Written by Sridevi. Posted in General Reference on 13 October 2009.
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A Waterfall is a semblance of scenic beauty to many people. There might not exist a person who never has enjoyed the majesty and magnificence of a waterfall. Waterfalls lend a serene touch to those witnessing them, making them spellbound and completely mesmerized. The water trickling down the hills refreshes both the mind and the body considerably.


How are waterfall formed?

Waterfalls are formed basically when water flows over a hill or mountain. When a river is flowing over a hard layer of rock which covers a softer portion of rock, a waterfall is invariably formed over the years. Here, the water of the river which reaches the softer portion starts eroding the surface, thereby forcing the river to cut vertically into the rock and a pool is created at the base of the waterfall.


Classification of waterfalls

Although waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes, they can be essentially classified into two types based on the how they are formed.

  • Cataracts are formed when there are large numbers of rapids in a river. They are usually characterized by a forceful, usually a single gush of water. They are typically huge, wide and more powerful such as the Niagara Falls.
  • Cascade waterfalls have a smaller volume of water, fall from a lesser height and are characterized by several adjoining falls. They descend a series of rock steps.



Prominent types of waterfalls depending on appearance and formation


♦ A chute: This is the term for a section of a waterfall seen coming down from in-between  two large boulders

Horsetail is the waterfall: This happens when the water spills over the edge of a very wide rocky surface. 

Parallel and Segmented: a parallel waterfall is when two or more thin strips of water from two different water courses  flow side by side. Segmented, on the other hand is when the strips/channels of water originate from the same watercourse.

Slot/keyhole: Here, the water forces its way through a narrow area, thereby creating a hole/slot in the rock before falling.

Fan: Here the water spreads horizontally as it descends over the bedrock.


For a more detailed explanation of the various types of waterfall along with pictures of each, please visit the following link:



There is yet another classification of the world’s waterfalls. The waterfalls are classified or grouped into ten broad classes, as per the International Waterfall Classification System, based on the volume of water in them. Accordingly:

-Niagara Falls (Niagara river, N.America), Khone Falls come under  Class 10 with the maximum amount of water.

-Victoria Falls (Zambezi river, S.Africa), Kaieteur Falls(Potaro river, Guyana): Class 9

-Rhine Falls(Rhine river, Switzerland), Sutherland Falls(lake Quill, new Zealand): Class 8

-Angel Falls (Carrao river, Venezuela): Class 7

-Yosemite Falls (Grant Lakes, California): Class 6


Glaciers and waterfalls

Some waterfalls are formed by glaciers or huge masses of snow as they melt. Eg of glacial waterfalls are Yosemite Waterfalls, near Glacier point in California.



Tallest waterfalls in the world: ANGEL WATERFALLS.

Height: 979 metres

Location: Carrao river, Venezuela.


The Angel Falls


Tallest waterfalls in India: JOG FALLS

Height: 253 meters

Formed from: Sharavathi river, Karnataka.


Largest waterfall in the world: VICTORIA FALLS

Formed from: Zambezi river,South Africa.


Largest waterfall in India: CHITRAKOT WATERFALL

Formed from: Indravati river, Orissa.


Author: Sridevi

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