Wondrous Waterfalls

Featured Article, On the Road, Travel Destinations
on April 13, 2014
Stuart Englert

From cascading streams that plunge over precipices to raging rivers that tumble in torrents, America is blessed with thousands of wondrous waterfalls that stimulate the senses and refresh the spirit. Here are 10 of the nation’s grand and glorious waterfalls.

Akaka Falls, Hawaii

Tucked among a tropical rainforest, Akaka Falls plunges 442 feet into a deep, stream-eroded gorge in Akaka Falls State Park, near Honomu (pop. 509), on the Big Island. The waterfall and its 100-foot cascading neighbor Kahuna Falls can be viewed from several points along a halfmile paved, circular footpath. In the Hawaiian language, akaka means a split, which describes the crack in the earth that creates one of the Aloha State’s most spectacular waterfalls.

Amicalola Falls, Ga.

Surrounded by lush forests near the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, Amicalola Falls gushes 729 feet over a sharp bluff in Amicalola State Park in Dawsonville (pop. 2,536). The falls are formed by the waters of Little Amicalola Creek and named for the Cherokee Indian word that means “tumbling waters.”

Crabtree Falls, Va.

Billed as the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, Crabtree Falls tumbles nearly 1,000 feet in the George Washington National Forest, near Montebello in Nelson County. Located six miles east of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the waterfall features five major cascades, including one that drops 400 feet, and is named after William Crabtree, an early settler.

Havasu Falls, Ariz.

Located in a remote canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, Havasu Falls is an oasis in the desert, its lifegiving waters plunging 100 feet into a pool of turquoise colored water amid a backdrop of red rock walls in the Grand Canyon region. Visitors can access the spectacular waterfall by helicopter, pack animal or a strenuous 10-mile hike past the isolated village of Supai, home to some 600 tribal members. Access is restricted, and visitors must pay a $40 fee to gain entry. Havasupai means people of the blue-green waters, which are considered sacred by the tribe.

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, Wyo.

One of the major attractions in Yellowstone National Park, the 308-foot Lower Falls is a beautiful and powerful sight in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. A quartermile downstream from the 109-foot Upper Falls, the Lower Falls is visible from multiple viewpoints along the 800- to 1,200-foot-deep canyon, including a concrete platform at the brink of the falls. Peak flow occurs from June to July when melting snow feeds the river.

Multnomah Falls, Ore.

Multnomah Falls plunges more than 600 feet down a two-tiered cascade in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area between Dodson and Troutdale (pop. 15,962). Fed by underground springs and mountain snowmelt, the waterfall is visible from Multnomah Falls Lodge in Bridal Veil. Visitors also can climb a steep trail that leads to an overlook to view the falls and gorge.

Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Straddling the U.S.-Canada border, the thundering attraction on the Niagara River actually includes three distinct waterfalls—Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil. Renowned for their beauty, the falls together span more than 3,600 feet and boast an average flow of 750,000 gallons per second, making Niagara the largest waterfall by volume in North America.

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Dubbed “Niagara Falls of the West,” 212-foot Shoshone Falls plunges dramatically over a 1,000-foot-wide, horseshoeshaped ledge in the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls (pop. 44,273). Named for the Shoshone Indians, the falls are located in a city park, visible from an overlook and observation deck, and best viewed in spring before much of the river’s flow is diverted for farm irrigation.

Snoqualmie Falls, Wash.

Located on the snow-fed Snoqualmie River, Snoqualmie Falls rushes 268 feet over a cliff, sending spray above the gorge between Snoqualmie (pop. 10,670) and Falls City (pop. 1,993). The falls are visible from an observation deck maintained by Puget Sound Energy, which operates a hydroelectric plant 260 feet below the river and behind the falls. The falls are most impressive during spring snowmelt.

Yosemite Falls, Calif.

At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is North America’s highest waterfall. Located in Yosemite National Park, the majestic falls are fed by Yosemite Creek and snowmelt. May and June are peak viewing months for the three-tiered Upper Falls, Middle Cascades and Lower Falls. During dry years, the falls can disappear by the end of July.