world waterfall database

website help

Browsing the database

There are several different methods for browsing the content of the World Waterfall Database.  The primary method of accessing the data within the database is using the Database Query page.  Information displayed on the Database pages themselves can be sorted by any column with (sort) shown next to the column header.  Clicking on the (sort) link will re-order the query results by that particular column.  Once a particular column has been ordered once, an arrow showing the direction (up or down) of the ordering will replace the (sort) link and allow you to reverse the order which the data is displayed in. Currently we do not have the capacity to sort the data by ratings, but we will be adding the feature in the near future. 

Additionally, for queries which feature Waterfalls from multiple different Countries or States / Provinces (or similar municipal regions), the name of each Country or State / Province which the waterfall occurs within will function as a sortable link to display only waterfalls within that particular Country or State / Province.  At the top of each Waterfall page is a Breadcrumb navigation menu which will allow similar functionality in listing all the Waterfalls inventoried in the database within the particular region selected.  It will function with the following hierarchy:

Home  >  Continent  >  Country  > State / Province / Canton (if applicable)  >  County (if applicable)  >  Forest or Park Land (if applicable)  >  Name of Waterfall

Any of the linked geographical divisions may be clicked on to see additional Waterfalls within that area.

Browse Wizard

We will be adding the capacity to browse a map of the world and visually search for waterfalls in the near future.

Nearby Waterfalls

Immediately below the map shown on each Waterfall page (see Maps and Location Information below) is a list of up to 10 of the closest waterfalls which fall within a radius of 5 miles / 8 kilometers of the waterfall which you are viewing.  These 10 waterfalls are also marked on the map above the list.  Clicking on the icons on the map will open a dialog box with a link to its entry in the database.  Additionally a drop down box below the list will allow for searching for additional waterfalls up to 25 miles / 40km away.  If there are no waterfalls within a radius of 5 miles, the feature will not appear.

Page Top

Searching the Database

A Quick Search box is displayed at the top of ever page of the World Waterfall Database.  This search function only searches the names of waterfalls in the database. Currently this feature only searches for the name of a waterfall. We will be adding a full text search in the near future.

Page Top

"tallest" Lists

New to this version of the World Waterfall Database are expanded lists of the Tallest waterfalls around the world.  There are three options for displaying the Tallest Waterfalls. 

  • Overall Height will list the tallest Waterfalls taking into account all elevation change between the determined top and bottom of the waterfall, no matter how steep or gradual the pitch of the waterfall is, or now many steps the waterfall may consist of. 

  • Tallest Single Drop will list the tallest Waterfalls taking into account only the height of the tallest individual leap of the waterfall, whether it drops freely or at an angle.  Long series of Cascades may be listed as one drop when there may  not be an easily identifiable pause in the fall. 

  • Free Falling Drops Only will list the tallest Waterfalls taking into account only the height of falls which drop at an angle of 85 degrees or more.  We account for a less than truly vertical pitch because very few waterfalls which are considered to be free-leaping actually fall freely 100% of the time.

Page Top

"largest" lists

New to this version of the World Waterfall Database are expanded lists of the Tallest waterfalls around the world.  There are three options for displaying the Tallest Waterfalls. 

  • By Width will list the largest Waterfalls taking into account the linear measurement of the crest of the waterfall, where the length is 300 feet or greater.  Waterfalls in which small islands break the stream / river into multiple channels are measured from one end to the other, taking into account the span of the island(s). 

  • By Volume will list the largest Waterfalls taking into account the average (estimated or otherwise) volume of streamflow present in the stream / river which the waterfall occurs along, where the volume is greater than 5,000 cubic feet per second.

  • By Volume (No Rapids) will list the largest Waterfalls in the same method as the By Volume option, but will exclude all waterfalls which are classified as Rapids and do not have a distinct vertical drop, but rather consist of riffles or stretches of whitewater which have been recognized and named as a waterfall (these types of features would not be listed in the database were they not officially named).  Guidelines for how we classify Rapids can be found here.

  • By Volume (No Inundated) will list the largest Waterfalls in the same method as the By Volume option, but will exclude all waterfalls which have been submerged by waters impounded behind a Dam.

Page Top

rating system

To the right side of every Waterfall page will be a series of information boxes, the box at the top of the page - titled "Ratings" will list information related to our ranking of each waterfall, should the data be present to do so.  A detailed summary of our rating system can be found here.

Page Top

geodata

To the right side of every Waterfall page will be a series of information boxes, the second box from the top of the page - titled "Geodata" will list information related to the waterfall's location. Here we will provide the location of the Waterfall in question as well as the Elevation of the top of the waterfall and links to any relevant online resources for Topographic Mapping in the Country of Waterfall's location. If the location or elevation of the waterfall are not known, the data will remain blank. Additionally, if the location of the Waterfall is not known, the embedded Map displayed further down the page will not be shown (see Mapping).

Page Top

physical information

To the right side of every Waterfall page will be a series of information boxes, the third box from the top of the page - titled "Physical Information" will list information related to the waterfall's physical characteristics, stature and appearance.

Estimated Height / Total Height
The total loss in elevation between the absolute top and bottom of the waterfall. Additionally, the method by which we arrived at the figure displayed will be shown in parenthesis to the right of the row title.  When the height of the falls is known to be estimated or unconfirmed, the heading for the row will display "Estimated Height" rather than "Total Height".  We classify the methods of measuring waterfalls in the following ways, lines highlighted red being the least accurate and green the most accurate methods:

ESTM Estimated height based on generally unverified information.
GE Estimated height based on terrain profiles available in Google Earth.
TOPO Estimated height based on topographic maps.  This will generally be the most accurate method of estimation.
DOCS Height as reported in books, documents or specifically labeled on maps.  Not 100% accurate.
GDAT Height as reported by data provided by Governing organizations such as the USGS.  Not 100% accurate.
WWD Confirmed and measured by laser rangefinder by the World Waterfall Database, generally accurate to within 3-5 feet.

Tallest Single Drop
The loss in elevation of the tallest individual leap of the waterfall, discounting any smaller steps or cascades above or below.  For waterfalls which only consist of one drop, this number will mirror that of the Total Height.  For waterfalls which are classified as any type of Cascades, this number may or may not reflect the total height of the falls, depending on how easy it is to delineate breaks in the falls.  This number will frequently be estimated in the same manor as the Total Height, except where the Total Height is determined by World Waterfall Database surveying.

Total Num. of Drops
The total number of individually distinctive leaps of which the waterfall is comprised.

Avg. Width
The average linear width of the waterfall.  For most waterfalls this will be estimated.

Max. Achievable Width
The absolute widest linear width the waterfall could achieve / has achieved during flood stage.  For most waterfalls this will be estimated.

Pitch
The average angle at which the waterfall is oriented at during its fall.  This is not a simple determination of height / run, but rather a representation of the actual falling part of the waterfall, discounting any flat sections of stream, pools or interruptions between multiple steps of a waterfall.

Run
The total linear distance from the top to the bottom of the waterfall, taking into account multiple drops and any sections of flat stream, pools or interruptions between multiple step of a waterfall.

Category / Form
The general physical shape and form the waterfall takes on during its fall.  We have revised this system from the previous version of the website to further note the minor differences between waterfalls of a similar shape.  Waterfalls are first separated into one of five categories by their overall pitch, and then further identified by additional modifiers which note changes in the shape of the waterfall, whether it separates into multiple channels, etc.  If no outlying modifiers can be identified, the waterfall may be listed under just its Category.

The initial Categories are as follows:

  • Plunge - The classic waterfall form, where the water drops vertically, losing most or all contact with the rock face. This waterfall form has also been referred to as a "Cataract" and a "Vertical" form waterfall.  Plunge category waterfalls generally have a pitch of 80 degrees or more.

  • Horsetail - Horsetail waterfalls are characterized by the constant or semi-constant contact the water maintains with the bedrock as it falls. Horsetail category waterfalls generally have a pitch between 50 and 80 degrees.

  • Steep Cascades - A waterfall of a Steep Cascade form descends over gradually sloping rocks, a series of small steps in quick succession, or a rugged sloping surface of some kind. Steep Cascade category waterfalls generally have a pitch between 30 and 65 degrees.

  • Shallow Cascades - A waterfall of a Shallow Cascade form descends over gradually sloping rocks, a series of small steps in quick succession, or a rugged sloping surface of some kind. Shallow Cascade category waterfalls generally have a pitch between 10 and 40 degrees.

  • Rapids - The Rapids category was included in order to facilitate features which have been named as waterfalls but in reality do not represent an identifiable vertical drop.  Rapid category waterfalls generally have a pitch of less than 10 degrees.

The modifier Forms are as follows:

  • Block - Qualifies when a waterfall is wider than it is tall. The waterfall does not have to be a solid sheet of water across it's entire width.

  • Curtain - Qualifies when a waterfall has a broad width but is taller than it is than it is wide. The waterfall does not have to be a solid sheet of water across it's entire width.  Often becomes narrower during low discharge periods.

  • Punchbowl - Qualifies when the stream is constricted to a narrow breadth and is forcefully shot outward and downward into a large pool.

  • Segmented - Qualifies when the stream is split into two more more channels by bedrock at the brink of the waterfall and falls in multiple parallel streams.

  • Sliding - Qualifies when the stream sheets down a solid rock face at a shallow angle similar to a waterslide.  Often associated with Granite bedrock.

  • Talus - Qualifies when the stream flows over, under, through and around a large pile of boulders in the streambed.  Very few waterfalls are inventoried with a Talus modifier (see Guidelines for how we determining whether a non-vertical stream is a waterfall).

  • Tiered - Qualifies when there are two or more distinct steps to a waterfall.

  • Veiling - Qualifies when the breadth of the stream expands outward as the water falls.

The table below illustrates all the possible combinations which a waterfall may fall within (Categories across the top, Modifiers down the left):

  Plunge Horsetail Steep Cascades Shallow Cascades Rapids
Block Vertical Block Wide Horsetail Wide Steep Cascade Wide Shallow Cascade Wide Rapids
Curtain Vertical Curtain Curtain Horsetail      
Punchbowl Plunging Punchbowl Sliding Punchbowl      
Segmented Segmented Plunges

Segmented Horsetails

Segmented Steep Cascades Segmented Gradual Cascades Segmented Rapids
Sliding   Sliding Horsetail Steep Sliding Cascade Gradual Sliding Cascade Sliding Rapids
Talus     Steep Boulder Cascade Minor Boulder Cascade Boulder Garden
Tiered Tiered Plunges Tiered Horsetails Tiered Steep Cascades Tiered Gradual Cascades  
Veiling Veiling Plunge Veiling Horsetail Steep Veiling Cascade    

Page Top

Status & Google Earth icons

Below the name of the waterfall is a brief at-a-glance reference to the level of information the World Waterfall Database currently has available for each waterfall recorded in our database. These status indicators are used throughout the website as an easy reference to help point out which entries we have the most information available for. A similar table to the below will be seen on the right sidebar of all database pages to help denote the color coding. Denoting each status is an icon, which will be seen in Google Earth as a marker for the waterfall's location when viewing a downloaded KML file from the database.

Cataloged Waterfall IconCataloged
Waterfalls with this status have been visited, photographed and in many cases measured by World Waterfall Database survey members. The information presented will be highly accurate (though not always up to date).
Confirmed Waterfall IconConfirmed
Waterfalls with this status are known to exist, are relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the information presented will be relatively accurate. If height information is presented, it will usually be estimated but will be fairly accurate.
Unconfirmed Waterfall IconUnconfirmed
Waterfalls with this status are often marked on a map(s), but the World Waterfall Database has yet to confirm its exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Height information will be estimated and may not be accurate.
Suspected / Rumored Waterfall IconRumored / Suspected
Waterfalls with this status are either suspected to exist but we have little to no data to prove such, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist at the location provided. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and height information will be estimated and will not likely be accurate.
Inundated Waterfall IconInundated
Waterfalls with this status have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs which have been impounded behind a dam and are no longer visible or functionally exist. We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
Disqualified Waterfall IconDisqualified
Waterfalls with this status do not fall within the qualifiers the World Waterfall Database uses to catalog a feature as a waterfall. We do not consider such features to be legitimate waterfalls, but will maintain records where the feature is well known and / or may have been referred to as a waterfall at some point.
Posted Waterfall IconPosted / Inaccessible
Waterfalls with this status are known to exist, but are found within privately held land and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfall with this status should not be attempted without first seeking permission of the property owner.

Page Top

hydro & Seasonal Icons

Below the general information for each waterfall in the database a second information box may appear to point out two potential characteristics which may negatively impact the visual stature of a waterfall. If either of these two characteristics do not apply, these boxes will not appear. Further information regarding how these characteristics affect the waterfall will usually be given in the general information section.

Hydroelectric Integration Iconhydroelectric integration
Waterfalls with this indicator occur downstream from a dam or diversion which draws off part or all of the volume of the stream which the waterfall occurs along, and as a result may not flow as consistently as would otherwise. Further information may be provided in the general information section.
Seasonal Discharge Iconseasonal discharge
Waterfalls with this indicator occur along a stream which is known to either cease flowing regularly through they ear, or relies almost entirely upon precipitation to flow, and as a result will only be impactfully visible for a short period of the year. Further information will usually be provided for all Confirmed and Cataloged waterfalls.

Page Top

Access Icons

At the top right of the waterfall page, adjacent to the name of each waterfall, are icons used to provide thumbnail reference at the difficulty and method(s) of accessing each waterfall. Each access method icon (in black) will be accompanied by an access difficulty icon (colors) to provide an easy reference as to the effort needed to reach any given waterfall. Waterfalls which do not hold Confirmed or Cataloged status may not feature any of these icons.

4-Wheel Drive Access Icon4-Wheel Drive access
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via a rough road, potentially involving deep rutting, mud holes, un-bridged stream crossings and rough surface. A high clearance vehicle will be required.
Vehicle Access IconRoadside
The waterfall in question will be either adjacent to a road which is accessible by 2-wheel drive vehicles, or will be located within an easy walk of a road accessible by a 2-wheel drive vehicle. The "Easy" colored difficulty icon (see below) will always apply to this method of access.
Day Hike Access IconDay hike
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via an obvious trail of any variety of difficulty, with round-trip distances not exceeding 15 miles (24km).
Multi-day Hike Access Iconmulti-day hike
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via a maintained trail of varying difficulty, which may require backpacking and wilderness camping for multiple days. Distances are not limited.
Bushwhack Access Iconbushwhack / cross-country travel
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via foot travel without aid of developed or obvious trails or paths. Often this will require stream fords, scrambling up / down steep slopes, dense forest / underbrush and dangerous exposure. Distances are not limited (longer distances will result in a high difficulty in access).
Watercraft Access Iconmotorized watercraft
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via a motorized watercraft. Personal or commercial watercraft may apply. In many cases, watercraft will be the only method of access, but the waterfall may be too far away for paddle watercraft to access in a day.
Kayak Access Iconpaddle watercraft
The primary method of accessing this waterfall will be via a paddle-powered watercraft, usually as a result of either a lack of boat launching facilities for motorized craft, or because the conditions will not allow motorized watercraft to navigate (such as along smaller rivers). In most cases, waterfalls with this notation can be paddled over in a kayak (in some cases in canoes as well) for those who possess whitewater kayaking experience.
Swimming present Iconswimming present
Opportunities are present at or immediately surrounding this waterfall for swimming.
Easy Access IconEasy Access
This icon denotes the waterfall is easy to access. For vehicle access the waterfall will be visible from the road. If trail-based foot travel is involved, the hike will generally be suitable for children. For Bushwhack access, minor brush or obstacles will be encountered.
Moderate Access IconModerate Access
This icon denotes the waterfall will require some effort to access. If trail-based foot travel is involved, expect moderate elevation gain / loss, possible rough trail and un-bridged stream crossings up to shin deep. For Bushwhack access, expect moderate to thick brush, modest obstacles such as fallen trees, steep slopes and up to knee-deep stream fords.
Difficult Access IconDifficult Access
This icon denotes the waterfall will require substantial effort to access. If trail-based foot travel is involved, expect significant elevation gain / loss, steep, rough trail and un-bridged, potentially swift stream crossings up to waist deep. For Bushwhack access, expect thick to impenetrable brush, significant obstacles such as large fallen trees, cliffs, near vertical slopes and up to waist-deep stream fords.
Discouraged Access IconDiscouraged Access
This icon denotes the waterfall is either exceptionally difficult to access and the World Waterfall Database does not recommend it be visited due to substantial hazards which exist, or the waterfall occurs within privately held property and is not publicly accessible. If the waterfall is publicly accessible, expect to encounter very thick brush, fast, swift and deep streams which are too dangerous to ford, cliffs which may need to be rappelled in order to surmount and potentially multiple days of off-trail travel in steep, treacherous terrain.

Page Top

detailed information

Because of the sheer scope of this project, it is difficult if not impossible for us to have thorough information on every waterfall in the database. In the Detailed Information section, we will provide what data and information we have where possible. Waterfalls which are marked as Cataloged in the database will always have thorough information since we will have surveyed it in person. Some waterfalls marked as Confirmed will also have similar information, but any entries which we can not confirm may not have anything presented. Any information presented in the Detailed Information section will focus on the known factors.

Below this will be a section dedicated to information regarding the Name and History of the Waterfall. Any alternate names which the waterfall has been known or referenced by will be listed here, as well as any details we have regarding the origins of said names. Additionally information about the discovery of the waterfall, where known, will often be presented. If the Waterfall is not officially named but the World Waterfall Database has proposed a name, our reasoning behind our choice for the name will be presented here.

The final section dedicated to the description of the waterfall is for us to convey our subjective thoughts and opinions about the Waterfall in question. Here we will identify any inconsistencies with data we have acquired against our own observations, our postulations regarding accuracy of things like the height and streamflow of the waterfall, and generally whether we think it is a worthy destination or not.

Page Top

map and location information

Below the detailed information for each Waterfall is an embedded map of the location of the Waterfall. The maps default to topographic terrain display, but switching to Satellite view will often reveal details not visible otherwise. The Waterfall in question will be marked with a colored icon - the color denoting its Status in the database - at the center, with up to 10 additional nearby waterfalls also marked in their respective colors. Clicking on any of the icons on the map will open a popup with information about the waterfall in question. It should be known that while Google does not currently have high resolution Satellite imagery covering the entire globe in their mapping system, many places are and where it is available, it is not uncommon to be able to see the Waterfall in the imagery itself.

Immediately above the map is a section for brief directions to the waterfall. We will generally only provide directions to waterfalls which we have surveyed in person and can confirm the location and access methods for.

Page Top

pictures and media

For Waterfalls which we have pictures available for, clicking on the gray Pictures and Media tab at the top of the page will bring into view any pictures inventoried in our database pertaining to the Waterfall in question. Clicking on each picture will show a larger version. The first picture of the Waterfall in question will also be displayed at the top left corner of the information which is displayed within the Waterfall Overview tab. If we have no pictures in our database for the Waterfall in question, the section will not be visible. Any details, tips, or what hazards or obstacles one may encounter when photographing the Waterfall in question will be displayed immediately below the pictures. If no information is available, the section will not be visible.

Below the Pictures (if any) are a series of links to various media hosting websites on the internet which you can use to find additional pictures or video of the waterfall in question.

Page Top

user comments

This feature is currently not enabled and will be added at a later date.
Each Waterfall page features three Tabs partitioning different parts of the information presented.  Clicking on the far right Tab will display Comments posted by registered users about the current Waterfall being viewed.

Page Top

Waterfall Book Library

World Waterfall Database founders Bryan Swan and Dean Goss both maintain a large library of books on the topic of waterfalls, many of which are hard to find and out of print. To aid in both gathering information and for the sake of others who may wish to obtain these books, we have created a bibliography of all the books on the topic of which we are aware. The list is not by any means complete, and we will add to it as we can.

Book Reviews

For as many of the books in our Library as possible, we will post reviews detailing our thoughts on each book. We focus on several factors in our reviews.  Firstly, we will rate each book in five categories on a 1 to 5 scale (5 being the best):

  • Picture Quality – As both photographers and waterfall hunters, we like to see good pictures of the subject as much as possible in books on the topic.

  • Picture Quantity – Denoting the ratio of pages to photographs in each book.  Books which average one picture per page will score highest.

  • Accuracy of Content – Though this isn’t something we can always verify, we have found that some authors don’t do their homework before writing books on waterfalls, so we thought it prudent to point it out where it occurs.

  • Thoroughness of Content – Given the scope of each book, this identifies how well the author has fitted the coverage to the intention.  For example, a book titled “Waterfalls of Europe” which only features waterfalls in Lichtenstein would score very low in this category, but if it were titled “Waterfalls of Lichtenstein”, and it features every known waterfall in said country, it would score very high.

  • Production Quality – Used to identify the books which are lacking in print quality, have poor binding or assembly, appear to be designed amateurishly, feature poor or no indexing and are hard to use, etc.

Separate from the Ratings we will offer our in depth review to the book, identifying why we would or would not recommend it, what it does well, what needs work and generally our thoughts on the product.  These reviews are meant to be impartial but as with any sort of review, are based entirely on our personal opinions.

To the right of the review, below the Ratings box, pertinent information about each book can be found identifying the book’s Publisher, its Page Count, the Binding Type, etc.

Related Books

Where we have the information, for waterfalls which have been confirmed we will try to link to a random book which features the waterfall or the region which waterfall occurs within.  Links to Amazon as well as our reviews of the book will be found at the top right corner of the Waterfall Overview box on each waterfall's page.