A waterfall is a place where water falls over a cliff. Waterfalls are also where the water from melting icebergs fall into the ocean.

Waterfalls form as the stream erodes the soft bedrock underneath. Eventually, this wears away, leaving the only hard rock, such as granite. The granite forms cliffs and ledges as the waterfall develops.

Angel Falls

Waterfalls are bodies of water that flow down from a ledge or a steep area that is higher than the waterfall.

Most of the time at the bottom of a waterfall, where the water flows, is a gorge. A waterfall happens when there is a river that is young.

When water falls into a pool at the bottom, it is called a plunge pool.

How Are Waterfalls Formed?

Waterfalls happen from erosion. When there is a lot of water or a lot of wind that hits a specific area of rock for a long time, it can cause waterfalls to form.

As a stream or a river flow, there are sediments in it. These sediments are made of pebbles or sand and even dirt. When these sediments rub along the bed of the stream, it starts to make rock wear away.

There is some softer rock that starts to erode quicker and it leaves the hard rock on the bottom. This rock stays and this helps to make ledges or cliffs in a mountain area. These cliffs form a waterfall.

Other waterfalls are formed when there are natural disasters such as:

  • Volcanoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Landslide
  • Glaciers

When a waterfall happens when there are cracks in the surface of the Earth, these are called faults.

Victoria Falls


Not only are waterfalls formed from erosion, but waterfalls also cause erosion. Since there is so much water that falls down the mountain, it can cause rocks to flatten and to become smooth. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall will always continue to get bigger because of all of the water that rushes down it.

Sediments also will cause the pool at the bottom to get bigger because the sediment will drag on the bottom and make the pool wider and deeper.

Classification of Waterfalls

Scientists can classify waterfalls in different ways. Some of them think they should be classified by how tall they are, some think it is how wide they are. One of the biggest ways that people classify waterfalls is by what kind of waterfall it is.

Types of Waterfalls

There are many different types of waterfalls including:

  • Ledge
  • Fan
  • Cascade
  • Chute
  • Multi-step
  • Punchbowl
  • Slide
  • Plunge
  • Block
  • Cataract
  • Horsetail

Ledge Waterfall

A ledge waterfall is a waterfall that is like the waterfall that we think about when we say waterfall. This is the kind of waterfall that comes off of rocks and it only touches some of the rock when it flows.


A fan waterfall is a waterfall that spreads out left and right when it falls. This is called a fan waterfall because it makes a fan shape when the water flows.


A cascade waterfall is a waterfall that falls down and looks like it is falling from steps. These types of waterfalls have many people that visit them because they are safer and not as slippery as other falls.

One example of a cascade waterfall is Monkey Falls that is found in India.


A chute waterfall is a waterfall that has water that runs at really high pressures. This waterfall is really narrow and fast.

The water from a chute waterfall is basically shot out of the waterfall.

Some examples of a chute waterfall include:

  • Three Chute Falls
  • Yosemite National Park


A multi-step waterfall is just like the name because it has many different waterfalls that are connected to it. These types of waterfalls usually have their own body of water at the bottom, called plunge pools.


Punchbowl waterfalls are really wide and have huge pools at the bottom. These are named punchbowl because they are shaped like a punchbowl looks.


A slide waterfall falls from an angle down the slope.


A block waterfall is a waterfall that comes from a stream that is extremely wide. A block waterfall can also be called a sheet waterfall.

Some examples of block waterfalls include:

  • Niagara Falls


A plunge waterfall is one that is very powerful. This type of waterfall falls from the ledge really fast and does not even touch the rock sometimes.


A cataract falls is a waterfall that is very dangerous. It flows very fast and a lot of water comes from them.

An example of a cataract waterfall is the Iguazu River that is found in Brazil.


A horsetail waterfall is a waterfall that always touches the rock as it flows.

An example of a horsetail waterfall is Reichenbach Falls which is found in Switzerland. This fall is famous in the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Segmented Falls

A segmented fall is a waterfall that has water that flows from separate areas, but they are all the same falls.

An example of a segmented falls is Nigaretta Falls that is found in Australia. These falls have three falls, but they all end up in the same pool underneath.

Horsetail Falls

The sun hits the waterfall just right, so it glows. And it only happens for a few weeks in February.” This Natural Phenomenon is called the Firefall

Do Waterfalls Freeze?

In some areas, waterfalls will freeze. If the weather gets really cold in the winter, the water can freeze. Some people actually walk on these frozen waterfalls.

Can Waterfalls Be Useful?

Waterfalls can be a fun place to visit and they can also be useful. Waterfalls can be used for hydroelectric power.

Hydroelectric power uses machines to generate water so that it can give people electricity in their homes or businesses.

Are Waterfalls the Same?

Waterfalls are like snowflakes because no two waterfalls are the same. They are all different from their size, to the plunge pool below them.

Can Waterfalls Be Dangerous?

Waterfalls can be very dangerous because people climb them and swim in them. Some of the plunge pools at the bottom of the waterfall can be very deep.

One waterfall that is very dangerous is Niagara Falls.

Why Are Some Waterfalls Considered Sacred Areas?

Some people and some religions believe that waterfalls are considered sacred places. They believe they are sacred because they are very loud and beautiful.


When there is a mist that comes off the waterfall, this is called a cataractogenous.

Some Famous Waterfalls

There are millions and millions of waterfalls all over the world. Some known waterfalls are:

  • Angel Falls-the highest waterfall found in Venezuela
  • Victoria Falls-Falls found in the Zambezi River in Africa
  • Huangguoshi Waterfall-This waterfall is in China.
  • Song Khon-Waterfall in Thailand
  • Gullfoss-Waterfall in Iceland
  • Powerscourt-Waterfall in Ireland
  • The Valley of Lauterbrunnen-This is located in Switzerland and has 72 different waterfalls on it.

Classes of Waterfalls

Waterfalls are grouped in classes based on how much water they have. They are classed in 10 different waterfalls. Some of these include:

  • Niagara Falls-Class 10
  • Victoria Falls-Class 9
  • Gullfoss-Class 8
  • Angel Falls-Class 7
  • Yosemite Falls-Class 6
  • Sutherland Falls-Class 5

Waterfalls Facts for Kids:

  • Waterfalls can create cracks and faults in cliffs.
  • The Angel Falls are named after Jimmy Angel, a pilot who flew a plane over the falls.
  • Victoria Falls can be heard more than 40 kilometers away because it is so loud.
  • Waterfalls can be very big or very small.
  • Waterfalls can be nature-made or manmade.
  • The tallest manmade waterfall is found in Italy and it is called the Cascata Delle Mamore
  • Sutherland Falls is a famous waterfall in the Fiordland National Park.
  • The most powerful waterfall found in Europe is the Dettifoss.
  • The Iguassu Falls is a waterfall that has 275 waterfalls altogether.

What Did You Learn?

  • What is a waterfall?
    A waterfall is water that falls from a mountain or a ledge into an area below and most likely into a plunge pool.
  • What is a plunge pool?
    A plunge pool is the pool at the bottom of a waterfall where the water flows into.
  • Are all waterfalls naturally made?
    No. Some waterfalls are made by nature and other waterfalls are made by man.
  • How does erosion play a part in waterfalls?
    Erosion is what causes some waterfalls to be made and waterfalls also cause erosion.
  • Are all waterfalls safe?
    No. Some waterfalls are safe to play in and others are unsafe. Niagara Falls is even an illegal falls to play in.