Rhine Falls Facts
- The most noteworthy fact about the magnificent Rhine Falls remains its status as the largest waterfall in Europe. Consequently, its magnificence has inspired authors, poets, and painters for centuries.
- 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.
- While it has never been used for generating electricity, the waterfall has previously been utilized as a site for both a mill and an iron ore smelting facility.
- The Rhine Falls is one of the most popular tourist sites in Europe (one reason hydroelectricity has been ruled out). The presence of Worth Castle nearby also augments the site’s beauty.
Rhine Falls Physical Description
The Rhine Falls measure roughly 490 ft (150 m) wide and the waterfall drops about 75 ft (23 m).
Yet flow rate varies by season, being greater in the summer 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 21,000 cu ft/s (600 cu m/s) in summer.
The land the waterfall flows over primarily consists of limestone, and the outflowing riverbed has a deep cover of gravel. This marvelous waterfall itself sits at an elevation of approximately 1,194 ft (364 m).
Rhine Falls Location and Formation
Nature has 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. This 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.