Rhine Falls Facts
- First of all, probably the most noteworthy fact about the magnificent Rhine Falls remains its status. That holds true because the feature ranks as the largest waterfall in Europe. Consequently, and not surprisingly, its natural magnificence has served to inspire authors, poets, and painters for centuries.
- Further, it has its fair share of concerns, however. That’s because the sheer power of this geological marvel often makes it a potential source of hydroelectric power for surrounding regions. Thankfully, the public pressure to preserve the waterfall has thus far prevailed.
- Thankfully, it has never been used for generating electricity. However, mankind has utilized its power in other ways in the past. In fact, the tremendous strength of the waterfall has previously been utilized as a source for both a mill and an iron ore smelting facility.
- Finally, the awesome Rhine Falls presently remains one of the most popular tourist sites in Europe. This fact represents one of the reasons hydroelectricity has been ruled out. Additionally, the presence of Worth Castle nearby also augments the site’s beauty.
Rhine Falls Physical Description
Perhaps most notably, the astonishing Rhine Falls is an impressively large site. In fact, the marvelous cascade measures roughly 490 ft (150 m) in overall width. The waterfall itself has a moderate drop measuring a total of about 75 ft (23 m). Further, this marvelous waterfall itself sits at an elevation that measures roughly 1,194 ft (364 m).
Yet, it does not remain the same size at all times. In fact, its flow rate naturally varies by season, being greater in the summer than other times of the year. This variation happens due to run-off from mountain snowfall. In winter, the flow rate averages 8,800 cu ft/s (250 cu m/s), yet increases to a massive 21,000 cu ft/s (600 cu m/s) in summer.
Also worthy of note is the fact that the land the waterfall flows over primarily consists of limestone. Also, the out-flowing riverbed following the waterfall itself has a deep cover of gravel, likely from glacial activity. The World Waterfall database officially lists Rhine Falls as a magnificent example of what experts call a Segmented Block waterfall.
Rhine Falls Location and Formation
Most notably, perhaps, is the location of the gorgeous site. That holds true because Nature placed the Rhine Falls on the High Rhine, rather near the border between the cantons of Zurich and Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
Remarkably, these magnificent falls formed between 14,000 – 17,000 years ago, during the last ice age. Further, this formation occurred because melting glaciers filled channels carved out by their previous expansion with torrential amounts of runoff.
While the source of the waterfall, the Rhine river, once flowed in another direction, it moved to its current course approximately 132,000 years ago. Consequently, this allowed for the formation of the waterfall once the glaciers retreated, as the moving water eroded the surrounding limestone.