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The Different Types of Waterfall

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Waterfalls are fascinating because they’re all so different. Some are tall and powerful, others are short and tranquil. Because they’re all so unique they can be difficult to categorise, but every waterfall on the planet can be put into one of these 12.

Plunge

The Plunge is the daddy of all waterfalls. It’s used to describe any waterfall where the water loses all contact with the rock face and drops vertically down.

Famous examples of plunge waterfalls include New Zealand’s Rainbow Falls, India’s Nohkalikai Falls and Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall at 979 metres tall.

Cataract

If the plunge is the daddy then the cataract is the strong and powerful uncle that you don’t want to mess with. It’s a term used to describe any waterfall with a very high volume of water and they are often accompanied by rapids. Think Niagara Falls you’ll get the idea.

Block

Block waterfalls often look very similar to cataracts like Niagara, they’re just less powerful. The term describes a waterfall that is sourced by a wide river and they’re usually wider than they are tall.

Cascade

Cascade waterfalls are the most common type around. The term is used to describe any waterfall that descends over an irregular and even surface. The water looks like it’s making its way down a series of steps and the volume is usually fairly low.

Tiered

Tiered waterfalls are a kind of hybrid. The water falls in a series of very distinct steps that could each be categorised as a different type of waterfall.

For example Yosemite Falls in the United States has three distinct drops that are called the upper, lower and middle falls.

Segmented

These are very similar to tiered waterfalls, but the separate flows are even more distinct. The water often runs off in several different directions.

Multi-Step

Mulit-step is another term used to describe waterfalls that can be broken down into a series of distinct drops. Each drop is roughly the same size and they all have their own plunge pool.

Chute

Chute waterfalls sound like they should be a slide, and in a way they kind of are. Any waterfall where a lot of water passes through a vertical, narrow passage is put into this category.

Frozen

This one doesn’t need a lot of explaining really. If there’s some sort of ice around, it’s a frozen waterfall.

Punchbowl

When a wide river flows through a small or narrow area before descending into the plunge pool a punchbowl waterfall is created. It gives the impression that the water is punching its way through the rock.

Fan

Fan waterfalls are more tranquil than many of the others. As the water falls it spreads out horizontally and remains in contact with the rock face.

Horsetail

A Horsetail waterfall is very much the same, and always remains in contact with the bedrock. The only difference is that the water falls vertically and doesn’t spread itself. Howick Falls in South Africa are a textbook example.

 

When he’s not chasing waterfalls with the girls from TLC Frankie Barnes works as a copywriter for Find Me A Gift.