Waterfalls are one of nature’s most dynamically beautiful phenomena, even when the water isn’t falling… wait, what? These 10 fantastic frozen waterfalls show what happens when Mother Nature decides to take a snapshot of her most moving creations.
Gullfoss (or “Golden Falls”, in English) is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions in all seasons but when the mighty Hvítá river freezes up, Gullfoss becomes an icy, otherworldly landscape. The falls – actually a series of step-like waterfalls – was once considered as a hydroelectric power source but luckily those plans were shelved and today Gullfoss is a nationally protected area.
(image via: Let’sBuyIt.com)
New Wave music fans may recognize the frozen falls at Gullfoss from the cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s iconic 1983 album Porcupine. Band members posed for the cover shot and filmed three music videos in close proximity to Gullfoss, a potentially dangerous endeavor. According to lead singer Ian McCulloch, “If we had slipped there wasn’t anything for hundreds of feet below us.”
Dow Spout, Galloway Hills, Scotland
(images via: Needle Sports)
Dow Spout is a terraced, step-like waterfall located on the slopes of Craignaw in southern Scotland. In warmer weather, water drains off the mossy, treeless summit of one of Scotland’s most eerily beautiful landscapes, cascading over well-worn rocks for several hundred feet. After a hard winter freeze, however, Dow Spout becomes a slick, crystalline “icefall”.
(image via: FindTarget)
Dow Spout in winter is one of the UK’s most challenging climbs, though it takes several heavy night frosts following rainy days – not unusual in this part of Scotland – for the falls to reach its optimum level of climbing difficulty and photographic beauty.
Kitsiputous Falls, Finland
Kitsiputous Falls is located in the far northwest corner of Finland, close to the point where the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. Hikers can get to Kitsiputous Falls by following the trail that leads through the Malla Strict Nature Reserve. If Lappland’s a bit too far off the beaten track, however, not to worry – Finland in winter is a frozen waterfall paradise.
(image via: Cartina)
Naturally, winter travelers can expect much more difficulty but those who have made the trip say that the frozen vista of one of “Kitsi”, Finland’s highest waterfalls, suspended in nature’s icy embrace, is well worth the time and trouble.
Taroshi Falls, Japan
“So magnificent — this icicle before us — bulging with promise.” This serene haiku was composed in tribute to the annual freezing of Taroshi Falls, located in Japan’s Iwate prefecture. Folk legend has it that the greater the circumference of the frozen waterfall, the more bountiful the upcoming season’s rice crop will be. Though the practice or measuring the frozen waterfall goes back 700-odd years, it’s only since 1975 that a local conservation group has begun recording the measurements. To date, 8 meters (26.25 feet) is the record girth while about 4 meters (13.12 feet) is required for a good rice harvest.
Minnehaha Falls, MN, USA
Minnehaha Creek flows through the city of Minneappolis before emptying into the upper reaches of the Mississippi River. Just before it does, however, its waters pour over 16 meter (53 foot) tall Minnehaha Falls. The falls are beautiful in warmer weather but when frozen, they take on a uniquely exquisite appearance.
(images via: Dan Anderson)
There are ice caves behind frozen Minnehaha Falls though it’s illegal to climb behind them – a fact either unknown or ignored by the intrepid ice climbing photographer who provided the technicolor evidence above.
Old Man’s Cave, OH, USA
(images via: Wunderground)
These spectacular images show a waterfall captured in the process of freezing as it spills over the overhang at Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio, USA. As there is no freeze sudden enough to stop rushing water in its tracks, the process occurs incrementally from the outside in. This causes the creation of an “ice tube”, the inner diameter of which slowly constricts until no more water can flow through.
(image via: Wunderground)
Note the massive ice stalagmite growing up from the ground to meet the ice tube… will the water freeze before the twain shall meet? Also check out the onlookers in the left portion of the image above to get an idea of this unnamed waterfall’s daunting size and scale.
Longchuang Reservoir Dam, China
(image via: China A2Z)
Not all frozen waterfalls are natural, though wind, weather and temperature play a large [part in their formation. The Longchuang Reservoir Dam located in China’s Shandong province is one such example of Man’s works co-opted by natural forces. The images above, taken on December 24 of 2008, show water frozen in a the act of cascading over the top of the dam. Local authorities attributed the phenomenon to “continuous strong wind and a sharp fall in temperature.”
The Fang, Vail, CO, USA
The Fang, near the resort town of Vail, Colorado, only forms during exceptionally cold winters – does Global Warming make it an endangered species? Al Gore aside, The Fang is a gargantuan ice pillar that measures up to 50 meters (164 feet) tall and 8 meters (26.25 feet) wide at the base.
(image via: Fundivision)
The Fang is a popular objective for ice climbers, though one thinks you don’t want to dig your spiked soles into the frozen pillar after countless other climbers have done so previously. One careless kick and it’s thanks but no Fangs.
Niagara Falls, NY, USA
Mighty Niagara Falls, pouring over the Niagara Escarpment to the sound of rolling thunder… most of the time, yes, but not always. Bitterly cold winter weather has been known to freeze the Falls in its tracks, so to speak, though this hasn’t happened to its fullest extent since the nineteenth century.
(image via: Collections Canada)
The photo above dates from 1875 and shows Niagara Falls mostly frozen over. Move over, Maid of the Mist, today’s tour is being conducted by none other than Yukon Cornelius!
Even frozen waterfalls get the blues, but from a vantage point behind a frozen waterfall in an ice cave, it’s all good and then some. Though it may be hard to keep one’s spirits up as February’s snowstorms just keep on coming, we hope that these cool frozen waterfalls – when viewed from the warm comfort of your home or workplace – act as a cozy hearth for your winter-weary heart.