When is falling water not a waterfall?

When does falling water qualify as a waterfall?

Wikipedia defines a waterfall as: “a place where water flows over a vertical drop in the course of a stream or river.”

But vertical is usually defined as being at a right angle to the horizontal which, although we agree that this is indeed a definition of vertical, wouldn’t allow many waterfalls to qualify.

Sure, Brandywine Falls on the road to Whistler is definitely a waterfall according to this way of thinking but what about our local Shannon Falls which is at an angle of about 60 degrees?

It seems harsh to say that this much touted waterfall (supposedly third highest in BC and visible from our office window) is no such thing.

And what of the famous Bow Falls in the Rockies near Banff?

We think Bow Falls IS a falls.

So there must be more to it.

How steep does a waterfall actually have to be to qualify as such?

Are there in fact other factors involved that make it a ‘waterfall’?

The World Waterfall Database has an interesting set of criteria for what qualifies as a waterfall for its own records.


What is a cascade and what is a waterfall? What is a waterfall and what is merely a set of rapids?

What do YOU think?