Waterfalls From Around The World

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Fun & Fact, Places
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A waterfall is usually a geological formation resulting from water, often in the form of a stream, flowing over an erosion-resistant rock formation that forms a nickpoint, or sudden break in elevation.

Some waterfalls form in mountain environments in which the erosive water force is high and stream courses may be subject to sudden and catastrophic change. In such cases, the waterfall may not be the end product of many years of water action over a region, but rather the result of relatively sudden geological processes such as landslides, faults or volcanic action. In cold places, snow will build up in winter and melt and turn into a waterfall in summer.


Typically, a river flows over a large step in the rocks that may have been formed by a fault line. As it increases its velocity at the edge of the waterfall, it plucks material from the riverbed. This causes the waterfall to carve deeper into the bed and to recede upstream. Often over time, the waterfall will recede back to form a canyon or gorge downstream as it recedes upstream, and it will carve deeper into the ridge above it.

Often, the rock stratum just below the more resistant shelf will be of a softer type, meaning that undercutting due to splashback will occur here to form a shallow cave-like formation known as a rock shelter or plunge pool under and behind the waterfall.

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Eventually, the outcropping, more resistant cap rock will collapse under pressure to add blocks of rock to the base of the waterfall. These blocks of rock are then broken down into smaller boulders by attrition as they collide with each other, and they also erode the base of the waterfall by abrasion, creating a deep plunge pool or gorge.

Streams become wider and shallower just above waterfalls due to flowing over the rock shelf, and there is usually a deep pool just below the waterfall because of the kinetic energy of the water hitting the bottom. Waterfalls normally form in a rocky area due to erosion.

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Waterfalls can occur along the edge of a glacial trough, whereby a stream or river flowing into a glacier continues to flow into a valley after the glacier has receded or melted. The large waterfalls in Yosemite Valley are examples of this phenomenon. The rivers are flowing from hanging valleys.

Classifying Waterfalls

Waterfalls are grouped into ten broad classes based on the average volume of water present on the fall using a logarithmic scale. Class 10 waterfalls include Niagara Falls, Paulo Alfonso Falls and Khone Falls.

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Classes of other well-known waterfalls include Victoria Falls and Kaieteur Falls (Class 9); Rhine Falls, Gullfoss and Sutherland Falls (Class 8); Angel Falls and Dettifoss (Class 7); Yosemite Falls and Lower Yellowstone Falls and Umphang Thee Lor Sue Waterfall (Class 6).

Types of waterfalls

* Block: Water descends from a relatively wide stream or river.
* Cascade: Water descends a series of rock steps.
* Cataract: A large, powerful waterfall.
* Fan: Water spreads horizontally as it descends while remaining in contact with bedrock.
* Horsetail: Descending water maintains some contact with bedrock.
* Plunge: Water descends vertically, losing contact with the bedrock surface.
* Punchbowl: Water descends in a constricted form and then spreads out in a wider pool.
* Segmented: Distinctly separate flows of water form as it descends.
* Tiered: Water drops in a series of distinct steps or falls.
* Multi-step: A series of waterfalls one after another of roughly the same size each with its own sunken plunge pool.

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