Waterfalls are one of the most amazing sights of nature. Humans are used to seeing waters or rivers of water flowing horizontally across land. So it comes as a startling shock to find a big body of water hurtling down from great height with a gush and roar of noise. More often the clear water loos milky white and the spray of mist impart a surreal look to the spectacle. Before you read on about the top 13 waterfalls, it would be worthwhile to know how waterfalls got created.
How are waterfalls formed?
A waterfall is a part a river or stream where the water plunges down a steep vertical drop and lands in a plunge pool below. In other words, a waterfall is used to describe a place where water flows over a single or a series of vertical drops in the course of a stream or river.
Waterfalls are generally found in the upper course of a river. Waterfalls are caused when water flowing over hard rock falls over softer rocks and erodes them. The hard rock has slower rate of erosion, whereas the rate of erosion increases downstream, due to the velocity of water coming down. This causes the softer rocks to get eroded faster and make the drop steeper. At the bottom a deep plunge pool or gorge is formed. In the course of time the water erosion causes the ledge to collapse and pushes the waterfall further back upstream. This receding of the waterfall upstream makes it carve deeper into the ridge above it. The rate of retreat for a waterfall can be as high as one and half meters per year. Often over time, the waterfall will recede back to form a canyon or gorge downstream as it recedes upstream.
Here is the list and description of the tallest and highest waterfalls in the world in ascending order.
13. Waihilau Falls, Hawaii Islands, USA
Waihilau Falls is the thirteenth-highest waterfall in the world and the third-tallest waterfall in the Hawaii Islands. Waihilau Falls has a height of 790 metres or 2,600 feet above sea level. The waterfall is in the Waimanu Valley in the Hawaii Islands. It forms a part of the Waihilau River.
12. Ramnefjellsfossen Falls, Norway
Ramnefjellsfossen falls are located on the mountain, Ramnefjellet, in the municipality of Stryn in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. It is also known as Utigardsfossen or Utigordsfossen. The falls has three drops and the total height is 818 metres or 2,684 ft. The falls are fed by the Ramnefjellbreen glacier. The water flow is very less as compared to other falls of similar heights elsewhere in the world. The water from the falls flow into the Lovatnet lake. The falls are easily accessible through boat, sea plane, or road. There is a campsite on the base of the falls.
11. Strupenfossen Falls, Norway
Strupenfossen falls is located in the municipality of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway. It is on the Strupen River, located in the Myklebust Valley in Breim region of Norway. The waterfall consists of six smaller falls with a total fall height of 820 meters. The highest vertical drop among these is 705 meters. It is considered the eleventh tallest waterfall and the third highest in Norway and Europe.
10. Browne Falls, New Zealand
Browne Falls is a waterfall located in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. It is the tenth tallest waterfall in the world, and the tallest in New Zealand. It has a height of 836 metres. It is in a temperate rain forest. Its source is a mountain lake called Lake brown which is filled by rain water. The water overflows from the cliff and down the mountain face. The falls has six drops. The falls is not steep, but has a gradient of 42 degrees. The low angle slope makes it look less impressive. Also, its width is very small and in summer the water flow is considerably reduced.
9. James Bruce Falls, Canada
James Bruce Falls is the ninth tallest waterfall in the world, and the highest waterfall in the continent of North America. Its total height is 840 metres or 2,760 ft. It is located in Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. It originates from a small snowfield and cascades down to Princess Louisa Inlet.
Although this waterfall has the height, it lacks in size or width. It has a width of just 2.6 meters or 15 feet. Width-wise it is nothing more than a mountain stream.
8. Pu’uka’oku Falls, Hawaii Islands, USA
Pu’uka’oku Falls is in the Molokai island of Hawaii. It is the 8th highest waterfall in the world. It has a total height of 840 meters or 2,756 feet. It is in the vicinity of Oloupena Falls, in the sme Molokai islands, which are the fourth highest waterfall in the world. Apart from the height, the quantity of water that falls down is not that impressive, although from the distance, from sea or air, it looks spectacular.
7. Balaifossen Falls, Norway
Balaifossen waterfalls have a combined vertical drop of 850 meters, and it is the seventh highest waterfall in the world, and the second highest waterfall Europe. It is a three-tiered fall and the largest drop is of 452 meters. The fall lies in the Balai River in Ulvik municipality in Hordaland, Norway. This is a seasonal falls. The falls contain water from the snowmelt on Kyrelvfjellet, and it dries up during the summer and autumn. Although it is narrow, yet the falls look spectacular like a stream of milk, from the roads on the other side of the fjord.
6. Vinnufossen Falls, Norway
Vinnufossen is the sixth tallest in the world, and the tallest in Europe. It is a four-tiered fall and has a height of 860 metres or 2,820 ft. It is located near the village of Sunndalsora in the More og Romsdal county of Norway. The falls are on the river Vinnu which is fed by the Vinnufonna glacier and flows down from the Vinnufjellet mountain.
5. Yumbilla Falls, Peru
Yumbilla Falls is considered the world’s fifth tallest waterfall with a total height of 896 meters or 2940 ft. This is a four-tiered fall, which means that it comprises of four drops over its entire height. It is located near the town of Cuispea which is in the Amazonia region of Peru. This falls is notable for its height only, as the quantity of water is little more than a mountain stream. The stream is reported to come from a cave called “Caverna San Francisco”. It became know only in 2007 after a geographical survey. The area comes under the Eastern Peruvian Andes. The falls are just 6 km away from the Cuispes town and are accessible by foot or mule.
4. Oloupena Falls, Hawaii Islands, USA
Oloupena Falls is in the Molokai islands of Hawaii. It is considered the fourth highest waterfall in the world. It has a height of 900 meters or 2,953 feet. The waterfall is located between the Pelekunu and Wailau valleys. The water plunges down the edges of the tallest sea-cliffs of the world. Being on the edge of a sea cliff, this waterfall can only be observed from the ocean or air.
3. Tres Hermanas Falls, Peru
Tres Hermanas Falls is the third tallest waterfall in the world. It has a height of 914 meters or 3000 feet. Tres harmanas means Three Sisters in Spanish. The fall is located inside the Otishi National Park which is in the Junin region of Peru. The forest area is called the Wet Montane Forest. Tres Hermanas is a three-tiered waterfall, which means there are three drops which constitute the waterfall.
2. Tugela Falls, South Africa
Tugela Falls, in South Africa, is a complex of seasonal waterfalls on the Tugela River. The combined total drop of its five distinct free-leaping falls is 948 meters or 3,110 ft. This makes it the second highest waterfall in the world. It is located in the Drakensberg, also known as Dragon’s Mountains; which is inside Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.
Angel Falls is the tallest single uninterrupted drop of any waterfall in the world. But if the five tiers of Tugela Falls are added then it competes with the Angel falls. The falls are visible from the approaching roads. There is camp site and huts for tourist on the mountain above the falls.
The falls can be reached from the Royal Natal Park or from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Access to the summit is via a trekking and climbing trail and one has to go through the chain ladders. From the summit one can view the glorious sight of the falls rushing down the amphitheatre in a series of five cascading falls.
1. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Imagine a waterfall that has a height of almost one kilometre! A waterfall that is three times taller than the Eiffel Tower! Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 meters or 3,212 ft. The waterfall has a plunge of 807 meters or 2,648 ft. The falls are also called Kerepakupai Meru meaning “waterfall of the deepest place”, or Parakupá Vená, meaning “the fall from the highest point” in local language. The Angel falls are located within the Canaima National Park in Bolivar, Venezuela. The water drops from the top, over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain. The falls are along the Rio Kerepacupai Meru River which flows into the Churun River.
The waterfall has been named Angel Falls after Jimmie Angel who flew over the falls and discovered them in October, 1937. It is one of the top tourist attractions in Venezuela. The falls are located in isolated jungle and the nearest place to start is the Canaima Camp. This camp can be reached by flight from Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolivar. River trips are also taken to reach the falls from downstream.
Angel Falls was featured in the Disney animated film Up, released in 2009.In the movie it was called Paradise Falls. It also appeared in the Disney film Dinosaur, and also in the 1990 film Arachnophobia. Its most recent appearance was in the 2015 film Point Break. Several documentaries have been made on Angel Falls and it has featured in TV channels like National Geographic and Planet Earth.
These waterfalls are the tallest or highest in the world. There are several other waterfalls which have more water flowing down, or have width spanning kilometers; which may look more spectacular. Such waterfalls have not been included in this article, owing to their lesser heights, but are nevertheless very spectacular and provide an awe-inspiring sight. These are Iguazu Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina; Kaieteur Falls in Guyana, Victoria Falls in Africa, the world famous Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border etc. These spectacular waterfalls are another story, and will be covered in another article. Meanwhile, you can enjoy and refer to this list of the top greatest and highest waterfall in the world.