America's Top 100 Eastern Waterfalls
Beisel Jr, Richard H. (author)
Outskirts Press, 2008
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Reviewed by Bryan Swan
Richard Beisel created and authored the International Waterfall Classification System as a method to universally classify and categorize any given waterfall based on the amount of water present in the waterfall. The system is moderately sound and we employ it on this website as another metric to compare waterfalls. After publishing his first book, Beisel set out to document the best waterfalls in the United States using this system and this book is one of the two results of that project.
Beisel uses this classification system, among apparently many other factors (and I suspect a heavy dose of personal favorism) to rank and rate the 100 best waterfalls east of the Mississippi River as he sees it. Now, before I get into it, let me stipulate that Beisel acknowledges that his rankings are largely subjective and he rules in factors such as surrounding scenery, whether there are other waterfalls nearby that can be visited at the same time, and whether there is any notable history to the waterfall. That out of the way, as I see it the rankings in this book have some major problems.
To start off, a good majority of the deserving waterfalls east of the Mississippi River are included in this book, but there are some painfully obvious omissions: the falls of the Horsepasture River, Thompson River and Toxaway Rivers in North Carolina get no mention, several of the best waterfalls in New England are left out, the best waterfalls in the Catskill Mountains in New York (namely Kaaterskill Falls) are absent and even the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, Cohoes Falls just outside of Albany, NY, is missing. All these truancies would be a lot more understandable if the book weren't instead filled with largely unnoteworthy waterfalls.
In place of these legitimately large waterfalls, we have such entries as Screw Auger Falls (35 feet) and Rumford Falls (100 feet but dry most of the year) in Maine, Rocky Gorge (20 feet) and Swiftwater Falls (12 feet) in New Hampshire, Eagle River Falls (25 feet over and around a collapsed dam), Munising Falls (50 feet) and Sable Falls (25 feet) in Michigan, Pixley Falls (51 feet) in New York, Cataract Falls (20 feet) in Indiana and Mingo Falls (80 feet) in North Carolina, among others. All of these waterfalls are absolutely dwarfed by literally hundreds of other options throughout the eastern half of the country.
Further adding to the quixotic selections for this book we have very strange ordering. The top 10 choices are relatively sound, though not exactly what I would personally have picked, but moving further down the list, we have North Carolina's best, Upper Whitewater Falls (275 feet) down at 27th place, but Minnesota's Minnehaha Falls (53 feet) comes in at 22nd and three falls in Michigan's Pictured Rocks area (Miners Falls, Sable Falls and Munising Falls) grouped together claim the 21st spot. Upper Whitewater Falls legitimately deserves to be in the top 10, maybe the top 5 even. My personal favorite is the author's ranking of two falls in New Hampshire. He places Swiftwater Falls, a 12 foot tall two-stepped sliding waterfall at 73rd place, followed by Crystal Cascade, a 100 foot tall veiling cascade on a river of slightly smaller volume and easily one of the 10 best waterfalls in all of New Hampshire at 94th place. I suspect this has more to do with the presence of a covered bridge above Swiftwater Falls than anything else. But since this is supposed to be a book on waterfalls, I find this comparison ludicrous (and yes, I have seen both in person).
On the up side there are numerous pictures, not quite one per entry but close and the author clearly did plenty of work running around the country visiting many of these waterfalls. But there are also many clerical errors relating to the figures the author cites when stating his International Waterfall Classification ratings, the height of many waterfalls mentioned and details pertaining to several waterfalls that are clearly made based on very broad assumptions.
Rounding out the review, the production quality of this book is right on par with Beisel's previous work. The book was self-published, printed by Outskirts Press and lacks any semblance of professional handling. The photo quality is horrible, almost all of which appear to have come off of a cheap 20 year old laser printer, the layout looks like it came straight out of Wordpad and there are numerous typos. The bottom line is this book isn't worth the paper its printed on.