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Waterfalls

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Everyone loves a waterfall, and I am no exception. The sheer power of all that water is mesmerising, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the movement in my photos. Slow shutter speeds are essential to get that blurred effect, or maybe a fast one to try to freeze the droplets of spray. Here are some of my favourite waterfalls from around the world.

Niagara Falls

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Canadian Falls from the Skylon Tower

I have to start here. My first major trip abroad, or at least the first outside Europe, was a school camping trip to Canada in 1973, when I was seventeen. We spent two of the three weeks at a campsite just outside Niagara Falls and made several visits into town to see the falls, which left a significant impression on me. We did the classic Maid of the Mist boat ride, crossed to the US side for a different perspective and looked down on them from the Skylon Tower. We even had a short helicopter flight over the falls! Years later in 1995 I revisited Niagara with Chris, on a detour from our New England road trip, and was again blown away. These photos are from that second visit and are scans of slides, so please forgive the quality.

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The American Falls

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The Canadian Falls - Maid of the Mist, and night illuminations

Oregon

This was another of our early US road trips, again captured on slides. Towards the end of our time in the state we drove the Columbia River Gorge where there are numerous waterfalls to be seen. My photos are of Multnomah (on the left) and Latourell Falls. The former drops in two steps, split into upper falls of 542 feet (165 metres) and lower falls of 69 feet (21 metres). Latourell drops in a single fall straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff rather than tumbling over rock, and is pretty dramatic as a result.

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Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Washington State

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Lower Myrtle Falls

I have already shared photos from our 2017 road trip in another blog here but couldn’t resist including a few of my favourite waterfall ones here. I loved the setting of Myrtle Falls in Mount Rainier National Park, with the snowy mountain as a backdrop:

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Upper Myrtle Falls

Elsewhere in Mount Rainier NP the falls at Sunbeam Creek and Falls Creek, while small, were very pretty:

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Sunbeam Creek Falls

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Falls Creek

Rainbow Falls at Stehekin on Lake Chelan were another highlight of that trip:

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Rainbow Falls

Chile

As with Washington, I have also already blogged about Chile, where I was particularly impressed by the Salto Grande in the Torres del Paine National Park – more than worth the effort it took to battle the ferocious winds to walk there!

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Salto Grande

Also in the Torres del Paine were the Cascada del Rio Paine, in a very picturesque setting:

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Cascada del Rio Paine

Further north I had been impressed by the Petrohué Falls, albeit in less perfect weather conditions:

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Petrohué Falls

Iceland

The best waterfalls I have seen in Europe are those of Iceland, which we visited in February 2012. Days were short and chilly, but the falls were magnificent, especially Skógafoss and Seljandsfoss on the south coast. I’m looking forward to seeing them again next May when I return to Iceland for the Virtual Tourist meeting there.

At Skógafoss we not only viewed the falls from below but also climbed the wooden steps to the top where we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside and of the water tipping over at the top of the falls.

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Skógafoss

Seljalandsfoss can be seen from some distance away as you drive towards it but it is only when you park and walk closer that you get the full sense of its size. The water pours over a cliff and drops about 60 metres into a surprisingly calm pool, before flowing away across the meadows. From the parking area a short easy path leads to the pool at the foot of the falls. From here you can climb a few steps to a path that leads behind the torrent, but on our winter visit both these and the path close to the water were thick with ice and we decided not to attempt it – something for next May, for sure!

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Seljalandsfoss

We also went to Gullfoss on the Golden Circle – more extensive and dramatic than the south coast falls, and surrounded by ice and snow on our February visit, but with rather leaden skies for photography.

Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” but when we were there, as you can see, it was more silver than gold. Although the falls themselves weren’t frozen, the land around them was and the whole scene was awesome in a wintry fashion – just beautiful!

Having seen the power of Gullfoss it is hard to imagine that it was ever threatened, but so it was. In the middle part of the last century such wonders were perhaps less appreciated than they are today, and for a while there was talk, and even some plans, of harnessing the power of the river here to generate electricity. The popular story is that these plans were overthrown due to the efforts of one woman, Sigrídur Tómasdóttir, who even threatened to throw herself over the falls. Whether it was her threat, or a simple lack of money, is not clear, but the falls were saved and today are protected as they should be, while a memorial to Sigrídur stands in the upper car park area. Iceland would certainly be the poorer, despite all its other magnificent scenery, without this dramatic sight.

Iguaçu

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Iguaçu Falls

If I were to award a prize to the most impressive falls I have visited, Iguaçu would win for sure. With all the majesty of Niagara but in a much more natural setting, they took my breath away. I’m in good company too – apparently when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguaçu, she was heard to say, “Poor Niagara”.

Two thirds of the falls are on the Argentine side of the river and one third in Brazil, where we stayed. The falls are part of a practically virgin jungle ecosystem protected by national parks on either side of the cascades, where development has been well-controlled and restricted. This beautiful tropical setting is one of the reasons why for me (and Eleanor) Iguaçu had even more wow factor than Niagara.

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Argentine Falls

Another reason for their grandeur is that the falls here extend for a long way, and there are so many of them. However you look at them, the stats are mind-boggling! In all, the system consists of 275 falls along a 2.7 kilometre length (1.67 miles) of the Iguaçu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 metres in height, though the majority are about 64 metres. The Devil's Throat, or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese, is the most impressive of all: a U-shaped cliff 150 metres wide by 700 metres long. On average an average of 553 cubic feet per second thunders over the escarpment. Again though, these photos are scans of slides so the quality could be better.

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'Garganta do Diabo' - the Devil's Throat

The name of the falls comes from the Guarani Indian word meaning "great water." I love this little legend which the local Caingangue Indian tribe told to explain their origins:

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Is this Naipi?

The Caingangues, who lived on the banks of the Iguaçu River, believed that the world was ruled by M'Boi, a god who took the form of a serpent. Naipi was the daughter of the tribe’s chief, Igobi; she was so beautiful that the river ceased to flow when she looked upon its waters so as not to disturb her reflection.

Because of Naipi's exquisite beauty, she was to dedicate her life to the worship of M'Boi. However, there was a handsome young warrior in the tribe, Taroba, who fell in love with Naipi the moment he first saw her. On the day of the consecration, while the chief and the priest were drinking and the warriors were lost in their dancing, Taroba stole away with Naipi in a canoe and followed a swift current down river.

When M'Boi learned about the escape of Naipi and Taroba, he became insanely angry. He drove his serpent body underground, and twisted and writhed, and by thrashing his body to and fro he opened a gigantic fissure into which the waters poured from the Iguaçu river. Taken by the waters of the great falls, the canoe was borne down into the depths of the river, never to be found.

The legend tells that Naipi turned into one of the prominent central rocks below the waterfalls, forever to be touched by the waters, and Taroba turned into a large palm tree, inclined over the throat of the river, to gaze forever at his beloved.

A rather touching story with which to finish our mini tour of some of my favourite waterfalls.

Posted by ToonSarah 10:40 Tagged landscapes waterfalls chile brazil niagara iceland washington_state Comments (13)

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