How to use this site
This is where the help is. Click the links below to skip to specific topics. Anywhere on the website that you see the symbol, you can click it to pop open a window with additional information.
- Browsing the Database
- Status Icons
- Information Icons
- Waterfall Names
- Waterfall Details
- Waterfall Types
- Maps, Location, and Directions
- The Rating System
Browsing the Database
In previous versions of this website, we had opted to break down the distribution of waterfalls in arbitrary "regions" which weren't necessarily bound by any defined geography or geopolitical divisions. Because this website uses a shared database with the World Waterfall Database, maintaining the information for these arbitrary regions no longer made sense as it only applied to this website. So we've opted to eliminate the Region designations, and instead have shifted to a purely State / County based system of subdivision. All waterfalls accessible through this website can be found in lists of data for both their respective State, and accompanying County. You can find the links to lists of waterfalls for any given area under the Browse By State menu in the black bar at the top of any page.
Additionally, further replacing our old system of Flash-based maps we used which would simply link to the lists of waterfalls within the aforementioned Regions, we now utilize a fully interactive mapping window which plots all of the waterfalls on the map at once. Hovering the cursor over any icon will show its name, and clicking on the icon will open the page for that waterfall. The Map can be used to show all of the waterfalls in any given State, a singular County of any State, or the list of our Top 100 waterfalls. Links to the map can be found in the dropdown menus at the top of any page, with the exception of the Top 100 List map, which is accessible from the Top 100 Waterfalls page.
Currently our Search tool is only able to search using the name of a waterfall, so searching for "Silver Falls" will return results for all waterfalls with that name, however a search for "Silver Falls State Park" will not return any results. We hope to add in full text searching at some point in the future, but for now to ensure we can maintain the same level of functionality as before, we've left it more or less unchanged. The search tool can be found in the Search menu in the black bar at the top of any page.
The rainbow-colored icons you will see both throughout the website and used on the maps is shared with the World Waterfall Database. The Status of a waterfall is meant to function as a thumbnail reference as to how much is known about any given waterfall, and how much information is likely to be presented on each waterfall's page. A full breakdown of the different Statuses we use is as follows:
CatalogedWaterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
ConfirmedConfirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
UnconfirmedUnconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
UnknownWaterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
InundatedInundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
DisqualifiedWaterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
PostedPosted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.
In addition to the Status icons, you will see at least two additional icons accompanying any waterfall which we have visited and cataloged (and sometimes for waterfalls which we haven't visited) - these will be visible on the list pages, as well as at the top-right corner of any given waterfall's page, above the Ratings box. These icons are meant to quickly illustrate the method of access used to reach a given waterfall, and the difficulty of doing so. The breakdown works as follows:
RoadsideIndicates that the waterfall is located within eyesight of a road, and requires little to no effort to view. It may be necessary to walk a few dozen yards to obtain a clear view, but should be at least partially visible without getting out of your car.
4WD VehicleIndicates that though not necessarily required, having a high clearance vehicle with 4-wheel drive capability is thoroughly recommended in order to access. The waterfall will be situated more or less adjacent to the road.
Day HikeIndicates that visiting the waterfall will require a short to moderate hike along an established trail. Distances can vary and will be reflected by the difficulty, but will generally not be longer than 10 miles in length.
Multi-day HikeIndicates that hiking long distances will be required in order to view the waterfall. Backcountry camping is recommended (and potentially required, depending on the visitor's strength) in order to properly view and visit the waterfall. There is no limit to hike length for this designation.
BushwhackIndicates that off-trail or cross-country travel without the aid of an established trail is necessary to access the waterfall. Distance isn't a factor, but will be reflected in the associated difficulty rating. Bushwhacks of over 1/2-mile will generally be rated at least Moderate difficulty.
WatercraftIndicates that in order to view the waterfall, the visitor will need to pilot or charter a watercraft of some kind. Depending on the watercourse involved, it may be powered or non-powered as necessity and regulations dictate. Waterfalls visible from public water transportation such as Ferrys will be noted.
Easy AccessAccessing a waterfall with this designation requires little to no effort. If walking is necessary, a well graded trail is provided. Usually not over a mile from the road.
Moderate AccessAccessing a waterfall with this designation entails a moderate degree of effort. Moderately steep trails, light to moderate underbrush and lack of safety barriers may be present. Hikes may by up to 10 miles in length.
Difficult AccessAccessing a waterfall with this designation entails potentially long distance hiking, substantial elevation gain and/or steep grades, bushwhacking through thick brush (at a slow pace), dangerous and uneven terrain, steep drop offs, and crumbly unstable ground. Hikes can be of any length.
Not Recommended / No Public AccessAccessing a waterfall with this designation is not recommended. Expect steep, dangerous terrain, precarious viewpoints, swift stream fords, scrambling up cliff faces, and potential glacier travel. Not suitable for any but the most experienced. Waterfalls marked with this icon may also be closed to public access (this will generally be indicated with a Posted Status - see above).
These icons are optional and will only appear when the necessary conditions are met by a given waterfall.
AccessibleThis icon denotes that the access to the waterfall should more or less be easy for those with disabilities. We can't guarantee that all waterfalls marked with this icon are fully ADA accessible, but with few exceptions, where this icon is displayed expect trails and viewpoints for the waterfalls in question to be paved or at least graded well enough to allow wheelchairs to manage.
SwimmingA good swimming hole can be found either at this waterfall, or in the immediate vicinity, when the stream or river is flowing at normal or low levels. Always be cautious about current strength, and use good judgment if you decide to swim at a waterfall.
The primary convention used for identifying waterfalls in this database is geographical coordinates and a uniquely identifying number, however as this method is not a good method of reference, being able to label a waterfall by name is the preferred method of designation. As with the World Waterfall Database, we use five naming conventions to denote the origin and recognition of the name of any given waterfall:
Waterfalls with this designation have a name which is recognized by some type of governing body, such as the United States Geologic Survey, the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Department of Fish and Wildlife, or any other similar federal organization, City, County or State governing body or administration where presidence has been set in usage. Very often waterfalls with official names are listed on USGS Topographic maps, and on tourism literature.
Waterfalls with this designation had a name which was adopted and in common usage at one point in time, but may have otherwise fallen out of the common vernacular. Waterfalls with multiple different historically recognized names are not uncommon. In this situation, the oldest name takes precident unless a second name has a more established usage. If a waterfall with this designation is officially recognized under a different name by the USGS, the historical name is usually over-ridden.
Waterfalls with this designation have a name which is used in regionally or locally specific areas, or has been unofficially adopted by the outdoor recreation community through common usage (such as from citation in hiking guide books). These names are not recognized by any sort of governing body, but are commonly enough used that they aren't seen as obscure references.
Waterfalls with this designation have a name which has specifically been proposed for colloquial usage on part of either the Northwest Waterfall Survey or the World Waterfall Database. These names are not in the process of being adopted in any sort of official way, but are instead designed to possibly be elevated to common usage through further discussion and awareness.
Waterfalls with this designation have no specific naming applied in any functional way, and are meant to function purely as a working title for easier reference. The names we present as Unofficial are subject to change at a whim, and may change several times pending on further discovered waterfalls in the area or along the same stream.
When viewing a page with the details pertaining to any given waterfall, a table will be shown on the right side of the page listing several distinct "counting" type statistics and figures for the waterfall. This is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.
The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.
The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.
Num of Drops
The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.
The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.
Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.
The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.
The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.
See the Waterfall Types section below.
The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.
The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.
The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.
If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.
A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).
A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.
Watefalls come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes, and no two are exactly alike. There are however some common qualities which can be used to categorize different waterfalls into different "types". The system we've elected to use is adapted from that created by Greg Plumb in his excellent "Waterfall Lover's Guide" books. Plumb's category system features eight distinct types of waterfall, but each seemed to be applied somewhat haphazardly. Our system takes two primary characteristics into account: 1) how steep the waterfall is, and then 2) a modifier based on how the water interacts with the cliff which produces the waterfall. All waterfalls will fall into one of the five primary categories, and then may have a modifier applied. Some waterfalls will have no distinct modifier traits, and will thus just be listed using only primary designation. The breakdown works as follows:
Plunging waterfalls are the "classic" type waterfall, where the stream drops cleanly from the cliff and free-falls all the way to its base. Plunge type waterfalls will typically have an overall pitch of between 75 and 90 degrees (some wiggle room is allowed).
Horsetail waterfalls occur as the stream descends down a steep, nearly vertical cliff, but retains contact with the cliff face for the majority of its descent. The name was inspired by the famous Horsetail Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge. Horsetail type waterfalls typically have an overall pitch of between 50 and 80 degrees.
Steep Cascades type waterfalls occur as the stream tumbles in a non-vertical fashion down the face of a cliff, over gradually sloping rocks, in a series of small steps in quick succession, or over a rugged sloping surface of some kind. The waterfall will maintain contact with the bedrock for the entire descent, and will feature an overall pitch of between approximately 30 and 65 degrees.
Shallow Cascade type waterfalls occur similarly as a stream descends along an angled pitch of bedrock, but in a much more gradual method than the Steep Cascades variant. Shallow Cascades are often characterized by smooth waterslide-like features, or chutes where the stream accelerates through a narrow channel. Shallow Cascade type waterfalls will generally have an overall pitch of between 10 and 40 degrees.
Rapids are usually a type of formation in a stream or river which don't typically qualify as a true waterfall, however there are some exceptions. Rapids will be characterized by a very gradual descent, often without the presence of a distinctly identifiable vertical drop. Waterfalls which fall under the Rapids category will have an overall pitch of less than 10 degrees.
|Primary Category Examples|
South Falls, Oregon
Lila Falls, Washington
Tatoosh Falls, Washington
Clear Lake Falls, Washington
Waterloo Falls, Oregon
Block-type waterfalls stretch over a broad width of stream, and feature a width that is greater than the height of the waterfall. Waterfalls which are more or less equal in height and width will be considered Block type.
Curtain-type waterfalls stretch over a broad width of stream, but feature a height that is greater than the width of the waterfall.
Punchbowl-type waterfalls occur where a stream constricts through a narrow gap and is forcefully shot outward and downward into a large pool (picture a ladle in a bowl of punch).
Segmented-type waterfalls occur when the stream splits into two or more parallel channels, each producing a waterfall on its own. The parallel streams do not have to be collectively visible from one spot to obtain this modifier.
Sliding-type waterfalls occur where the stream skips down a smooth slab of bedrock, like a natural waterslide. Waterfalls of this type are often associated with granitic bedrock.
Talus-type waterfalls are produced when the stream tumbles over, under, and around a pile of large rocks or boulders. Generally because this interaction doesn't align with our definition of Waterfall, these features will be classified as Disqualified, and in turn very few waterfalls in the database will have this modifier.
Tiered-type waterfalls are produced when the stream makes two or more consecutive leaps back-to-back in a stair step fashion. Each tier may have its own distinct shape and traits, but we don't generally take that into account in terms of classing a waterfall into its respective Category.
Veiling-type waterfalls occur when the stream producing the falls spreads outward as it falls - the top of the waterfall being narrow and the bottom being considerably wider. This is sometimes referred to as a "Fan" type waterfall.
Lower North Falls, Oregon
Paradise Falls, Washington
Punch Bowl Falls, Oregon
Triple Falls, Oregon
St. Louis Falls, Washington
Boulder Falls, Washington
Apogee Falls, Washington
Fairy Falls, Oregon
|Plunge||Horsetail||Steep Cascades||Shallow Cascades||Rapids|
|Block||Vertical Block||Wide Horsetail||Wide Steep Cascade||Wide Shallow Cascade||Wide Rapids|
|Curtain||Vertical Curtain||Curtain Horsetail|
|Punchbowl||Plunging Punchbowl||Sliding Punchbowl|
|Segmented||Segmented Plunges||Segmented Horsetails||Segmented Steep Cascades||Segmented Gradual Cascades||Segmented Rapids|
|Sliding||Sliding Horsetail||Steep Sliding Cascade||Gradual Sliding Cascade||Sliding Rapids|
|Talus||Steep Boulder Cascade||Minor Boulder Cascade||Boulder Garden|
|Tiered||Tiered Plunges||Tiered Horsetails||Tiered Steep Cascades||Tiered Gradual Cascades|
|Veiling||Veiling Plunge||Veiling Horsetail||Steep Veiling Cascade|
Maps, Location, and Directions
Toward the bottom of each Waterfall detail page is information pertinent to the location of the waterfall. Presented will be, at minimum, the coordinates where the waterfall is found, in decimal-degrees format, as well as a map window showing on a map where the falls are located. Up to ten additional nearby waterfalls may also be shown if there are any within a 5 mile radius of the waterfall in question. Where we have conducted a proper survey of the waterfall, directions to the waterfall will often also be provided.
Because of increased interest and vistation to many waterfalls in the Northwest, we have seen quite a few locations being "loved to death". User trails are becoming more easily established, garbage is being left behind, grafitti is becoming more commonplace, and human waste is sometimes encountered without being properly buried. Because of this increase in poor behavior, we have chosen to begin omitting directions for waterfalls which do not have any established access (bushwhacks or off-trail).
The Rating System
Perhaps the most difficult task when it comes to cataloging waterfalls is how to fairly quantify and compare any given waterfall with another. There have been many attempts over the years at creating systems which would effectively rate waterfalls based on their aesthetics, accessibility, volume, quaintness, or whatever else characteristic could be identified.
Since the inception of this website in 1999 many different systems have been used to rate the waterfalls featured. Initially, a 1-5 star system was used, similar to that in Greg Plumb's "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest". Later a 1-10 point system was adopted due to the simple difficulty of catagorizing the vast variety of waterfalls into a 5 point system. This 10-point system was further expanded to represent both a peak streamflow rating and a low-volume rating. While this system worked well enough, it was still hindered by the simple fact that there is only so much room to maneuver in a 10-point system. Two waterfalls may end up getting the same rating even though one may be notably better than the other.
Coinciding with the development and launch of the World Waterfall Database, a more dynamic rating system was derived to try to alleviate these issues and provide a much more objective comparison using as much quantifiable data as possible to try to produce a rating scale free of the influence of personal bias. This system derives its results using three primary sources of data and is constructed as follows.
In the 3rd Edition of "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest", author Greg Plumb derived a system to measure the visual impression a waterfall makes, which he termed "Visual Magnitude". This system uses a logarithmic scale of 10, based on the waterfall's height, width, volume and slope. The resulting figures render a good method of comparison between any two waterfalls, regardless of differences in size, shape, or volume. Each increase of 10 in Magnitude indicates a doubling of the impressiveness of the waterfall. For example, a waterfall with a rating of 90 is twice as impressive as a rating of 80, and a rating of 100 is four times as impressive as a rating of 80. Taller waterfalls, and waterfalls with a higher volume will have a higher Visual Magnitude rating. Low volume waterfalls, or waterfalls with a shallow slope will have a lower rating. The Visual Magnitude of any waterfall which has a Rating can be found on the second line of the Ratings box at the top-right of a waterfall's page.
International Waterfall Classification System (IWC)
A second method of measure that is used in this database is the International Waterfall Classification System coined by Richard Beisel Jr in 2002. This system uses a natural logarithm of the average volume of water present in a waterfall to come up with a rating on a 1-10 scale, then rounds it up to the nearest whole number to achieve the "Class" the waterfall falls into. The IWC Rating is listed first, followed by the Class category the waterfall is assigned to, within parenthesis: 4.35 (Class 5). This system rewards high-volume waterfalls, and waterfalls with a shallower slope over more vertical waterfalls, because there is more square acreage to low-gradient waterfalls and hence more volume in the waterfall, and is best used to compare waterfalls based on volume rather than height or stature. Smaller, lower volume waterfalls may not be substantial enough to have a rating at all. The IWC Rating if any waterfall which has a Rating can be found on the third line of the Ratings box at the top-right of a waterfall's page.
Our Rating System
As we attempted to identify a fair way to rate waterfalls against one another, it was determined that both the above mentioned rating systems have shortcomings in certain areas and excel in others. To resolve those imbalances a broader system was deployed to account for additional factors that aren't adequately represented in either. Because the Northwest Waterfall Survey is functionally an off-shoot of the World Waterfall Database (or vice versa as it were), the same rating system is used on both websites.
This rating system uses both the Visual Magnitude scale, as well as the International Waterfall Classification Rating, plus four additional variables. The total rating is then graded on a curve based on the highest and lowest possible scores for waterfalls in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. This allows a scale rating from 1-100 to be employed. The current breakdown of factors in the system are as follows:
The Visual Magnitude rating accounts for 50% of the total pre-graded score, with a cap placed at a Magnitude of 80 (so waterfalls with a Magnitude higher than 80 will always get the maximum points in this area).
The International Waterfall Classification rating accounts for 10% of the pre-graded score, utilizing the IWC Rating figure rather than the associated Class figure.
The visibility of a waterfall takes into account how clearly it can be viewed from any given location - generally the location where we survey it from. This accounts for 10% of the score. Waterfalls which have fewer visual obstructions (such as trees, boulders, or buildings) will earn more points in this area.
Consistency of Streamflow:
The consistency of a waterfall takes into account how evenly throughout the year the stream at the waterfall is flowing. A greater fluctuation in stream flow means less points in this area. This accounts for 10% of the score.
The surrounding development of a waterfall takes into account how pristine and natural the waterfall and its immediate surroundings are. Waterfalls which are entirely natural, wild, and untouched will earn full points, while waterfalls with which man-made structures of any sort can be seen in tandem will earn less (urban waterfalls will earn substantially less, if any). This accounts for 10% of the score.
Accounts for 20% of the score, up to 20 points. This is used primarily to balance out ratings for waterfalls which we feel are inaccurately represented based purely on math alone. Most of the time this will reflect a general alignment of the legacy 10-point rating system from the previous incarnation of this website.
As stated above, the total score based on these variables is not displayed as the final score, but it is rather graded on a curve based on the highest and lowest scores possible. The grading may periodically change, and should you notice a number either over 100 or a negative number, please let us know so we can adjust the scoring.
We are constantly striving to refine our rating system into the best possible systme for comparing and catagorizing waterfalls. We do plan on refining the rating system further in the future in order to try to remove as much subjectivity from the equation as possible, and allow for more granular influence from such characteristics as actual seasonal streamflow, and drainage basin size.