The World's Most Spectacular Waterfalls

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Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil
(©AussieGold/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Iguazu Falls: Argentina and Brazil

Taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide, the 1.7-mile long Iguazu Falls feature 275 individual jaw-dropping plunges; it's named after the indigenous term for "big water." At the heart of this waterfall system is a semicircular-shaped fall that's more than 260 feet tall and approximately 900 feet wide.

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Victoria Falls at sunset
(©Yury Birukov/Shutterstock)
Victoria Falls: Zambia and Zimbabwe

So vast it isn't just on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, it IS the border. Victoria Falls was described as "the smoke that thunders" by African tribes in the 1800s. Today, it is simply known as the "greatest curtain of falling water in the world." Its mists sustain a rainforest-like ecosystem adjacent to the falls and on the opposite side of the cliff that faces them. 

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Angel Falls in Venezuela
(©Senor Hans/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Angel Falls: Venezuela

The highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, is named for American pilot Jimmy Angel who discovered the waterfall while searching for the legendary McCracken River of Gold. It is 15 times higher than Niagara Falls. So high, in fact, that the water turns into a fine mist before it reaches the bottom.

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Murchison Falls in Uganda
(©Oleg Znamenskiy/Shutterstock)
Murchison Falls: Uganda

The backdrop to the movie "The African Queen" and long a popular destination for visits by British royals, Murchison Falls lies in one of Uganda's ancient conservation areas. Its power comes from the compression of the Nile River; as it winds through a series of rapids, the water narrows to a width of 20 feet before a 400-foot plunge.

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Niagara Falls
(©Josef Hanus/Shutterstock)
Niagara Falls: U.S. and Canada

Known by romantics everywhere, this waterfall is the apex to the Niagara River Gorge and sits inside America's oldest state park. A testament to not only beauty but also power, it sees more than 750,000 gallons of water a second rocket through.

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Kaietur Falls in Guyana
(Allen Hopkins/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Kaietur Falls: Guyana

Pristine beauty still lives inside the Amazon rainforest. That's where you'll find this, the largest single-drop waterfall in the world. It's also one of the world's most powerful waterfalls, averaging more than 180,000 gallons of water raging through per second.

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Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho
(@Brian Mosley/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Shoshone Falls: Idaho, U.S.

Known as the "Niagara of the West"—its falls are, in fact, higher than Niagara's—this stunner drops 213 feet and spans 900 feet, making it one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States. Its flow, seasonal runoff from the Snake River, is the largest tributary to the Columbia River.

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Dettifoss in northeast Iceland
(©visiticeland.com)
Dettifoss: Iceland

With the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, the magnitude of Dettifoss is overwhelming; more than 132,000 gallons of water plunge over the edge every second, the waterfall is 150 feet tall and more than twice that wide. To put it into perspective, it flows through Iceland's version of the Grand Canyon, the Jökulsárgljúfur.

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Lower Falls at Yellowstone National Park
(©National Park Service)
Lower Falls: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Lower Falls, the biggest waterfall and the second-most photographed site in Yellowstone—only bested by Old Faithful Geyser—was first named in 1869. A trail to the top of the falls—which rise to 308 feet—is three-fourths of a mile long; standing atop them is considered to be one of the most breathtaking experiences at the park.

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The Fairy Pools on Scotland's Isle of Skye
(©Rab Ritchie/Flickr, Creative Commons)
The Fairy Pools: Isle of Skye, Scotland

Famed, pristine blue pools in Scotland's Isle of Skye get their water from a series of waterfalls on the River Battle that empty into these shallow swimming destinations. While not truly inhabited by fairies, they are quite magical.

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Horsetail Fall at California's Yosemite National Park
(©Steve Corey/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Horsetail Fall: Yosemite National Park, California

This natural firefall inside this national park occurs when the waters of the falls capture the glow of the setting sun and ranges in color from bright orange to blood red. It's best seen in mid- to late-February, but the water flows 1,000 feet down the east side of El Capitan from December through April.

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Wailua Falls in Hawaii
(©Derrick Story/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Wailua Falls: Hawaii, U.S.

This waterfall is perhaps most famously known from its appearance in the opening credits to the TV series "Fantasy Island." The easily accessible waterfall is located at the south end of the Wailua River and cascades into two streams before dropping 80 feet. Legend has it that Hawaiian men—and even some royalty—would test their endurance by jumping into the shallow 30-foot pools below.

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Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
(©Nick Bianco/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Tahquamenon Falls: Michigan, U.S.

Located in the aptly named Paradise, Michigan, Tahquamenon Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. The Upper Falls has a drop of 50 feet, is more than 200 feet across and has a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second. Four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island. 

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Multnomah Falls in Oregon
(©Sumio Koizumi)
Multnomah Falls: Oregon, U.S.

Oregon is rife with waterfalls, but none as spectacular as Multnomah Falls, which, according the Native American lore, was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. This tiered waterfall stands 611 feet tall, with a bridge at the base of the first tier. Just outside Portland, Oregon, it's the second-most visited recreation site in the Pacific northwest, with two million visitors stopping to view it each year.

By Jennifer McKee

There's nothing quite as enchanting as a waterfall to add a sense of wonderment to any journey; whether it's a curtain of water that flows sleekly down the side of a mountain or the sheer velocity of rapid-like falls that tumble and roar, waterfalls bring out the kid in all of us: you can't help but get as close as possible, or resist the urge to get wet. 

A natural part of the erosion process, waterfalls are created when a river or other body of water makes a steep fall over a rocky ledge into a plunge pool below, when streams flow from soft rock to hard rock. A testament to the power of nature, waterfalls can take on more than a dozen different formations, from falls that fan out horizontally to those that make a steep vertical plunge.

Whatever the type, these are our favorite awe-inspiring waterfalls from across the globe.

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...