Athirapally Falls is a picturesque marvel situated in Athirapally Panchayath, in Thrissur District of Kerala, on the southwestern coast of India. Athirapally Falls is located on the west-flowing Chalakudy River, near the Vazhachal Forest Division and the Sholayar ranges. This picturesque 80 ft (24 m) waterfall and the nearby Vazhachal Falls are extremely popular tourist destinations. Athirapally Falls has been nicknamed “The Niagara Falls of India“. Controversy about a state-proposed hydroelectric dam on the Chalakudy River, at a spot above the waterfalls, began in the 1990s and continues on to this day.
Athirapally Falls Source and Course
The Athirapally Falls are fed by the 90 mi (145 km) long Chalakudy River. The river originates in the Anamudi mountains of the Western Ghats. It then flows through the Vazhachal Forest toward the Arabian Sea. The river initially runs smoothly but quickly becomes more turbulent as it nears Athirapally. At Athirapally Falls, the water surges around large and numerous rocks and cascades down in three separate plumes. Below the falls, the river remains quite turbulent for a distance of approximately 0.6 mi (1 km), until it reaches Kannamkuzhi. At that point, it calms significantly and flows smoothly until reaching the dam at Thumburmuzhi.
Athirapally Falls Ecology
The Athirapally Falls themselves are a marvel of geology, but they are only part of the natural splendor of the region. Forest wildlife in the area includes the Asiatic Elephant, tiger, bison, sambar, and the lion-tailed macaque. The unique 590 ft (180 m) elevation of the riparian forest in the Athirapally-Vazhachal area is the only location where all four South Indian species of hornbills are found dwelling together. These are the Malabar Pied Hornbill, the Great Hornbill, the Indian Grey Hornbill, and the Malabar Grey Hornbill. Plantations in the region contain great quantities of teak, eucalyptus, and bamboo. The river provides a habitat for 85 known species of freshwater fishes. Among these, 35 are endemic species.