There’s no denying the beauty of waterfalls. No matter how large or small, there is something quite mesmerizing about water cascading down the side of a cliff or mountain. These natural geological formations have become popular tourist attractions across the globe. But how do you measure the size of a waterfall? Is it how tall it is? How wide? Or how much water flows per second? Whichever measure you use, the world's biggest waterfalls are truly awe-inspiring.
Located in the Bolivar State of Venezuela, the tallest waterfall in the world is known locally as Kerepakupai Meru. To the rest of the planet, it goes by name of Angel Falls. Falling from a height of 3,212 feet, the water barely touches the cliff face as it bursts forth over the edge of Devil’s Mountain. The height of Angel Falls is so great that the immense stream of free-falling water atomizes into a huge column of mist. Further down it trickles back together before continuing as a cascading run of rapids. Angel Falls really is one of the biggest waterfalls in the world.
Angel Falls may be the tallest waterfall on the surface on the planet. But if you count waterfalls that are below the surface, it pales into insignificance next to Denmark Strait Cataract. Found underwater between Greenland and Iceland, this waterfall is more than three times higher than Angel Falls at 11,500 feet. But how can there be a waterfall under the ocean? Denmark Strait Cataract is formed by the different water temperatures on either side of it. The ice-cold waters from the Greenland Sea meet the warmer waters of the Irminger Sea. Due to differences in density, the colder water flows down and beneath the warmer water. Unfortunately, there are no viewing platforms so the Denmark Strait Cataract is one waterfall that can’t be put on your bucket list.
Many of the widest waterfalls in the world can be found in South America. Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian/Argentinean border is 5th on the list with Brazil’s Guaira Falls at 3rd. Para Falls in Venezuela comes in at the impressive second place. But to find the widest waterfall in the world, you need to travel to Laos in South East Asia. Spanning 35,376 feet, Khone Falls makes South American waterfalls seem skinny in comparison. The series of cascades is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the area. If it were not for the Khone Falls, you would be able to travel the Mekong River all the way to China.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to Boyoma Falls, the biggest waterfall in the world by flow rate. Seven separate cataracts make up these falls, spreading for over 62 miles and dropping by 200 feet. Six hundred thousand cubic feet of water flows over the Boyoma Falls every second, eventually ending up in the Congo River. Local inhabitants, the Wagenya, rely on Boyoma Falls for fishing. Specially developed wooden tripods are anchored into holes in rocks created by the powerful waters. Stretching across the falls, baskets attached to these tripods dangle in the water to catch large fish.
Located on the border between the US and Canada is possibly the most famous waterfall of all. Niagara Falls may not be the highest, widest, or have the greatest volume of water flowing over it. But it certainly has the biggest number of visitors. It’s estimated that almost 30 million people visit Niagara every year. People have always had a fascination with the falls, especially adventurers. In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a 63-year-old schoolteacher, went over the falls in a barrel together with her cat. She was lucky and survived the attempt. Of the 14 other people who have tried since only seven have lived to tell the tale of their plummet over Niagara Falls.
Cascata Delle Marmore or Marmore Falls in Italy was built by the Romans back in 200BCE. At 541 feet, it earns its place as the world’s largest man-made waterfall. The river above the falls is channeled into a hydroelectric power plant allowing the flow of water to can be controlled. There is a daily schedule so visitors to the area know when they can see Marmore Falls in all their spectacular glory. As the gates open, the power of the first gush of water is an amazing sight to behold.
Washington’s desert is the location of the biggest waterfall that ever existed. There's just one reason it doesn't top the rest of the falls - no water! All that can now be seen are the skeletal remains of a once mighty waterfall along the cliff face. Dry Falls is still an impressive place and one of great geological significance. And with some imagination, you can almost see the incredibly vast sheet of water cascading 400 feet over the three-mile-wide chasm.
Yosemite National Park is home to a huge number of waterfalls. But it’s the impressive Yosemite Falls that is the highest waterfall in the United States. Water seems to hurl itself over the top of the cliff face before cascading over three sections to end up in a plunge pool 2,425 feet below. In the late summer and fall, the water dries up so be sure to visit Yosemite Falls in the spring when the heavy snow begins to melt.
Driving 54 miles northwest of Niagara will bring you to Hamilton, a Canadian port city on the edge of Lake Ontario. It’s located on a rocky ridge called the Niagara Escarpment which stretches 1,000 miles across the region of the Great Lakes. This place of natural beauty means Hamilton is home to around 150 waterfalls, rightly earning it the nickname the “Waterfall Capital of the World.” Hamilton's waterfalls may not be quite as grand as others. But for waterfall enthusiasts, there are plenty within the city limits which will leave a lasting impression.
Affectionately known as Vic Falls, many consider this impressive waterfall to be the largest in the world. However, as we have seen, it’s not the highest, nor the widest, nor the biggest in volume. Situated on the Zambezi river, Vic Falls is located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. At 5,604 feet wide and 354 feet tall, it's still an impressive size. But what Victoria Falls may lack in height and width, it makes up for in its breathtaking beauty.