Kerepakupai Merú or Parekupa Vena are indigenous Pemon Indian language names for this waterfall, but virtually everywhere else on earth it is famously known as Salto Angel, or Angel Falls. Located along the Río Gauja as it flows from the sandstone plateau-mountain Auyan Tepui, the largest of many Tepuis in Canaima National Park in the southeastern part of Venezuela, the falls funnel into a sinkhole at the edge of the mountain and burst forth from the side of the cliff about 30-40 meters below the rim, plunging a sheer 807 meters (2,648 feet) into the massive canyon below and forming the tallest uninterrupted waterfall on earth. The drop is so far that despite the large volume of water which can be present, by the time the river reaches the floor of the canyon it has vaporized into a huge column of fine mist. From the base of the cliff, all this mist percolates through rocks and the river quickly re-forms and cascades further down the valley.
Despite a long standing precedent that has seen Angel Falls considered to be the tallest waterfall on earth, it is all but certain that it is not as tall as is typically reported. The falls were first surveyed in 1949 by an expedition funded by National Geographic and led by American journalist Ruth Robertson, and during this expedition the height of the falls was determined to be 979 meters (3,212 feet). The question of the accuracy of this measurement comes based on two factors: photographs from the expedition that clearly illustrate the survey equipment being trained on the falls from the shores of the Rio Caroni, nearly 2 kilometers distant from the base of the falls, and rough topographic data from Google Earth which shows the difference in elevation between the top of Auyan Tepui and the Rio Caroni to be just over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). In fact, the article which was published in National Geographic confirms that the measurement which was made accounts for the total elevation change between the top of Auyan Tepui and the bank of the Rio Caroni, so this immediately confirms that the measure of 979 meters is wholly invalid.
Additionally, not only is is exceedingly unlikely that the Rio Gauja only loses 180 meters in elevation between the base of the waterfall and the Rio Caroni, but also that aside from a 30-40 meter fall which is located approximately 400 linear meters downstream from the main drop (and due to the separation in linear distance, should be considered an entirely separate and distinct waterfall), there do not appear to be any other bedrock-based waterfalls or cascades along the Rio Gauja which could account for an additional 170 meters of height, so even if the measurement from the expedition proves to be entirely accurate, it isn't an accurate measure of the height of what could be considered the extremes of the waterfall itself. In summation, Angel Falls is not in fact the tallest waterfall in the world, and its height should only be considered to be that of the primary leap of 807 meters. How accurate the measurement of 807 meters is is not clear, but we have yet to see any evidence to suggest it isn't at least relatively accurate. It is not known whether any additional efforts to survey the falls have taken place since 1949.
History and Naming
Kerepakupai Merú is the Official name of this waterfall.
Has also been known as:
- Parakupa Vena
- Salto Angel
- Angel Falls
Kerepakupai Merú, or Parekupa-vena are the proper names given to Angel Falls by the indigenous Pemon Indians. The name Angel Falls, as the world knows it, was bestowed upon the falls after James Angel, a bush pilot who crash-landed his plane on the mountain above the falls in November of 1933 while conducting aerial prospecting surveys in the area. The falls were, however, first seen by a non-native in 1912 when Venezuelan explorer Ernesto Sanchez la Cruz stumbled upon the fall. His name is not often attached with the waterfalls because he did not seek to publicize his find. The name Churún Merú is often incorrectly attributed to Kerepakupai Merú as well - this was at one point thought to be the Pemon name for Angel Falls, when in reality it applies to an entirely different waterfall located approximately 6 kilometers further to the south.
Though Kerepakupai Merú is most certainly one of the greatest waterfalls on the planet, as it has become increasingly clear that the initial survey efforts were not accurate we can no longer accept the claim that it is the world's tallest waterfall unless and until a modern surveying effort can prove otherwise. In turn, South Africa's Tugela Falls should be thought of as the tallest waterfall on earth barring any data to prove otherwise.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: Unknown Elevation: 4878 feet
By The Numbers
The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.
The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.
The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.
Num of Drops
The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.
The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.
Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.
The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.
The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.
The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.
The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.
The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.
The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.
If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.
A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).
A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.Close
CatalogedWaterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
ConfirmedConfirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
UnconfirmedUnconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
UnknownWaterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
InundatedInundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
SubterraneanThough not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
DisqualifiedWaterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
PostedPosted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.