10 waterfalls you definitely should go chasing
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Waterfalls rank among nature's most alluring features, and there are hundreds if not thousands of them scattered across the United States. Some are spectacular and duly famous, such as Niagara and Yosemite, but there are many more lesser known but equally remarkable cataracts.
Given all of the possibilities, selecting a list of top 10 waterfalls was easier said than done. Nonetheless, here's our lineup of America's 10 most captivating waterfalls.
1. Niagara Falls, New York
Let's start at the top with Niagara Falls (shown above). Sitting squarely on the New York-Ontario, Canada border, it's the largest of all North American falls by volume. Without doubt, it's the most iconic waterfall on the planet, and it receives nearly 15 million visitors a year.
Those of a certain age might remember Niagara emblazoned on shredded wheat boxes — and it has a long history as the target of various stunts. Many tightrope walkers have tiptoed across it and more than a dozen daredevils have plunged over it in barrels or other contraptions, with four of them perishing. A stiff $25,000 fine has discouraged such stunts in recent years.
Niagara is made up of three waterfalls — Canadian Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil — that combine for a width of 3,950 feet and an average height of 167 feet. If you only see one waterfall during your life, make sure it is this one.
2. Taughannock Falls, New York
Another New York waterfall of note is Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes region near Ithaca.
It's an impressive 215-foot cataract that is best seen by making a 1.5-mile round-trip hike along the Gorge Trail. A number of smaller cascades can be viewed along the way. For those not up to the hike, there is a drive-in viewpoint atop the falls with easy access to viewing platforms.
3. Blackwater Falls, West Virginia
In West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains, near the town of Davis, Blackwater Falls is the prime attraction of a state park named for the falls. Although it's a modest 62-foot cascade, Blackwater is a beauty, ranking among the most photographed venues in the state.
The Blackwater name derives from river waters darkened by tannic acid from fallen hemlock and spruce needles. A gentle trail leads about a quarter of a mile from the parking area to a perfectly situated overlook.
4. Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Called the "Niagara of the South," Cumberland Falls, near Corbin, Kentucky, is a classically wide and rectangular waterfall (150 feet wide and 68 feet high) that does bear some resemblance to Niagara.
It draws big crowds in the fall when foliage flanking it bursts into vivid colors, and during full moon nights when lunar rainbows — also know as moonbows — appear, arcing across the mist at its base.
5. Amicalola Falls, Georgia
Amicalola Falls, near Dawsonville, Georgia, 70 miles north of Atlanta, towers some 729 feet, gaining it distinction as the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi. The name is Cherokee for "Tumbling Waters."
A demanding but paved/staired 2.3-mile trail leads to the top of the precipitous fall, embraced within a 1,000-acre state park of the same name. The park is home as well to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
6. Lower Yellowstone Falls
Boasting an impossibly scenic location at the head of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lower Yellowstone Falls is one of the main attractions in the nation's first and foremost national park, located in northwestern Wyoming. Plunging 308 feet, Lower Yellowstone is the tallest and most voluminous waterfall in the Rockies.
Roadways skirt both east and west sides of the canyon affording numerous viewpoints and access to trails for those seeking views of the cascade at different angles and elevations.
7. Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Oregon's Multnomah Falls is located 30 miles east of Portland on the Historic Columbia River Highway. This magnificent 620-foot cascade is the tallest in Oregon and the prime attraction of the iconic Columbia River Gorge. Multnomah drops in two major tiers — the upper falls measuring 542 feet and the lower cascade 69 feet.
It's readily accessible from the highway by following a quarter-mile trail to Benson Footbridge, a span that crosses just above the lower falls. The bridge provides a great view of the upper falls. The trail continues upward for another mile to a platform atop the upper falls, where visitors can get a bird's-eye view of the Columbia Gorge.
8. Havasu Falls, Arizona
Havasu Falls nestles deep within the remote Havasupai Indian Reservation just outside the boundary of Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona. Embraced by red-rock canyon walls, the blue-green waters of Havasu Creek tumble more than 100 feet into a shimmering pool — creating what is often described as the most beautifully situated waterfall in the country.
It is, however, isolated and difficult to reach. Visitors can access the falls in one of three ways: a tough 8-mile hike, horseback or mule train, or by helicopter. Those who go say it is well worth the challenge and/or expense.
9. Yosemite Falls, California
Yosemite Falls in California's Yosemite National Park cliff-dives some 2,425 feet, making it not only America's tallest waterfall, but also one of the world's loftiest (Venezuela's Angel Falls is the highest at 3,212 feet). It's definitely the crown jewel among the park's numerous waterfalls. Problem is, it dries up by mid to late summer, so go in May or early June to see the falls at peak flow.
The falls — made up of three separate cascades — are visible from various points in Yosemite Valley, especially around Yosemite Village. A 1-mile loop trail leads to the base of the falls, while a trail to the top requires a strenuous all-day hike.
10. Waimoku Falls, Hawaii
Hawaii is home to a plethora of waterfalls, but none is more mesmerizing and fun to reach than Waimoku Falls — a 400-footer situated at the head of Ohe'o Gulch in Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. The falls are reached via the 2-mile Pipiwai Trail, originating from the Kipahulu Visitor Center on the Hana Highway, about 10 miles from the town of Hana on Maui's east side.
Hiking the trail is a tropical adventure of the first order as it leads past a number of pools and cascades, including the 200-foot Makahiku Falls, and through a dense, zen-like bamboo forest. The scenery-packed hike culminates at the base of a sheer 400-foot cliff where Waimoku Falls plunges to earth right before you.
For more information: Learn more about these and other waterfalls around the globe at World of Waterfalls.
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