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Grande Cascade de Gavarnie (Gavarnie Falls)

Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall, France
Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall / Mathieu Legros, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

The tallest waterfall in France is Grande Cascade de Gavarnie – Gavarnie Falls. This 422 m tall waterfall forms a magnificent backdrop of Cirque de Gavarnie – the most dramatic landscape in Pyrenees.

4.3 out of 10 stars 43.0%

GPS coordinates
42.6934 N 0.0044 W
Location, address
Europe, France, Midi-Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées department, in the Cirque de Gavarnie, Pyrenees National Park
Alternate names
Gavarnie Falls
422 m
2 – 3
Tallest single drop
281 m
15 m
Average annual flow
3 m3/s
UNESCO World Heritage status
"Pyrénées – Mont Perdu", 1997, No.773

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Glacial cirque

Cirque de Gavarnie is located in the tallest part of Pyrenees. This gargantuan rock amphitheater has formed at the base of the glacier over the last 20,000 years. This cirque is up to 800 m wide, enclosed by up to 1,676 m tall limestone walls.
This magnificent site has preserved its pristine beauty, it is located in the Pyrenees National Park and together with the surrounding landscape forms the UNESCO World heritage monument "Pyrénées – Mont Perdu".

Gavarnie Cirque and falls, France
Gavarnie Cirque and falls / J.C.Benoist, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 3.0

Gave du Pau

The water, which feeds the waterfall, is coming from the snowmelt and a small glacier, located in Spain. For most part it is seeping through the ground and appears exactly ar the rim of cliff as a waterfall. This is the beginning of Gave de Pau stream.

There are drastic changes in the amount of water throughout the year. In the summer, when snowmelt is most intense, the flow of waterfall might reach up to 200 m3/s. In this period Cirque de Gavarnie is adorned with many more spectacular waterfalls. In winter the falls get frozen and the flow may stop altogether. Average annual flow is 3 m3/s.

Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall, France
Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall / Jens Buurgaard Nielsen, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Power of the falling water

Grande Cascade de Gavarnie has 2 or 3 drops – the stream makes 91 m long horizontal distance but falls 422 m.

The tallest single drop is 281 m tall – here the water turns into mist.

The force of the waterfall brings down cold air from above. Due to this at the base of falls in spring-early summer is located a snowfield. The stream goes under it, forming a snow bridge.

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