It doesn’t matter how many different waterfalls we gaze upon: there’s something so dramatically beautiful about cascading water, whether it thunders down in broad sheets, crashes from a great height or follows a languid path along gradually descending steps. We hike to them, stare up (or down) at them and pore over photos of them. From those tucked in unlikely spots by the roadside to world-famous waterfalls like Niagara Falls, here are some of the most spectacular in the US.



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Around half an hour from Portland, Oregon’s tallest waterfall is a step above typical roadside attractions. Quite a few steps, actually, as the vertiginous waterfall flows from a neck-craning 611 feet (186m). Its setting is picture-perfect, too: the falls are flanked by basalt cliffs sprouting maple trees, and spanned by the stone arches of Benson Bridge, built in 1914.



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A 115 foot (35m) curtain billows over the remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption at Upper Mesa Falls before thundering a mile downriver to Lower Mesa Falls. The higher waterfall is perhaps the most dramatic, but both these natural beauties, near the city of Ashton, are a sight to behold. The setting is striking, too, with Snake River (as wiggly as it sounds) flowing over and through solidified lava and ash.



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The so-called ‘Niagara of the South’ is pretty nice to look at any day of the year. It’s lovely, in fact, with a 125 foot (38m) sheet of water that crashes into a boulder-scattered gorge. But, like werewolves, it really comes into its own on a full moon. This is one of few places in the world where you can see a ‘moonbow’ or lunar rainbow, which shimmers across the cascade as the moon’s light is reflected in the mist.



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It’s hard to know where to look in Big Sur, arguably the most spectacular bit of California’s ridiculously beautiful coastline. It’s almost embarrassingly gorgeous, from the pine and redwood-clad cliffs to the creamy beaches and the Pacific Ocean, which ranges from navy to dappled teal and turquoise. So the only way a mere waterfall could stand out here, really, is to be on the beach. McWay Falls pours 80 feet (24m) from the bluffs at Julia Pfeiffer State Park, emptying onto the honey-hued sand.



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These two waterfalls cascade along the Tahquamenon River in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, near Lake Superior. They aren’t pristine, picture-perfect falls, and that’s exactly why they’re so lovely. Each has a certain rustic charm, tucked within dense, undeveloped woodland. The Upper Falls, which flows in a broad, caramel-colored curtain, is the most dramatic, while the Lower Falls trickles in five smaller cascades.



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Many have admired this dramatic group of cascades, surrounded by mossy volcanic rock and overhung by thick ferns. President Theodore Roosevelt went so far as to proclaim the northern California falls, fed by underground springs and snowmelt, to be the eighth wonder of the world. That has never become official, though it’s hard to argue that they are anything short of spectacular, seeming to boom and thunder out of nowhere from their verdant, tree-topped ledge, tumbling into an icy-blue pool.



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The continental USA’s tallest waterfall is one of the most boldly beautiful sights in Yosemite National Park – which is saying something. Plummeting for a total of 2,425 feet (739m), the three sections of Yosemite Falls cascade through a beguiling landscape of pine-covered granite cliffs and meadows. Upper Yosemite Fall is the tallest of the three and also one of the world’s highest waterfalls, flowing from a head-spinning 1,430 feet (436m) above ground.



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How can you make a sheer, 145-foot (44m) high waterfall even more dramatic? Send it plummeting into a cave. This underground waterfall plunges through a vertical shaft inside Lookout Mountain, fed by a subterranean stream. Part of the Lookout Mountain Caverns complex in Chattanooga, the waterfall was discovered accidentally in 1928 by Leo Lambert, who named it after his wife, Ruby. They’re illuminated by LED lights for extra drama.



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Rainbows often frolic in the mist that shimmers around Ramona Falls, casting extra loveliness on the already ethereally beautiful landscape. In any light and weather, the waterfall is incredible: a soft veil of water that drapes like silk over rocks clothed in velvety emerald moss. The waterfall is tucked deep within Mt. Hood National Forest and flows for 120 feet (37m) over columns of basalt rocks.



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This series of (you guessed it) seven waterfalls drop a total of 181 feet (55m) from top to bottom, but it’s the journey that’s truly spectacular to see. They weave and wind, collide and crash through the pale apricot rock of South Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs. A series of vertiginous stairways, interrupted by lookout points, follows their path, with the top platform gazing across prairies, meadows and rock formations.



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It’s the lush emerald backdrop that really makes this waterfall on Hawaii’s Big Island such an awesome sight. ‘Akaka Falls pours like silk against a thick tangle of rainforest with bamboo, banana trees and ferns, emptying into a round gorge. Akaka Falls State Park is also home to the smaller Kahuna Falls – though with a cascade of 100 feet (30m), it’s dwarfed by its 442-foot (135m) neighbor.



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Niagara Falls isn’t the biggest or the tallest waterfall in the world, or even the US, but it’s among the most famous – largely thanks to the dramatic confluence of its three broad, thunderous cascades. Located near Buffalo in New York state, and splashing across the border into Canada, it’s made up of Horseshoe Falls (the biggest), American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Its distinctive green-blue hue, caused by a mix of rock flour and mineral salts, also contributes to its global fame.



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Elakala resides in a park named for a different waterfall, Blackwater. While both are lovely (and Blackwater Falls is actually taller), the staggered, gunmetal-gray steps of Elakala Falls are more unusual, with an almost sculptural beauty. The water that flows through both has a distinctive amber hue, tinted by tannic acid from hemlock and red spruce needles.



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It seems like every other waterfall tries to be known as ‘the Niagara of the (insert region here)’ – but Shoshone Falls stands up to the comparison. Known as ‘the Niagara of the West’, the Twin Falls attraction packs a similar visual (and audible) punch, with numerous cascades thundering together over a gaping canyon and emptying into the pea-green water of Snake River. And, at 212 feet (65m), it’s actually 36 feet (11m) taller than its East Coast cousin.



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Bridal Veil Falls crashes down the tree-carpeted walls of Keystone Canyon a little outside of the city of Valdez. The city’s nickname is the Land of Waterfalls, with dozens of cascades fed by snow melt and, in winter, the flow freezes leaving a thick, milky-white trail of ice. That means Bridal Veil Falls is popular with daring ice climbers and lovers of a good wintry landscape.



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Whitewater Falls is the loftiest cascade east of the Rocky Mountains at 411 feet (125m), which is enough to put it among the most spectacular. But really its beauty lies in the way it meanders, flows and rushes over several tiers of jutting rocks. It’s flanked by steep, tree-carpeted slopes in the heart of mountainous Nantahala National Forest, in the southwest of the state. Across the state line, in South Carolina, the Lower Whitewater Falls cascades for another 400 feet (122m).



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Potato River Falls sounds like it might be more at home in Idaho, the state better known for its spuds. It also doesn’t sound like it would be particularly attractive or elegant. But it is both of those things, and stands out with its quiet, unassuming beauty. It also feels like a lovely secret to be stumbled across. The series of cascades, which plunge a total of 90 feet (27m) along the Potato River in Gurney, are framed by thick forest.



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This broad beauty, tucked in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, flows silkily over a series of smooth rocky ledges along the Ontonagon River. They’re not the tallest, dropping a total of just 50 feet (15m). But, around double that in width, surrounded by pine forest and tumbling seemingly for miles, the falls are an arresting sight nonetheless.



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The Beehive State is better known for dramatic rock formations than liquid attractions, yet it’s quietly home to one of the country’s most unusual waterfalls. Calf Creek, found off the hoodoo-lined Scenic Byway 12, has two falls – upper and lower. The whole thing is lovely to look at but it’s the lower falls, which cascades 126 feet (38m) down mineral-streaked sandstone and unfurls into an emerald-hued swimming hole, that really steals the show.



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The Finger Lakes region is famous for wine and, erm, lakes. It also does a pretty good line in waterfalls, especially those in Watkins Glen State Park. There are 19 falls in total, dropping a total of 400 feet (122m), with a trail running alongside and, in some parts, above. We reckon Rainbow Falls is the most jaw-dropping, named after the way the afternoon sunshine infuses the shimmering sheet of water with color. The cascades often freeze in winter, transforming into snow-white sculptures.



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31/31 SLIDES

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