There are few geographical features of our Earth that exemplify the beauty and power of nature as dramatically as waterfalls. The sight and sound of tons of water spilling over the edge of a cliff or cascading over rocks never fails to impress.
There are many waterfalls of various sizes found all over the world. They typically form where a river flows over a ledge of hard rock and plunges vertically into a watery source below. For example, so much water flows over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe — some 247,000 gallons every second — that the roar can be heard over 25 miles away.
Although Victoria Falls is often referred to as the largest waterfall in the world, it is neither the highest or the widest. It has a width of 1 mile and a height of 360 feet, which is roughly twice the height of North America's Niagra Falls. However, with all dimensions taken into account, including almost the largest flow rate of water of any waterfall, it is considered to be the biggest curtain of falling water in the world.
The Angel Falls in Venezuela is considered to be the highest waterfall in the world, plunging down some 3,212 feet or over 0.6 of a mile. Yosemite Falls in California is the tallest waterfall in the United States, having a vertical drop of about 2,425 feet. Though the Khone Falls in Southeast Asia may not be the most visually stunning of waterfalls, it is by far the widest waterfall in the world. The fall measures some 35,376 feet wide (about 6.7 miles). The next widest is Para Falls in Venezuela which is about 18,400 feet wide.
Despite being relatively low on the list of the world's largest falls, Niagra Falls is undoubtedly the best known waterfall on the planet. At 3,950 feet wide and 167 feet tall, it is far from the largest waterfall around, but it is reported to be the falls with the largest volume of water traveling over it. It is also a huge tourist attraction.
Larrie Stone is a retired Dana College science professor.