You hear their roar long before you see them. As you draw nearer, you feel the mist on your face, perhaps slip on wet rocks, and often claim a rainbow as a reward. Even a small waterfall can be thrilling but some outclass all others.
Many places claim to have the tallest waterfalls in the world. National pride and often the tourist industry depend on maintaining these facts, or myths, of the biggest and the best.
During exploration, many new waterfalls are found and hearts break as one loses the title and another gain it, depending on these discoveries. Many claims are highly exaggerated. Some of these falls run part of the year and dry up the rest of the time.
When my dad explored Venezuela in the late 1930s, he met the discoverer of spectacular Angel falls in the state of Bolivar, Venezuela. Jimmy Angel, a bush pilot and gold hunter, crashed his plane on a mesa where my dad hunted for gold.
Angel Falls towers 3,212 feet into the sky above the Auyantepui River and ends up in Devils Canyon. The second plunge of the falls plummets down 2,648 feet. .
Tugela Falls in Kwazulu Natal South Africa soars 3,110 feet in five sets of falls. It is located in Dragon’s Mountains (Drakensberg) in Royal National Park. Tugela means “sudden” in the Zulu language.
Also in South America, the Ayacucho region of Peru, we find Tres Hermanas Cataractas. At 3,000 feet, it takes third place for tallness in waterfalls. Tres Hermanas means “three sisters” in Spanish, named for its three tiers. The first two fall into a pool that feeds the third.
Many people have photographed Hawaii’s spectacular waterfalls. Helicopter tours always include them and they appear in many movies and videos. Olo’upena Falls in Maui, Hawaii rises 2,953 above the earth and earns the number four place of honor among falls.
Another waterfall in Peru hangs 2,938 feet in the air. The Yumbilla Falls roar in the Amazona region. It ousted the Gocta Falls in the same region, which formerly held the record for fifth highest falls in the world.
Niagara Falls in New York State is the most famous US falls. Although not the tallest, it rivals many others in beauty and romantic appeal and is a “must see” for tourists. Countless couples honeymoon within the sound of it and many people throughout the world flock to it.
As new falls come to light, some tallest waterfalls records will undoubtedly change. Big or little, people find magic in falling water, the mists, the pools, the cooling breezes and the rainbow promises that come with them.