How Many Types of Waterfalls Are There?

By Rolando Y. Wee on April 25 2017 in Environment

Niagara Falls along the U.S.-Canadian border is an example of a "block waterfall".
Niagara Falls along the U.S.-Canadian border is an example of a "block waterfall".

Waterfalls are classified into 10 different types depending on the way they descend. Some prime examples are Punchbowl Waterfalls, Plunge Waterfalls, Multi-step Waterfalls, Horsetail Waterfalls, Frozen Waterfalls, Fan Waterfalls, Chutes, Cataracts, Cascades, and Block Waterfalls.

10. Punchbowl Waterfall

The Punchbowl Waterfall has a wide catch pool at the bottom of the fall of its water. This type of waterfall is mostly tranquil and swimming below it is generally easy. The Punch Bowl Falls in Eagle Creek located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area of Oregon, United States set this particular waterfall as the classification for this type of waterfall. Wailua Falls in Kauai, Hawaii is another good example but, here, its surrounding waters are quite dangerous.

9. Plunge Waterfall

The Plunge Waterfall drops in a vertical flow and loses contact with the exposed bedrock. Good examples are Blencoe Falls and Curtis Falls, in Australia. Hannoki Falls, which at 1,640 feet is the tallest waterfall in Japan, is another example of this type. Caracol Falls in Brazil is also a plunge waterfall. Brandywine Falls in Canada is also of this type of waterfall.

8. Multi-step Waterfall

The Multi-step Waterfall is one of the most beautiful forms of falls due to their series of waterfalls dropping water onto one sunken pool after another as in a tiered manner, creating a scenery of several pools with their own waterfalls. Morocco has the Ouzoud Falls, Japan has its Fukuroda Falls, Estonia has its Jagala Falls, and Iceland has Dettifoss, Gullfoss, and Selfoss. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia has its own multi-step falls which is called “falling lakes.”

7. Horsetail Waterfall

The Horsetail Waterfall keeps contact with the hard rock behind it as it surges down to its pool. This type is a more common waterfall and almost found everywhere in many countries from all around the world. A good example is the Reichenbach Falls located in the Reichenbach Stream in Switzerland. New Zealand has Mount Damper Falls, while the Philippines has the Pagsanjan Falls.

6. Frozen Waterfall

The Frozen Waterfall is the result of winter freezing the water for the duration of the season. A good example of this type is the Fang Waterfall located in Vail, Colorado, United States. Wall climbers climb these frozen waterfalls as an alternative to wall climbing granite walls. Many waterfalls in the higher latitude and temperate zone regions freeze in winter.

5. Fan Waterfall

The Fan Waterfall produces a fan-like shape as its water descends into its pool below, all the time retaining contact with its bedrock. Tofino Creek on Vancouver Island in Canada has the Virgin Falls which is a good example. Australia has the Dip Falls. Mainland Canada has its own in British Columbia, named Chatterbox Falls. The Philippines has the Tinago Falls. The United States has High Falls in North Carolina and Nugget Falls in Alaska.

4. Chute

The Chute Waterfall is a pressurized waterfall which is the result of a large volume of water going through a very narrow passage that creates a very strong waterfall current. A good example is the Three Chutes Falls located in the Tenaya Creek area of Yosemite in California, United States. Egan Chute on the York River is another example, located in Egan Chutes Provincial Park in Canada.

3. Cataract

The Cataract Waterfall is the most powerful of falls and has the strongest water currents. Its wild waters emit that familiar thunderous sound from distances away. The Iguazu River in Brazil and Argentina has this type of waterfall. The famous Victoria Falls in Zambia is a good example. Mali has the Gouina Falls. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the Boyoma Falls.

2. Cascade

The Cascade Waterfall has a series of rock levels on which it falls. It is also one of the more beautiful and gentle types of falls. Uganda has the Murchison Falls, China has the Hukou Falls, Iceland has the Barnafossar Falls, Norway has the Kjosfossen Falls, Austria has the Krimmler Falls, and India has its famous Monkey Falls located in the Indira Gandhi National Park. The latter waterfall has a notably gentle water flow.

1. Block Waterfall

The Block Waterfall is also a thunderous form of falls. It flows down its waterline from a wide river or stream. The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia is a good example. Cambodia has the Ka Choung Falls, Iceland has the Faxi Falls, Switzerland has the Rhine Falls, Turkey has the Manavgat Fall, Canada has the Bow Falls and the Niagara Falls, while the U.S. has the Rainbow Falls in Montana, and the sister American Falls and Niagara Falls along the U.S.-Canada border in New York.

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