World Waterfall Database

Arethusa Falls

Carroll County, New Hampshire, United States

Status: Cataloged
This waterfall has been surveyed by members of the World Waterfall Database.

Detailed Info

Arethusa Falls is one of the most well known waterfalls in the White Mountains and over time it has generated a reputation that in some ways exceeds the actual stature of the waterfall itself. The falls occur along Bemis Brook where it slides and then drops over a broad reddish-orange granite cliff, veiling 176 feet in a broad wall of water which zigzags down the cliff face and eventually glides over smooth slabs that base of the falls. When viewed from below, the falls don't quite appear to the untrained eye to be as tall as reported. Our initial estimates placed it at closer to 140 feet, however upon surveying the falls in October 2015 we found the suggested height of 176 feet to be close enough to our figures to be believable - though it will likely require another survey at some point just to be sure.

With the falls standing 176 feet tall, Arethusa Falls is often claimed to be the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire. This claim likely dates back well over 100 years since the initial measurement was taken in the late 1800s, during a time when natural features were a huge tourism draw and were endlessly romanticized by writers, poets, painters, and (later on) early photographers. We now know Arethusa Falls to not even be in the top 10 tallest waterfall in New Hampshire, but it is possible that it may be the tallest single-drop waterfall (though not free-falling) in the state. Further surveying will need to be conducted in other locations to test the validity of this claim.

The drainage basin of Bemis Brook upstream of Arethusa Falls is fairly small, covering just 0.9 square mile in area. There are several small areas of marsh which will help regulate the flow of the brook in the dry season, and the entire basin is at a fairly high elevation (for the White Mountains), so the winter snow pack will be retained well into the spring months, but by late summer and early autumn the volume of the stream does drop considerably without sustained periods of precipitation to replenish it. But despite the small size of the basin, the stream does seem to remain fairly consistent throughout the summer and autumn months, though it isn't unheard of for the falls to be reduced to effectively a trickle by September - especially in years where Hurricane activity in the Atlantic is reduced or directed more towards the Gulf of Mexico, which would prevent the remnant moisture from trailing north into New England after the storms fizzle out.

History and Naming

Arethusa Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

Has also been known as:

  • Tuckerman Falls

Arethusa Falls were at one time known as Tuckerman Falls, but the name never gained any traction. The name Arethusa Falls became the proper title for the cataract in 1875 thanks to the efforts of Moses Sweetser and J.H. Huntington.

Photo Tips

Aside from competing with the inevitable crowds which will undoubtedly be encountered upon hiking to the falls, there are not many direct impediments to producing good photographs of this waterfall. Spray can be a pest during high flow, but moving back from the falls will negate the majority of it. A few branches encroach the sides of the view from where the trail ends along the stream, but rock hopping out into the channel fixes that up. Wide angle lenses can be handy when shooting up close with the falls, but they are not necessary by any means. The falls face almost due east and will see direct, even sunlight in the first half of the day.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   44.1465, -71.3927
Elevation:   0 feet
USGS Map:   Crawford Notch 7 1/2"

The Arethusa Falls trailhead is well signed along Route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park, located about halfway between Bartlett and Gates of the Notch. The trail climbs steadily for 1.5 miles and gains about 800 feet in elevation to reach the base of the falls.

View this location in Google Earth

Other Nearby Waterfalls

Additional Waterfalls which occur within 5 miles of Arethusa Falls
No additional waterfalls were found within 5 miles.

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.

Total Height

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.

Tallest Drop

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.

Avg Width

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

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.

Pitch

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.

Run

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.

Form

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.

Watershed

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.

Stream

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.

Avg Volume

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.

Source

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.

Flow Consistency

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).

Best Flow

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.

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Key

Cataloged Icon
Cataloged
Waterfalls 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.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed
Confirmed 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.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed
Unconfirmed 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.
Unknown Icon
Unknown
Waterfalls 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.
Inundated Icon
Inundated
Inundated 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.
Subterranean Icon
Subterranean
Though 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.
Disqualified Icon
Disqualified
Waterfalls 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.
Posted Icon
Posted
Posted 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.
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