Waterfall types

Waterfalls are unique nature sights. This means that no two waterfalls are exactly the same, and there is no universal agreement on what makes waterfall a waterfall. Despite this, waterfall lovers are used to classifying waterfalls based on their most common features.

Even though people disagree on the categorical definitions of waterfalls, it's useful to present the most frequently used waterfall types available on the Internet and in literature (see for example, World Waterfall Database and World of Waterfalls).

The types of waterfalls are generally based on features such as how the water falls or passes through it's course, what the volume of water is, and which geological processes have created the fall.


  • PLUNGE – Classical waterfall, where the water descends vertically, completely losing contact with the bedrock surface.

    Pihtsusköngäs


  • HORSETAIL – The water descends maintaining contact with the bedrock most of the time. Often the fall is steep and thin and may resemble a horse's tail.

    Hepoköngäs


  • SEGMENTED – The watercourse is segmented into several distinct stream beds, each of them forming their own waterfall.

    Komulanköngäs


  • CASCADES – Cascades are waterfalls where the water descends along a sloped surface with irregular shape. Usually the waterfall consists of several small steps, although occasionally there can be also large steps. According to their steepness, cascades can yet be sub-classified as shallow cascades (angle below 45 degrees) and steep cascades (angle more than 45 degrees). Cascade is one of the most common waterfall-types in Finland (and in the World).

    Varisköngäs


  • CHUTE – Water is forced through a narrow channel, often due to cliffs or large boulders in the river. The narrow stream bed makes the water foam violently. Some people prefer to classify chute-waterfalls in the group of cascades or even rapids.

    Jyrävä


  • BLOCK – The falling water has a clear rectangular shape. It's like a sheet of water over the underlying cliff face. The block waterfall is often wider than its height.

    Keroköngäs


  • PUNCHBOWL – The water descends in a constricted form through a narrow channel, and then spreads over a wider pool. The waterfall may resemble the filling of punch bowl at a party.

    Putaanköngäs


  • TIERED – The drop height of the waterfall is divided on several distinct steps.

    Fiellun putous


  • MULTI-STEP – A series of consecutive waterfalls one after another on a short distance. Some people classify multi-step -waterfalls and tiered waterfalls in the same category.

    Kitsiputous


  • SCREE – These waterfalls flow over loose rocks or boulders that have usually accumulated at the base of another, steeper waterfall. This is not a very popular category, though, and many people prefer to classify scree-waterfalls as cascades.

    Korkeakoski


  • FAN – The waterfall starts from a narrow stream bed, but spreads horizontally as it descends the bedrock surface. The result is a veil of water covering the cliff.

    Saukko-ojan putous


  • SLIDE – A shallow waterfall that sometimes looks more like a rapid than an actual waterfall. The water glides down a relatively low angle slope, maintaining continuous contact with bedrock. Some people classify these waterfalls as shallow cascades.

    Isterinkoski


It should be noted that many waterfalls can be classified to more than just one category. For example, Kitsiputous Falls is a multi-step waterfall that includes both plunges, tiered waterfalls and cascades. On the other hand, Komulanköngäs is a segmented waterfall, where the southern fall is a steep cascade and the northern one is a plunge (or maybe a block).

Because of this, we have tried to classify the waterfalls on this site by the primary form of the fall. At the same time you should remember that the entire process of classifying waterfalls is very subjective, and should never be taken literally.

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