Top 5 Tallest Waterfalls on Earth

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
They’re geological features, so you’d think waterfalls and their height would pretty much be fixed, right? Not so. Those among us who are obsessed with waterfalls sort them, measure them and rank them in any number of ways—tallest, widest, loudest, prettiest—and then argue with others who do the same. Although the tallest waterfall on Earth is pretty well agreed upon, the exact measurements, and even names, of the cascades that follow continue to be a source of contention.

5 Kjeragfossen, Norway

www.environmentalgraffiti.com

Fed by snowmelt and glacial runoff, the world’s second tallest free-falling waterfall—that is, with a vertical drop of at least 85 degrees—is Norway’s Kjeragfossen. This cascade is seasonally variable, but at its highest volume plunges a near-vertical 2,345 feet into the Lysefjord of southwest Norway. Other falls may have greater overall height, but the drama of a free-falling cascade nearly half a mile high is a spectacle unrivaled anywhere outside of Venezuela.

4 Waihilau Falls, United States

Wikimedia Commons

Boasting the second highest single drop on earth—only 50 feet shorter than Angel Falls’ longest freefall—Waihilau Falls, on the eponymous island of Hawaii, plunges 2,600 feet off a cliff wall in the remote Waimanu Valley. Nearby are three other cascades with drops of more than 1,000 feet, making the difficult hike into the valley a rewarding experience for the intrepid.

3 Cataratas Tres Hermanas, Peru

Wikimedia Commons

After Salto Angel and Tugela Falls, Las Cataratas Tres Hermanas, or Three Sisters Falls, in Peru, is the only other member of the 3K club. With bragging rights to an overall elevation drop of 3,000 ft. on the nose, Tres Hermanas is a series of tiered falls that carry an unnamed jungle stream off an Andean plateau and into the Cutevirini River below.

2 Tugela Falls, South Africa

Wikimedia Commons

South Africa’s Tugela Falls is second in overall height. The Tugela River loses 3,110 ft. of elevation as it takes five consecutive drops out of the Drakensberg Mountains in Kwazulu Natal province. Despite a massive overall height, the falls’ tallest single drop is a mere 1,350 ft. on its second cataract.

1 Kerepakupai Merú, Venezuela

Wikimedia Commons

I bet you thought the tallest waterfall in the world would be Venezuela’s Angel Falls. Well, you’re right. Except the official name of the cascade most often referred to as Salto Angel is Kerepakupai Merú. It’s called Angel Falls after surveyor Jimmie Angel, who crashed his plane on top of the tepui, a kind of mesa on steroids, from which the cascade plunges. With a total drop in elevation of more than 3,212 ft., it is the tallest waterfall on the planet. Some purists, however, argue that it should be measured differently. Its uninterrupted drop is “only” 2,648 ft.; and it’s total overall height currently includes a couple of smaller cataracts downstream of the primary cascade. No matter how you look at it, though, a half-mile is a long way for water — or anything else for that matter — to fall. And Angel Falls is the undisputed “tallest” in each of the three ways that the World Waterfall Database categorizes the superlative.

Trent Jonas accepted his first freelance assignment in 1988 from "The Minnesota Daily" and has been writing professionally ever since, primarily as a copywriter. He has experience in advertising and entrepreneurship, as well as writing on legal and travel topics. Jonas has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

THIS WEEK IN NEWS