Waterfalls are seriously cool. Have you stood near a waterfall and just watched it? It’s amazing. There are also heaps of seriously awesome waterfalls in the world we live in. Read on and we’ll give you the lowdown on everything you need to know!
What is a Waterfall?
A waterfall is a part of a river or stream where the water flows over a steep drop, often landing in a plunge pool below. Some waterfalls can have a huge drop, and these are definitely not waterfalls to take a jump from!
How are Waterfalls made?
Erosion plays an important part in how waterfalls are made. As a stream flows, it carries sediment that can erode the soft bed rock, which is limestone and sandstone underneath. Eventually this goes deep enough so that only the harder rock, such as granite, stays. Waterfalls are born as the granite forms cliffs and ledges. Wow, it takes some doing to create a waterfall.
Just as waterfalls are made by the process of erosion, they cause erosion too. How weird. The speed of the stream gets stronger and stronger as it nears a waterfall, increasing the amount of erosion. The movement of the water at the top flattens rocks at the edge. The plunge pool at the bottom gets bigger as rushing water and sediment erodes it and the area behind the waterfall is worn away, creating cave-like shelters. Those would be awesome to explore!
There are other ways that waterfalls can be made like from an earthquake, landslide, glacier, or even volcanoes which can disturb the land of a stream bed. This creates cliffs, cracks, faults and other changes in height.
What types of Waterfalls are there?
A waterfall is not just a waterfall, there are loads of different types of waterfalls, and some can even be more than one type. Here are the types of waterfalls you get.
- Ledge Waterfall – this is the classic waterfall that looks like a curtain. They go down vertically over a cliff and have contact with the bedrock.
- Block Waterfall – this is also called a sheet. These waterfalls will go on their journey down, but they actually come from a wide stream or river, like the Niagara Falls in the US and Canada.
- Cascade Waterfall – these waterfalls go down over series of rocks that look like steps. These ones you can have a good old play around in as they’re quite safe. An example is the Monkey Falls in India.
- Cataract Waterfall – these are some massive waterfalls, they’re powerful and dangerous too. No trying any adventure stunts near these! An extremely wide cataract fall is the Iguaza River on the border of Brazil and Argentina.
- Chute Waterfall – these waterfalls push a massive amount of water through a vertical passage at seriously high pressure. An example of this type of waterfall is the Three Chute Falls, Yosemite National Park, USA.
- Fan Waterfall – these are literally like big fans of water. As the water goes down its rocky cliff, the water forms a fan shape. That’s awesome.
- Frozen Waterfall – these will freeze over for some of the year. An example is The Fang, Vail, Colorado, USA.
- Horsetail waterfall – pretty bizarre name don’t you think? Well these waterfalls keep in contact with the bedrock underneath them. The Reichenbach Falls, in Switzerland, is a horsetail waterfall. And it’s famous for something. Do you know what it is? Well apparently the imaginary detective from books, Sherlock Holmes apparently fell to his death here. Do you think this is actually true?
- Multi-Step Waterfall – these are also called tiered or staircase. These waterfalls are pretty cool. They are a series of waterfalls, that fall one after the other and each one has their own plunge pool. The Falling Lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park, in Croatia have an awesome multi-step waterfall.
- Plunge Waterfall – these have got some power behind them and they move really fast with a horizontal thrust over the edge which causes the water to lose contact with the bedrock. Wow! Japan’s Hannoki Falls are a plunge waterfall.
- Punchbowl Waterfall – these waterfalls make their merry way down in a narrow way and it then spreads out into a wide pool at the bottom. Wailua Falls in Hawaii is an example of a punchbowl waterfall.
- Segmented Waterfall – as these waterfalls go down they create separate flows of water. That sounds like a cool waterfall to see. The Nigretta Falls in Victoria, Australia, have separate streams that join back up in the pool.
The tallest waterfall in the world is Angel Falls, Venezuela with a massive water drop of 979m. That is seriously high! The fall is so long that when summer comes around the water turns into mist before it reaches the stream below. How cool is that?
The valley of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland is a deep icy area which has formed valley that has an unbelievable 72 waterfalls. The streams flowing from the mountains on either side reach the rocky walls of the valley and off they go on their journey down! The most famous of the waterfalls is the Staubbach Falls less than 1km from Lauterbrunnen village.
Many waterfalls around the world are used to generate hydroelectric power, which is power that is created from water.
Angel Falls are names after American Pilot Jimmy Angel who flew over them in 1935.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are locally known as ‘Mosi oa Tunya’ which means ‘the smoke that thunders’.
The roar from the Victoria Falls can be heard from over 40km away! No way, that is one powerful waterfall.
Niagara Falls has two falls including the Horseshoe Falls, which are 75m high, and the American Falls at 55m high! No wonder people flock there in their millions!
You should be waterfall smart by now, with all this information. Share some of your new-found knowledge with family and friends and get some brownie points by sharing with your teacher too!