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Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls. / Rod Waddington, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Victoria Nile has numerous rapids and smaller waterfalls between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert. The last waterfall – Murchison Falls – is by far the largest and most impressive. The powerful river there is squeezed into a 6 – 7 meters wide gorge and falls for 43 m over a distance of some 200 – 250 meters.

4.7 out of 10 stars 46.5%

GPS coordinates
2.2782 N 31.6853 E
Location, address
Africa, Uganda, Western Region, Buliisa District, Murchison Falls National Park
Alternate names
Kabarega Falls, Kabalega Falls
Height
43 m
Width
6 – 7 m
Discharge
300 m3/s
Stream
Victoria Nile

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Geology and biology

Murchison Falls and Uhuru Falls
Murchison Falls and Uhuru Falls (left). / Travel Aficionado, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Murchison Falls have formed on the border of the African Rift. The water there squeezes through the Proterozoan pelites of Igisi Group. Victoria Nile before and after the falls is some 100 – 120 m wide, but in the waterfall most of it is squeezed in a 6 – 7 m wide trench. The ground around the falls is constantly trembling.

Murchison Falls is the most impressive fall in the sequence of numerous rapids – Victoria Nile there falls per some 200 m.

At the waterfall, the river divides into two branches. The main – Murchison Falls – are on the southern branch, while the northern branch – Uhuru Falls – has less water. Nevertheless, at high water, both falls are very impressive.

The huge masses of water that are squeezing through the rocks create not only a constant roar but also a mist. This mist sustains rich vegetation throughout the year.

In the river below the falls are numerous Nile crocodiles. These creatures feast on fish that have fallen down the falls and are injured or stunned. Surprisingly, quite a lot of fish survive this violent “washing machine”.

History

Murchison Falls, view before the main fall
Murchison Falls, view before the main fall. / Martin Malley, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  • 61 AD – Nero sends a group of Roman legionaries to search for the source of the Nile, and to research Ethiopia. There is a hypothesis that Roman legionaries reached this waterfall in 61 AD, but, most likely this did not happen. This Roman expedition was sent by Nero in the search of the sources of the Nile and got stuck in the immense swamps of Sudd some 800 km to the south.
  • 1864 – the first white people reach Murchison Falls. They were a pair of adventurers: Samuel and Florence Bakers. They also gave the name of this waterfall, naming it to honor the president of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Roderick Murchison. Some sources mention that the expedition of John Speke and James Grant came there earlier, in 1862, but these, most likely, were Ripon Falls at Lake Victoria, now flooded. Of course, local people knew Murchison Falls a lot earlier than this… well, people there have lived longer than in most parts of the Earth.
  • 1972 – around 1990 – the waterfall was renamed Kabalega Falls (also Kabarega Falls) by then-president of Uganda, Idi Amin. This name honored the former ruler of Uganda, Kabalega of Bunyoro, who ruled from 1870 – to 1899 and successfully fought against the British. Nevertheless, this name did not become popular, and since his ousting, the use of the previous name gradually returned. In 1990 it became the official name again.
  • 2014 – 2019 – Murchison Falls endangered by a hydropower project. Development of this project stopped after the protests against the flooding of the waterfall – one of the most impressive landmarks in Uganda.

References

  1. Peter Appel, Volker Schenk, Andreas Schumann. P-T path and metamorphic ages of pelitic schists at Murchison Falls, NW Uganda: Evidence for a Pan-African tectonometamorphic event in the Congo Craton. European Journal of Mineralogy, Volume 17, Number 5, September – October 2005. Accessed in 16th February 2022.

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