Wandering Through Earth’s 18 Different Types of Waterfalls

Different Types of Waterfalls

Whether you’re heading out for an around-the-world-in-80-days adventure and don’t want to miss out on the awe-inspiring falls of nature, or you want to discover what type of waterfall you saw on the family hike last week, you’re in the right place. 

A waterfall is simply an umbrella term to describe all the different types of waterfalls and flows of water in the World. In fact, there are 18. 

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we love to bring you everything from the tools and equipment to the locational know-how that ensures your hobby adventures remain exciting, memorable and safe. So, that’s why we’re deep diving through the curtain of the waterfall to discover the caves of awe sitting behind. In this article, we’ll be talking about the 18 different types of waterfall (some of which are actually illusions!) as well as letting you know where you can find one for your next adventure. 

Here are the 18 different types we’ll be going into detail about:

  1. Horsetail
  2. Ribbon
  3. Segmented
  4. Plunge
  5. Fan
  6. Punchbowl
  7. Chute
  8. Cascade
  9. Scree
  10. Block
  11. Firefall
  12. Manmade
  13. Slide
  14. Underwater
  15. Cataract
  16. Frozen
  17. Reverse
  18. Tiered

These different types of waterfall are determined by geographers using the Beisel Waterfall Classification System. There’s a lot of maths, physics and logarithmic scales involved such as looking at the volume of water with the journey and distance travelled through the fall. And, understanding the category helps broaden knowledge of the surrounding Earth and wildlife. 

Yet, it’s not just about their beauty, waterfalls are beneficial to health through their calming nature as well as to the ecosystem by allowing water to evaporate, keep a current and create hydroelectricity.

But, whether it’s for adrenaline-filled cliff diving explorations, a backpacking culture trip or a family hiking bonanza, knowing your different waterfalls will certainly guide you on a journey filled with direction and beauty.

Horsetail

Horsetail

First up is the horsetail, one of the most famous national parks in the world – Yosemite – is home to iconic horsetail types of waterfall. 

When it comes to thinking about the characteristics of the different waterfalls such as the horsetail, it’s all about the height of the cliff-face, the channel of the water below and the way the segmented rock wears away after years and years of falling water tears away the surface. 

Typically, with a horsetail waterfall, the top river channel is long and thin with the fall being tall and long. Yet, the journey of water remains close to the cliff’s edge, allowing it to remain tall and thin as a uniform waterfall rather than fanning out from the start (which would bring a whole new category of waterfall altogether). 

However, when the waterfall nears the end of the drop, the force of the water atop wind power and distance will cause the water to splay, hence the horsetail name.

Here are some of the most well-known and stunning horsetail waterfall hikes in the world:

  • Yosemite Falls (America)
  • Acland Falls (New Zealand)
  • Manawaiopuna Falls (America)

Ribbon

Ribbon

The ribbon types of waterfall typically share the same long and thin characteristics as the horsetail. However, unlike the horsetail, the ribbon waterfall tends to be far less forceful therefore creating less chance of splay or fan and allowing the ribbon waterfall to remain in its calm and uniform fall right to the end. 

Interestingly, these waterfalls are commonly seen as a category of temporary waterfalls since they accumulate and dissipate with the season or the weather. 

Despite these temporary natures, one of the most famous ribbon waterfalls – Ribbon Fall in Yosemite National Park – happens to be one of the largest waterfalls in the world in terms of height. So, even ephemeral parts of nature can be grand and astounding.

Have a look at some notable Ribbon waterfalls around the world for waterfall hikes:

  • Fairy Falls (America)
  • Catarata de Yumbilla (Peru)
  • Ribbon Fall (America)

Segmented

Segmented

A segmented waterfall, as the name might suggest, takes a segmented route down to the waters below due to the way the sedimentary rock has formed and then worn through the centuries. 

How waterfalls form into the segmented flow – characterised by one or more splits into separated streams of water – is through the wearing process of the varied sedimentary rock layers that settled together over time; essentially, the cliff face has been worn away by the force of water. 

Yet, as layered sedimentary rock carries varying properties such as hardness, some layers will wear quicker than others. Another way these types of waterfall form is through obstructive features such as a tree our boulder that directs the flow of water. Either way, the segmented waterfall is one of the most beautiful examples of direction, with multiple streams of the same river. 

Take a look at some popular segmented waterfall hikes you can head out on:

  • Burgess Falls (America)
  • Waipunga Falls (New Zealand)
  • The Seven Sisters (Norway) 

Plunge

Plunge

When a river runs off a cliff with severe force, it has the ability to wear away the underlying cliff face to the extent where the waterfall no longer touches the side of the cliff it falls off. 

This characteristic – of never needing to glide, slide or balance off the cliff face – is the cause of extra force and brings the name of the plunge waterfall. These waterfalls tend to be extremely forceful and quite dangerous if swimming or walking nearby. However, they also produce considerable splash and spray aiding in watering nearby greenery which makes it a perfect balance for a naturally thriving ecosystem.

Have a look at some plunge types of waterfall around the world, but do take caution if you’re going for a family hike into the wilderness:

  • Millaa Millaa Fals (Australia)
  • Sipisopiso (Sumatra)
  • Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall (Norway)

Fan

Fan

The fan waterfalls are one of the most stunning waterfalls of them all due to their naturally occurring fan features that allow the rockface underneath to glimmer through and provide so much more depth. They have a similar makeup to that of the horsetail and of the segmented waterfalls. 

Yet the soft flow of the water, the rock formations in the surrounding area and the types of sedimentary rock in the channel have segmented the flow into many different directions that weave back and forth around rock surfaces (hence not being identified as either the different waterfalls of horsetail or segmented). 

As the water fans out and continues to travel toward the ground or the water below, it creates a triangular shape resembling an upside-down airing fan. 

Here are some of the more popular fan types of waterfall around our world, 

  • Fan Waterfall (Taiwan)
  • Mokau Falls (New Zealand)
  • Enfield Falls (America)

Punchbowl

Punchbowl

Considered to be one of the most quintessential locations for an escape off the grid and the secluded swim, the punchbowl waterfall is part of the culture of blue lagoons and cenotes. 

Of course, water still streams away from the body of the pool, but the iconic lake is what makes a punchbowl. With many different waterfalls of the punchbowl type – including the sinkhole beach and the classic forest lagoon – it’s no surprise they’re often sought-after for the holidays and hikes that take you into the wilderness simply to get away from it all. 

Another characteristic for these types of waterfall would be the short falling length, yet do not be fooled as these are still very dangerous to jump from. 

When it comes to thinking about how waterfalls form into the punchbowl, it’s all about how the water falls into the ground, as time has gone on, the force from the fall has disrupted the ground below. And, as the ground concaves, more and more water can pool before flowing onto its next destination.

Here’s some of the most beautiful punchbowl waterfall destinations for you to venture out on waterfall hikes to: 

  • Eagle Creek Waterfall (America)
  • The Blue Lagoon (Costa Rica)
  • Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (South Korea)

Chute

Chute

A chute, in regular and non-waterfall terms, is the simple act of forcing something down a narrow gap while on an incline to allow for speedy downwards travel. Examples include park slides or building site channels. 

In waterfall terms, it is exactly the same. Chute types of waterfall occur when a flowing body of water is suddenly directed down a narrow path causing a burst of forceful water on the other side. 

The rivers of water that run after a chute waterfall are often rapids due to the ongoing pressure and current, making them a great go-to for many white-water rapid kayaking fanatics. To learn more about kayaking as a hobby, have a look at our “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking”. 

Otherwise, go straight to the rapids and the chute waterfalls with these three beautiful nature-filled waterfall hikes (just be sure not to dip any toes, you’ll be washed away!): 

  • Barnafoss Rapids (Iceland)
  • Egan Chute (America)
  • Aldeyjarfoss (Iceland)

Cascade

The cascade is a gentler waterfall that often trickles in many different directions over a varied body of rocks: through trees, over logs, between the bushes and more. It often works around the landmass rather than flowing over or through it due to the much gentler nature. 

As well as this, they can often be categorised as a stream rather than a waterfall due to the incline of the land it falls over. Essentially, the water cascades over and across sloped ground before coming to either a river, a lagoon or another drop. 

Cascades are often confused with other waterfall types such as the segmented, the fan, the tiered and the spree. 

However, the nature of the cascade is slightly different. Some geographers believe that how waterfalls form a cascade is through underground currents. As the water continues to flow underground and the sedimentary rock layers are worn away, the water ‘reaches the surface’ and continues to flow in its varied directions without force or excess water creating a larger riverbed.

If you want to visit some cascade types of waterfall, have a look as these three examples:

  • Hukou Waterfall (China)
  • Albion Falls (Canada)
  • Dunn’s River Falls (Jamaica)

Scree

Scree

As mentioned, scree types of waterfall have very similar characteristics to the cascade waterfall. However, these different waterfalls are even gentler and are identified by their movement over loose rocks and boulders that have been misplaced further in the river after a much more forceful waterfall such as the chute or a plunge. 

Often times, scree waterfalls can be ephemeral and temporary simply due to the tides of the water and the rainfall at the time; for example, heavy rainfall can be how waterfalls form off shoots that have spree qualities. 

As well as this, a soft and small river running on sloped land can expose the ground of the riverbed (or, waterfall-bed) in times of low tide. It is in these circumstances, where a cascade will be classed as a spree or a previously non-existing river has seen excess groundwater causing it to flow as a spree.

Have a look to see if your waterfall hike takes you along any paths for a spree: 

  • Kreuzberg River Spree (Germany)
  • Elephant Falls (India)
  • Chalpa River (Russia)

Block

Block

Here we enter the world of some of the most famous and well-known types of waterfall whereby waterfall hikes can quickly become a hot-spot tourist destination with boat rides, tickets and one-way systems. 

But it’s all worth it for the view and the refreshing spray. 

These types of river drops make the largest waterfall in the world in terms of the width and total force. They are characteristically identified through the wide flow of water, often forming a bowl and a large curtain of ever-flowing fresh water. Because of this, they are also often seen as rectangle waterfalls.

Here are the top three bucket list waterfalls you simply can’t miss on your backpacking or hiking adventures around the world:

  • Rhinefalls (Switzerland)
  • Niagara Falls (Canada)
  • Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)

Firefall

Firefall

The firefall types of waterfall are technically not a real type of waterfall but more of one of the spectacular illusions we mentioned earlier. 

In fact, one of the most famous firefall types of waterfall is the horsetail called Yosemite Falls and is located in one of America’s biggest and most popular national parks. 

The characteristics of these different waterfalls can only shine through with specific circumstances and geographical movements that determine how waterfalls form. 

Some waterfalls hang off a cliff face tall enough to see the sheer drop and vertical alignment from the side. Then, as the sun rises and sets in the horizon, the light catches the waterfall in the most beautiful of ways, causing the falling water to appear as though it were on fire as it reflects the orange sun rays. 

This stunning event only occurs on rare occasions when the right evening light in the Summertime hits the waterfall, yet it never stops people flocking to the falls in order to simply catch a glimpse of the natural phenomenon.

While the Yosemite Falls waterfall is the largest waterfall in the world known to transform into a firefall, it certainly isn’t the only one able to capture the light. Have a look at the world’s best firefalls:

  • Yosemite Falls (America)
  • Seljalandsfoss (Iceland)
  • Nohkalikai Falls (India)

Manmade

Manmade

As we’ve all got such a love and magnetism toward the different types of waterfalls, us humans have created our very own concrete jungle waterfalls of wonder. 

However, the largest waterfall in the world that was manmade ended up being too expensive to run so is often only flowing water in large scale events through the Chinese Province such as the Guiyang International Marathon. 

Sometimes these manmade waterfalls are constructed to appear modern while others are designed specifically to blend in with nature or create a new environment of greens. 

Sometimes inside, often times outside, these artificial waterfalls have been featured by many cultures over the centuries, from the Japanese zen gardens to the Ancient Romans. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that manmade waterfalls began to gain traction throughout Europe with Berlin’s famous Victoria Park waterfall.

To discover more manmade marvels, travel around these three locations and discover the peaceful tranquillity that even artificially running water can provide: 

  • The Liebian International Building (China)
  • Cascata delle Marmore (Italy)
  • Canonteign Falls (England)

Slide

Slide

A slide waterfall is actually a definition and umbrella term for how waterfalls form into the many subcategories and different waterfalls such as the chute, the scree, the cascade, the tiered and the fan waterfall hikes. 

The slide waterfall is characterised by water falling down the naturally sloping pathways of a cliff side. 

Essentially, the slide waterfall can be anything involving water running down a surface and is often believed to have been formed through two weathering processes. First, the running water could have a strong current against soft sedimentary rock that wears down the surface and creates a slope leading to another river, open water or a pool. 

Alternatively, the land’s surface could have developed through tectonic activity over the years to become sloped thus allowing excessive rainfall to take streams such as a naturally occurring spree. 

Of course, there are also manmade and artificial slides, too! On lucky occasions, the running river has worn away the rock to create a smooth enough surface to allow tourists, explorers, hikers and other nature-fuelled adrenaline seekers to slide on the rock surface and into the lagoon below.

For some more travel inspiration on where to base your waterfall hikes, look at these three slide types of waterfall:

  • Chiang Mai Waterfall (Thailand)
  • Pisgah’s Sliding Rock (America)
  • Cape Breton Swimming Hole (Nova Scotia)

Underwater

Underwater

While it might seem like we’re making some of these types of waterfall up, we certainly aren’t. 

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we love to bring unbelievable hobbies, trends, adventures, and natural phenomena, but we’ll never lie to you. And one of the most stunning and beyond belief realities of nature is the occurrence of underwater waterfalls. Not only this, not they’re actually not rare, either. 

In fact, the largest waterfall in the world in terms of depth is underwater. 

These different waterfalls occur when water density, water temperature and land formations change. As you may know, salt levels and brine levels (along with the levels of other materials) in the water can affect its overall density and temperature, with freshwater being far less dense than sea water. Typically, water will flow inland, thin, lose heat to the atmosphere, sink to the ocean floor and be swept with the current out to the ocean again. Yet, when the ocean floor suddenly drops, you’ll see the colder – denser – water flow further down with clear blue seas.

To witness underwater waterfalls, you’ll likely need to get involved with a group helicopter ride or scuba diving experience and circle the natural spectacle. To find out more about your possibilities to venture with scuba diving, have a look at The Hobby Kraze’s “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Scuba Diving and Snorkelling”. 

Otherwise, here are some of the more famous underwater waterfalls for you to feast your eyes upon:

  • Denmark Strait Cataract (Denmark)
  • The Underwater Waterfall (Mauritius) 
  • The Marina Trench (America)

Cataract

Cataract

Much like the slide types of waterfall, the cataract is another umbrella term for a series of different waterfalls around the world. 

However, the main characteristic of the cataract is the sheer power and process that derive from them. Some good examples of the cataract would be to refer back to the block, the plunge, the horsetail and the chute; all very powerful and often dangerous waterfalls. 

How these waterfalls form is always down to the force of the water on the cliff’s edge. 

For example, when it comes to a horseshoe-shaped block waterfall like Niagara Falls, thousands of years ago, it may have begun as a straight-edge waterfall. Yet, through time and with the force of the current of water against layered sedimentary rock, the centre of the cliff’s edge will have begun to wear away. 

This act of nature shows the sheer force and power of these waterfalls and will give reason to the fact that, when you head out on your waterfall hikes, you’ll be held behind a safe barrier.

If you look for the adrenaline-filled adventures to forceful waterfalls, as we suggest you do, then don’t forget to tick these three destinations off the list:

  • Iguacu Falls (Argentina)
  • Detian Falls (China)
  • Angel Falls (Venezuela)

Frozen

Frozen

Frozen waterfalls, more often than not, are a temporary and ephemeral type of waterfall frozen in place for the cold months. 

Many of these different waterfalls begin as a plunge, however, they then “fang” as they freeze. The fang waterfalls are very solid structures and will remain frozen for a long time. 

With this, they are very popular among climbers who like to ice-climb with technical ice axes and crampons. Frozen waterfalls are most commonly found in Northern regions of the globe such as Canada and Northern Europe. 

Thinking about how waterfalls form to ice, they often develop slowly and gradually from the inside-out. When the water hits freezing temperature, water molecules will freeze and begin to stick together. When they do, they’ll also begin to stick to other ground surfaces with more and more pieces of ice catching on the emerging berg. 

Finally, as the water continues to trickle down the formation of ice, they’ll freeze at the tip, meaning the ice grows into a waterfall-like feature.

For some of the more popular frozen waterfall sites for ice climbing and stunning photography, have a look at these areas: 

  • Uncompahgre Gorge (America)
  • Kandersteg (Switzerland)
  • Rjukan (Norway)

Reverse

Reverse

When it comes to looking at the largest waterfall in the world as well as some of its far away cousins, there will often be off spray from the wind and splash from the force of the waterfall that can create unmissable bucket list illusions. 

These illusions look as through the waterfall is travelling in reverse as different waterfalls with anti-gravity properties. Even if the phenomenon can be easily explained, it never takes away from the awe of the event; something only really imagined in fiction can flow before you.

Use these three locations around the world to direct your travels in search for the awe-inspiring reverse waterfall hikes:

  • Naneghat (India)
  • The Reverse Waterfall (England)
  • Inverted Waterfall (Denmark)

Tiered

Tiered

Also known as a multi-step waterfall or a staircase waterfall, the tiered waterfalls fall on – and flow through – various tiers as the water makes its way through gravity’s pull. 

Sometimes, they can appear to be like cascade waterfalls and spree waterfalls and other times they can be separated by entire lagoons of water. 

They’ll often form due to boulders or convex landmasses allowing for water to separate and gather in random locations of the waterfall using the same principles of other waterfalls mentioned through this very wet guide. Yet, typically, the width of the waterfall with remain the same throughout unlike the fan types of waterfall. 

However, one tip from the team here at The Hobby Kraze is to avoid the urge to swim in these mid-tier waterfall lagoon and pools. While they may be beautiful and alluring, the current is very strong and will often carry you off the edge of the second cliff! 

But if you’re still wanting to go venturing into the beautiful scenic land of mother nature, while looking from afar, don’t forget to tie these three stunning waterfalls into your itinerary:

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
  • The Gullfloss Golden Falls (Iceland)
  • Mitchell Falls (Australia)

Conclusion 

Being able to escape into nature with the incredible sights, sounds and smells of the waterfall can often be an out-of-this-world experience for many. But it is an experience that all should have on the bucket list. 

With calming benefits, and the release of negative ions as so many researchers will say, waterfalls offer a therapeutic getaway which can be incorporated into at-home waterfall hiking or global backpacking escapades. 

If you want to know more about finding hidden gems around the world as well as all the interesting ways mother nature operates, don’t forget to have a look at The Hobby Kraze’s blog. You might find these articles interesting:

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  • The Pranayama Yoga and learning Breath Control
  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking
  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
  • Everything You Need to Know About How to Make A Shelter in the Wilderness
  • The Ultimate Guide to Hiking for Beginners
  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking
  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching
  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Rock Collection and Tumbling
  • These are the Rocks you Can Expect to Find Fossils In

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