building (landscaping) them into gardens.
So why are we so drawn to the beauty of waterfalls? What is it about them?
Well, they present a certain reassuring sense of order in a chaotic world of ever-present randomness. And that alone seems to positively impact our mood and mental health.
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 full-of-life.
As a matter of fact, since life on earth revolves around water, you can make the argument that waterfalls announce the health of the ecosystem (and in the larger picture – the health of the world).
A healthy flow over waterfalls means the watercourse can support various life around it as Nature takes its course. While there are some exceptions to this notion, in most cases, you can easily see how green the banks of streams or the plunge pools of waterfalls tend to be. Sometimes fish swim in those pools. Sometimes, fur seals swim up to them from the ocean if the waterfall happens to be near the coast. Sometimes, you see moose or deer near them when they need to go for a drink. Heck, there are even those where brown bears wade in them to catch spawning salmon.
Contrast that with what happens when you have a non-existent or poor flow (usually interrupted by humans). Under these circumstances, life struggles to hang on as species dependent on the water in the area somehow 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 (typically arbitrary pursuits involving material wealth or hoarding resources at everyone or everything else’s expense).
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 you’ll see just how easy it is to appreciate Nature.
More importantly, you’ll also desire to protect Nature for it becomes apparent that everything seems to be connected to each other – from the waterfall’s health, to the life around it dependent on the water, to the reciprocal benefits of us knowing that these places exist and put us in a good mood.
In fact, waterfalling moments can be so special that you’ll remember the experience for the rest of your life. It’s certainly the case with us.
Therefore, we’d bend over backwards to see them; regardless of whether we’re physically exerting ourselves, spending time, and/or spending money.
GOOD FOR THE MIND, BODY, AND SOUL
We kind of alluded to the health benefits of chasing waterfalls when we talked about how they positively improve our mood and help with our mental health.
However, waterfalls have benefited us in other ways as well. After all, we tend to get good exercise visiting them, we tend to spend time with people we care about in waterfalling pursuits, and we tend to return to our lives in a much better mood than when we were in need of a detox from our urban lifestyle.
Indeed, most of the healthy waterfalls in the world (with a few exceptions) tend to exist away from urban developed areas.
Often this means that 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 would take you away from the stress and craziness of urban areas.
While there is some anecdotal evidence that somehow the negative ions somehow improves mood (where the ions tend to come from energy from the sun or crashing water from waves and/or waterfalls stripping the gases or water molecules of electrons resulting in negative ions freely moving about), in general just being in natural surroundings as a whole tends to have that restorative effect.
It’s as if us as human beings were meant to spend most of our time in Nature and less time in artificial environments like developed cities.
Nevertheless, 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, because you had to earn that reward.
It’s a well known fact that people who are more active tend to be healthier in general, but this is especially so later on in life. What a great way to be physically healthy while soothing your soul with a waterfall fix!
Other additional health benefits include breathing clean air since hikes generally take place in less developed (i.e. polluted) areas. The soothing and relaxing effects inherent in the motion and mistiness of waterfalls have also helped our mental state let alone our physical well-being.
Indeed, these are welcome benefits, especially when seeking out ways to escape the rigors of a busy “9-to-5” life.
Anecdotally, 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 getting into accidents given the constant pressure of not getting any of that restoration from Nature.
On the flip side, as we watched all that happen, we took our time to go home since we weren’t all that eager to return to the rigors and craziness of the rat race.
MAKING THE MOST OF OUR LIMITED TIME
Supported by all of the above points, I can certainly argue that waterfalling is indeed a worthy investment of your limited resources (i.e. time, money, energy… 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.
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 cold and dreary as long as you have waterfalls 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 (which you can’t control anyways), 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 through external societal pressures of juggling all the different priorities in living life. I’d even argue that it 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.
We have also taken friends along for some waterfalling and they would still remember fondly those moments.
Julie and I even had pleasant random conversations with perfect strangers around waterfalls. Case in point, we met several people on our waterfalling trip of the Southern United States, and it was nice to share with each other the beauty we were experiencing around us while looking past stereotypes instead of getting hung up on differing political views.
Indeed, waterfalling seems to be one of the great ways to bring people from all walks of life together.
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 has led us other sights and experiences that otherwise would be overlooked. In many cases, waterfalls put us off the beaten path, which led us to pleasant discoveries on the way to our waterfalling pursuits.
For example, we’ve managed to find some surprising natural bridge or natural arch that was nearby a cataract. We even visited a neighboring secluded beach, or a grove of giant trees, or fossils along the trail simply from a waterfalling excursion or trip.
As a result, waterfall-themed trips have expanded our tastes and our world as a whole, and enriched our lives for the better.
Indeed, 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!