We’ve been rather inactive here over the last six or so months, for any of several reasons (most of them good) that I won’t get into. But now that the weather is turning for the season in our neck(s) of the woods, we’ve got more time to sit down and work on fleshing out the database a bit more again. To get things moving again, we’ve got a pretty substantial update for you: our full data set for the entire country of New Zealand. Turns out, New Zealand has a lot of waterfalls: we’ve recorded 2,217 so far, and still counting! We’ve already spotted at least two dozen more that our initial data set didn’t pick up from our mapping efforts, so we’ll be adding more in the future, but for now this should keep curious eyes quite busy.
Up next, we’re returning to our effort to finish out the data for the United States.
One of our faithful visitors recently shared a some pretty spectacular footage with us of New Zealand’s very rarely seen, yet quite obviously spectacular Turner Falls. According to topographic maps, this waterfall is noted as dropping 265 meters / 870 feet, however the contours of the maps actually contradict this measurement, and suggest that it’s actually more like 380 meters / 1,260 feet tall. These are the first images we’ve seen of Turner excluding the aerial imagery visible on Google Earth, and it reveals this beast to be even more impressive than we suspected – leading us to suspect that it is indeed much closer to 380 meters tall, and that it may just rank as the 2nd best waterfall in New Zealand, only behind arguably the best waterfall in the southern hemisphere, Sutherland Falls.
Following up to our post from before Christmas, we just posted part two of our December 2015 data publish, adding an additional 543 waterfalls to the database; 278 more entries in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and in the United States, additions in the following states: Washington (203), Oregon (37), California (12), Montana (8), and Colorado (6). Through this process we identified a problem with our data import system that was resulting in duplicate entries in certain circumstances. While we’re fairly certain we cleaned out all of the duplicates from the recent imports, there may be some still floating around out there that we haven’t caught yet. If you do see any entries which appear to be duplicates (mapped twice, for example), please let us know – this shouldn’t be an issue going forward.
With this recent data publish, our database currently sits at over 17,000 waterfalls and counting. Keep in mind that our primary focus thus far has been to get all of our data for the United States online first, so given that this only accounts for a small fraction of the globe, that’s a pretty astounding number. When we finally get around to adding heavyweight countries like Norway, France, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, let alone finishing up the rest of Canada (Ontario and Quebec alone should add at LEAST another 1,500 entries), we’ll be looking at a staggering number of waterfalls inventoried! Hopefully in 2016 we’re able to grow the data much further and faster than we were able to this year.
In a completely unexpected turn of events, we’re really bad at getting new data up on the website. Shocking, I know. Well, better late than never I suppose? Having become abundantly obvious to us a few weeks ago that it had been nearly a year since we’d posted any new data to the database, we decided it was time to re-evaluate our strategy and see if maybe we can do things in a slightly more efficient way. So, rather than waiting until we have fully proofed our internal data sets and ensured they are as complete as possible, we are going to try to post whatever we have ready to go as soon as it’s possible (within our not terribly flexible schedules at least).
That said, we’ve just posted data for several regions of North America: in the United States we’ve added nearly the complete data sets for Maine (238 entries) and Georgia (152 entries so far – more to be added later), as well as a smattering of additional falls in Minnesota, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, and Ohio. In Canada, we’ve added the very limited data sets we had for Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories, as well as the full data set for Saskatchewan (yes, there are in fact waterfalls in Saskatchewan), as well as a solitary entry in New Brunswick which shares the border with Maine.
We will probably try to get one more publish done before the end of the year, with possibly the rest of the Georgia and Maine data, as well as additions to Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and more of the mountainous western states, and hopefully at least one full set for one of the remaining US States which hasn’t been published yet.
Probably the most glaring issue with our website has been the ability to easily browse the contents of the database to find any given waterfall. For years we had been meaning to address the issue but simply never got a chance to for whatever reason (and many of them not very good at that). Well we’ve finally been able to do something about it, and today marks the launch of our new Mapping tool.
With this new system you will be able to browse the entire contents of our database in a Google Maps window. To start, this is limited only to browsing by any given country – and in certain cases States or Provinces within that country (currently this only applies to the United States, Canada, and Australia, but will expand in the future). In the future we plan on adding the ability to display search results and Top 100 lists on the map, and expand on the flexibility of the system further.
We haven’t exactly been very vigilant about posting updates here over the last six months, but long time readers may have come to expect that sort of inconsistency. Usually that that means is we’ve been working tirelessly…well, maybe almost tirelessly… on getting more content prepared and rolling out new features for the website. So, in honor of the holiday season, here’s our present to our readers:
Complete data for the following States has been posted:
With these updates we now have data for 36 out of 50 states, and brings our grand total of waterfalls in the United States (so far) up to a whopping 10,919, and when all is said and done we expect that number to climb closer to 14,000 (and of course, it will continue to grow as we find and inventory more and more waterfalls).
In addition to the United States coverage, we also added data for 492 waterfalls in Iceland, about eighty of which we had the opportunity to survey back in August. To date we’ve posted reports on about half of those, and the remaining reports (as well as pictures) will be posted when we can get around to them.
Lastly, in addition to continuously adding more data, we’ve been working on overhauling some of the systems that power the website. We’ve got some much needed changes in the pipeline that we hope to have launched by the end of the year. If you follow us on Facebook (which you should), you may have seen mention of a new mapping system coming down the line. Well it’s getting close. I can’t say exactly when it will be ready, because there are a couple other dependencies that have to be finished first. But it’s coming. Soon. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but I will say that it will make navigating and searching for waterfalls in the database infinitely easier right off the bat, and will allow us some much needed expansion capability in the future as well. Stay tuned.
The upper basin of the Iguacu River in Brazil has seen prolonged heavy rain recently, which has caused the Iguacu River to swell to previously unheard of proportions. Iguacu Falls, which lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina, is currently in a spate that has absolutely shattered its previous record levels. In 1992 the river reached a flow of 36,000 cubic meters – or 1.27 million cubic feet – of water flowing over the falls every second. Today the river is said to have peaked out at 46,800 cubic meters – or 1.65 million cubic feet – of water every second. That’s approximately 3 times as much water as the average flow of the Mississippi River, and 5 times as much as the St. Lawrence River below Lake Ontario. In fact, that’s more water every second than the average volume of any other river on earth except for the Amazon! That’s so much water that the lower tier of the 269 foot tall falls was almost entirely submerged from the water backing up in the gorge.
Michigan is not a state that one may immediately assume to be a destination for waterfall hunting. This is certainly understandable given that the majority of the state is really, really flat – the state’s high point is a paltry 1,709 feet above sea level, and lowest point is the surface of Lake Erie at 571 feet above sea level. Considering the majority of the population of Michigan lives on the lower peninsula, its rather understandable that not many of its residence may be aware of the cornucopia of waterfalls which can be found in the state.
All but two of Michigan’s 272 recorded waterfalls occur on its upper peninsula – though technically there are three entries in the database for the lower peninsula, but one of them is not considered to be a legitimate waterfall. Despite the generally flat terrain, the geology of Michigan’s upper peninsula is very conducive to the formation of waterfalls along its many streams and rivers. Though there are only about 16 waterfalls in the state known to drop more than 50 feet (three of which are over 100 feet tall), there are literally dozen and dozens of smaller falls which are quite worthy of note. To accompany this situation however, there are also many features which have been granted the title of “Falls” over the years which in reality are not even remotely significant enough to be legitimately considered waterfalls.
Hotbed areas to target when planning on hunting down many of Michigan’s waterfalls include the Porcupine Mountains – especially the Black River and Presque Isle River corridors – the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area around Munising, though in general pretty much anywhere within 5 miles of the shore of Lake Superior is a good place to look for waterfalls given the extremely prolific sandstone formations which can be found in the area.
So how about we start off the new year with a whole bunch of new waterfalls? To accompany the data set for Vermont which we posted about a month ago, we have recently completed uploading our data set for the state of New Hampshire, which currently details information on 364 waterfalls in The Granite State. Like most of the New England States, New Hampshire isn’t known for its waterfalls specifically, however there are many well known waterfalls scattered throughout the state that certainly throw their weight around as individual tourist destinations, in the White Mountains especially. Though generally the waterfalls in New Hampshire are on par with the rest of New England in terms of size, the geology of the state allows for a handful of surprisingly tall waterfalls to occur
Comparing the geology to neighboring Vermont presents an interesting contrast. While the mountains of Vermont are by and large made of metamorphic rocks, New Hampshire is dominated by Granitic forms of bedrock (the official state moniker does sort of hint to this). Not only are the mountains generally taller than in other neighboring states – Mount Washington itself being the tallest mountain in New England – but this added height has promoted a handful of waterfalls of substantial heights (albeit small volumes) to form, at least a handful of which stretch well over 500 feet tall.
The majority of New Hampshires waterfalls however are much smaller and more conducive to intimate encounters. Several of the most well known falls in the White Mountains have long romanticized histories relating to their unique and often fascinating geologic formations – The Basin, Avalanche Falls and The Flume Gorge, Diana’s Baths, and Sabbaday Falls to name a few. While the majority of the falls occur in and around the White Mountains, the southern half of the state is still fairly well represented itself, though with falls of much smaller stature. Several features named as waterfalls can be found along the larger rivers in this region, though many of these features are more frequently relevant as historic mill sites than they are legitimate waterfalls. But regardless of where you search, options abound.
We have full survey reports on quite a few waterfalls in New Hampshire, and have begin posting them immediately. It will take a while before they are all up, so expect to see quite a few waterfalls marked as Cataloged without detailed information for the time being. We hope to have much of this data filled in over the next two months, as time permits.
Though Alaska may not necessarily be well known for its waterfalls, one usually associates towering mountains, huge glaciers and sheer-walled fjords with the state, so one would naturally be forgiven for assuming that Alaska harbors lots and lots of waterfalls. It may surprise you then to learn Alaska may not in fact be quite so endowed with waterfalls as may be assumed. Oh there are many waterfalls throughout the state for sure, but how many there truly are is quite difficult to discern. Thus far, we have recorded information on 314 waterfalls throughout Alaska.
The big issues preventing extensive surveying of the state are a) the remoteness and lack of developed infrastructure, and b) the fact that the population is so small and for all practical purposes inaccessible to the population of the lower 48 states without flying in to Anchorage first (which then adds further travel limitations such as rental car range and lodging). Most of the waterfalls surveyed in Alaska occur either in the southeast coastal area along the border with British Columbia and Yukon, or within the mountainous regions along the south coast around Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the beginning of the Aleutian Peninsula.
Many of Alaska’s waterfalls occur in the glaciated fjords in the coastal south and southeast parts of the state, from Ketchikan all the way up to Anchorage. As the glaciation is extensive, the valleys are carved quite deeply and in turn the waterfalls can be considerable in size. The catch to this situation is that because of the extensive glacial cover, there are few roads in the area, so access by Boat is necessary in many cases, and those which can be accessed by car or on foot will require first flying or boating in to an isolated town such as Juneau or Ketchican, and then procuring wheeled transportation to travel further. The roads leading to the towns of Seward, Whitter, Valdez and Haines all provide access to many waterfalls from the mainland, but long travel times are required due to the limited road network.
The vast majority of the interior of the state is a huge black hole. In fact, out of the 314 waterfalls we currently have listed in the database in Alaska, only three of them occur north of Fairbanks. This is not to say there are no waterfalls further north, but rather that the area is so remote and difficult to access that it is hard to know what may actually be out there. Now that said, a good chunk of this part of the state is occupied by the Yukon River valley and is pretty darn flat – in fact while flowing over 1,200 miles between the Canadian border and the Bering Sea, the Yukon River only drops 850 feet in elevation. Sure there are mountains around the river, but this is a pretty good gauge for the overall terrain in the northern part of the state. Further north lies the Brooks Range, the most likely area for waterfalls to occur in the northern part of Alaska, but like much of the rest of the state there is no developed infrastructure so there is no easy way to explore the area.
As a footnote, in addition to this data about Alaska, we published information on the only two natural waterfalls known to occur within the state or Rhode Island several weeks ago. With these two states published, and considering that the State of Delaware has no natural waterfalls, we now have data published for half of the United States. In the coming weeks we should be wrapping up the editing work on our data for New Hampshire and Maine and hope to have those two posted by the end of January. Once those two are out of the way, there will only be 5-6 other states with considerable numbers of waterfalls to collate, so we’re hopeful that the rest of the country can be finished by the summer – or at the very latest the end of 2014.
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