Outstanding spring tufa, travertine and other formations around the world
Below are listed selected spring tufa, travertine and other formations of the world. These natural landmarks are arranged by the part of the world and in an alphabetic order:
- Dallol hot springs and geysers – Ethiopia, Afar. One of the visually most outstanding places on Earth, the hot springs have a high salt concentration, which has shaped terraces and other formations of very bright, unusual colors. Among the hot springs there is also salt geyser – possibly the only one in the world.
- Hammam Meskhoutine – Algeria, Guelma. Group of hot springs which have formed giant travertine terraces. Discharge of the hottest spring (98°C) is 1650 l/min. Used for bathing since the Roman times.
- Imouzzer Cascades (Imouzzer Ida Ou Tanane waterfall) – Morocco, Souss-Massa-Drâa. Interesting, more than 100 m tall waterfall with an enormous fan-like formation of tufa under it. For most part of the year it is dry.
- Kadishi Waterfall – South Africa, Mpumalanga. Second highest tufa waterfall in the world, roughly 200 metres high. Tufa falls are created by water which contains much lime and is depositing it along the fall. The fall together with a cliff resembles a weeping face.
- Lamadaya (Lama Daye) – Somalia, Sanaag. Impressive waterfall in Cal Madow mountains, falls have formed tufa formations.
- Ochilesa travertine terraces – Angola, Benguela. Thermal springs at the bank of River Quime have formed fine travertine terraces.
- Sept Lacs Valley – Madagascar, Toliara. Group of seven lakes divided by tufa walls. Over these walls have formed spectacular waterfalls.
- Anisakan Falls (Dat Taw Gyaik Falls) – Burma, Mandalay Region. Gorgeous, some 320 m tall waterfall with several steps and spectacular tufa formations.
- Badab-e Soort tufa terraces (Badab-e Surt) – Iran, Mazandaran. Unique monument of nature – red-colored travertine terraces with numerous small lakes fed by thermal springs.
- Baishuitai – China, Yunnan. Some of the largest and most beautiful travertine terraces in world, these are closely linked to the unique Dongba cultural tradition.
- Band-e Amir Springs – Afghanistan, Bamyan. Group of six deep blue lakes which are separated by natural dams of tufa, forming up to 10 m tall and 3 m thick walls. Lakes and tufa walls have been formed by spring water which contains calcium carbonate. Lakes are located in beautiful canyon and represent a unique landscape. Deepest lake is at least 150 m deep. Not too far, in another site is located another lake with natural tufa dam – Band-e Azhdahar.
- Erawan Falls – Thailand, Kanchanaburi. Extensive complex of waterfalls which fall over numerous tufa terraces.
- Garm-Chashma – Tajikistan, western part of Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Sacred place fo Garm people (there was sanctuary above the springs) – travertine mound with 400 m wide terraces formed by thermal springs. Here are located nine – ten spouting springs with 0.1 – 1.2 m high fountains, temperature of water is roughly 59° C. At the end of the 19th century here still were found geyser pearls. Water has powerful healing properties, especially for diverse forms of dermatitis.
- Hammamat Ma’in hot waterfalls – Jordan, Madaba. Group of waterfalls created by hot springs. Waterfalls are adorned with tufa formations.
- Huanglong Valley – China, Sichuan. Possibly the largest travertine terraces in world, they extend for 3.6 kilometers and are deposited by mildly thermal springs.
- Jarajand travertine wall and hot springs – Tajikistan, southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Huge travertine formation deposited by a hot spring.
- Jiuzhai Valley (Jiuzhaigou) – China, Sichuan. Valley with impressive tufa formations – terraces, waterfalls and deep blue – green lakes. Includes the impressive, 40 m tall and 162.5 m wide Pearl Shoal Waterfall and beautiful, 20 m tall and 320 m wide Nuorilang Falls which are also falling over tufa formations. Here are also Shu Zheng Lakes – 19 lakes divided by tufa walls amd Nuorilang Lakes – group of 18 such dammed lakes. Especially beautiful is Fairy Pool – group of impressive tufa terraces.
- Kuang Si Falls (Kwangsi) – Laos, Luang Prabang. Waterfalls over tufa formations forming numerous blue pools. The total height of cascades is 60 – 50 m.
- Margoon Falls – Iran, Fars. Up to 60 m tall, beautiful waterfall formed by a powerful spring in 117 m deep Margoon valley. Spring water has formed tufa formations, and water flows over this rock in numerous smaller streams.
- Namtok Pha Charoen – Thailand, Tak province, West. Beautiful waterfall flowing through 97 levels – rimstone basins.
- Pamukkale – Turkey, Denizli Province. Some of the best known travertine terraces in world, colored in bright white, 2700 metres wide and up to 160 metres high. It has been shaped by 17 hot springs.
- Salinas Salt Springs – Nueva Vizcaya. Unique springs with high salt content. Springs once formed bright white travertine terraces with rimstone pools, contrasting with the surrounding mountainous jungle. Since the earthquake of 1990 the springs have diverted and cupola became dirty grey.
- Sipoholon travertine terraces – Indonesia, North Sumatra. Hot springs have deposited here bright white travertine terraces.
- Tad Xe Falls (Tat Se, Tat Sae) – Laos, Luang Prabang. Exotic falls: water here is flowing over numerous smaller tufa steps and numerous trees are growing right in the falls thus creating impression of flooded forest.
- Tirthapura Hot Springs – Tibet, Ngari. Hot springs with white travertine terraces in the upper reaches of Sutlej River, in the land of ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom. Pilgrimage site.
- Vorotan Devil’s Bridge (Satanayi kamurj) – Armenia, Syunik. Natural bridge from travertine, formed by thermal springs. Bridge is 30 m long and 50 – 60 m wide. Thermal springs at the foot of bridge, travertine terraces (rimstone pools) in the cave.
- Wadi Darbat Falls (Dharbat, Dirbat Falls) – Oman, Dhofar Governorate. Cliff face of Wadi Dharbat during the monsoon (Khareef) period in June – September becomes adorned with up to 150 m tall waterfall. Whole cliff face is more than 1 km wide, but waterfall does not take whole width. Waterfall deposits lime and there have formed impressive tufa formations.
- Wawolesea travertine terraces – Indonesia, Southeast Sulawesi. White travertine terraces at the sea, formed by thermal springs. Site includes a natural hot water fountain.
- Yerköprü Falls – Turkey, Konya. Unusual natural landmark – group of waterfalls which are up to 20 m tall. These waterfalls are falling from natural tufa bridges spanning over the 16 – 30 m wide Zamanti River.
- Dard Springs in Baume-les-Messieurs – France, Jura. Impressive tufa formations at the Dard river, at the foot of high cliff. Waterfall flows over the moss covered tufa formations.
- Egerszalók – Hungary, Heves. White travertine cascades formed by a hot spring. Temperature of water reaches 68°C and here has developed large, important spa.
- Krčić Falls (Topolje Falls) – Croatia, Šibenik-Knin. Impressive, 22 m tall waterfall over large tufa cliff.
- Lagunas de Ruidera – Spain, Albacete and Ciudad Real. Group of 15 small lakes divided by tufa dams. Overflow of these lakes forms picturesque waterfalls.
- Plitvice Lakes – Croatia, Lika-Senj. Unique, picturesque group of some 20 blue-green lakes arranged in chain over the distance of 8 km, divided by natural dams of tufa. Tufa formation process is active, it forms by joint geological and biological processes. Stream between the lakes has multiple waterfalls, some up to 80 m tall.
- Réotier petrified fountain – France, Hautes-Alpes. A thermal spring which is depositing tufa deposits, forming natural terraces and other unusual formations.
- Skradinski Buk – Croatia, Šibenik-Knin. Group of impressive waterfalls over tufa dams. Over 400 m length there are 17 waterfalls, height difference 47.7 m.
- Suhe falls – Slovenia, Upper Carniola. 110 m tall waterfall, falling over tufa.
- Troll springs – Norway, Svalbard. Group of six hot springs which belong to the northernmost in the world. Temperature of water up to 28.3 °C. Springs have formed impressive travertine terraces with pools of different sizes. Part of pools is dry and deteriorating.
- Urach Falls – Germany, Baden-Württemberg. 37 m tall waterfall over tufa.
- Usterling Growing Rock (Johannisfelsen) – Germany, Bavaria. Almost unique natural landmark – a naturally formed tufa wall with a stream flowing along its upper rim and depositing further extension to this cliff. Wall is some 40 – 50 m long and up to 5.4 m tall.
- Wolfsbronn stone through – Germany, Bavaria. Impressive tufa wall, some 130 m long and up to 1.6 m tall. This wall has been formed by a spring which flows over its upper rim.
Oceania and Australia
- Mele Cascades – Vanuatu, Shefa, Efate island. Beautiful group of waterfalls with tufa cascades and rimstone pools.
- Orakei Korako – New Zealand, Waikato. Geothermal area with unique, colourful sinter terraces and geysers. Largest geyser field in New Zealand with some 35 active geysers. Lower terrace – Emerald Terrace – is the largest sinter terrace in New Zealand. Part of it is flooded by hydropower station, submerging some 200 hot springs and 70 geysers.
- Waimangu geothermal area – New Zealand, Bay of Plenty. Geothermal area, created by Mount Taravera eruption in 1886. Area contains many interesting features including Warbrick Terraces and Marble Terraces – sinter terraces in the process of formation.
- Agua Azul Waterfalls – Mexico, Chiapas. Chain of more than 500 powerful, beautiful waterfalls located in rainforest. The water of the falls has a bright blue color and is rich with lime. Lime is sedimented along the way of the falls, creating unusual natural sculptures and encasings for trees and other objects.
- Barra Honda rimstone formations – Costa Rica, Guanacaste. Lime rich streams from the Terciopelo Cave here have formed amazing rimstone formations on the west slope of Barra Honda mountain.
- Beaver Falls – United States, Arizona. Group of tufa terraces in the deep Havasu canyon. Beautiful contrast of light blue water and red cliffs.
- Coal River Springs – Canada, Yukon. Impressive, white tufa terraces in pristine forest. Terraces have been formed by cold springs.
- Dunn’s River Falls – Jamaica, Saint Ann. Approximately 55 m tall waterfall with many cascades and spectacular tufa formations. Waterfall ends directly in the sea. Popular tourist destination, tourists enjoy climbing the falls.
- Gibbon Geyser Basin – United States, Wyoming. This thermal field contains many very interesting geothermal features and unusual geysers. Contains Monument Basin – a weird valley with silent geyser cones of diverse forms.
- Hierve el Agua – Mexico, Oaxaca. One of the highest single travertine terraces formed by thermal springs – it is a bright white stone "waterfall" that is 12 – 30 metres high.
- Ikaite tufa columns in Ikka Fjord – Greenland, Sermersooq. Almost unique phenomenon – submarine tufa columns created by cold seeps from submarine springs. Columns are formed of ikaite – unstable mineral which disintegrates in temperatures above 6 – 7 ° C. In total here are more than 700 such columns up to 18 m tall.
- Mammoth Hot springs – United States, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park. There are some of the most beautiful travertine terraces in world created by hot springs.
- Rabbitkettle Tufa Mounds – Canada, Northwest Territories. Two tufa and travertine mounds, the largest is 27 m high and 79 m wide. These mounds have been formed by warm thermal springs (21°C) and consist of numerous smaller rimstone pools.
- Salto Limon – Dominican Republic, Samaná. Gorgeous, 52 m tall waterfall which falls over tufa formations.
- Saut-d’Eau Falls – Haiti, Centre. Large waterfall with interesting tufa formations. Important pilgrimage site of mixed Christian and vodou rites.
- Semuc Champey – Guatemala, Alta Verapaz. Tufa terraces over a 300 m long section of Cahabòn River, forming a group of small, emerald colored pools. These pools are in a deep, dangerous canyon and end with a cave, where the river disappears.
- Sitting Bull Falls – United States, New Mexico. Group of falls consisting of minor trickles and streams and falling for some 45 meters. Waterfall has created large tufa formation.
- Tehuacan stone snakes (tecuates) – Mexico, Puebla. Unusual and impressive travertine formations. These formations mark the lime deposits of ancient channels. The soil has weathered away leaving the hardened lime as enormous snakes stretching across the valley.
- Turure Falls – Trinidad and Tobago, Sangra Grande. Unique group of falls over tufa formations.
- YS Falls – Jamaica, Saint Elizabeth. Secluded, approximately 37 m tall waterfall with seven cascades. Waterfall is fed by natural springs.
- Puente Bello geysers – Peru, Moquegua. Group of perpetual spouters and geysers in magnificent location, where the river is crossed by a large natural bridge with road over it. One geyser reaches up to 25 m high.
- Puente del Inca – Argentina, Mendoza. One of natural wonders in Argentina – a natural arch over Vacas River with hot springs and large travertine formations next to it. The natural bridge is 48 m long, 28 m wide and 8 m thick, the river flows 27 m below it. Below it are many stalactites.
Described spring tufa, travertine and other formations
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This category includes very diverse landmarks which have one thing in common: all of them are created by springs which are depositing chemical sediments – silica, carbonates, salt or other chemical compounds.
Tufa, travertine or sinter?
In scientific literature there are very different terms which describe this phenomenon. Usage of these terms is not universally accepted and there is some confusion regarding their usage. Some of most popular terms are listed below:
Calcareous (lime) and porous deposits formed by waterbodies with ambient temperature, for most part – springs.
Spring water often contains dissolved lime. When the water reaches surface and air, lime is precipitated: right at the mouth of spring or after some distance. Such sediments are porous, light and are called tufa. It is popular construction stone – when it is mined, it can be easily formed and cut but over the time it becomes hard.
Tufa formations are very diverse and often – amazing and beautiful. Many times tufa is deposited along the waterfalls of the streams formed by springs. Such waterfalls sometimes are very high – Anisakan Falls in Burma have a total height of approximately 320 m, all lined with tufa.
Tufa often forms natural barrages – natural dams, turning the spring-fed rivers into a chain of small lakes, divided by tufa dams and linked by waterfalls falling over these dams. Such tufa dams have formed such amazing monuments of nature as Plitvice Lakes (Croatia) or Semuc Champey (Guatemala).
Amazing type of tufa formations is tufa walls – wall shaped tufa formations with spring stream floving on top of these natural "aqueducts". Amazing example is Usterling Wachsender Felsen in Germany, Bavaria.
Tufa serves as great media for plant growth and often tufa formations are covered with beautiful moss cover and other plants. Amazing example is Dard Springs (France).
If lime deposits are created by thermal springs or if deposits are slowly created in media without much life (e.g. in caves), lime is much denser. Such dense sediments of lime are called travertine. In fact, word “travertine” often is referred also to cold (ambient) water formations and the border between terms "tufa" and "travertine" is not firmly set.
Travertine formations often are beautiful and form such world-class landmarks as travertine terraces, e.g. Pamukkale (Turkey) or Huanglong (China). Similar to tufa, also travertine forms natural barrages, there are many travertine waterfalls with hot water flowing over it.
Any deposits which have been naturally fused together by heat or pressure (without melting them), can be called sinters.
Springs can not create such conditions – both carbonates and silicates need higher temperatures and pressure for sintering than hot springs can provide. Nevertheless the hard porous silicate or (sometimes) carbonate sediments of hot springs are called sinters.
Terraces, rimstone pools and gours
Some of the most amazing formations which can be created by springs are natural terraces consisting of numerous rimstone pools (sometimes called also gours). These natural formations occur in cases when mineral-rich spring water spreads in thin layer and flows down the slope. Soon the deposits form small ridges, water falls over these ridges and exactly on the rim of these ridges the sedimentation is faster than elsewhere – these rims rise upwards. Thus over the time form natural terraces consisting from numerous smaller lakes – rimstone pools. In order to form clean, large and beautiful terraces, there is needed constant flow of mineral rich water and little impact from elsewhere, e.g. plant growth, impact of human and animal feet. Impressive rimstone pools form in caves (here they often are called gours)- the most impressive could be the giant gours in Khoun Xe cave, Laos.
There are beautiful examples of rimstone pools above the ground too. Millions of tourists visit the beautiful Pamukkale (Turkey), Mammoth Hot Springs (United States) or Huanglong (China). Less known are the beautiful and unique Dallol salt springs (Ethiopia) or the unbelievable Rabbitkettle Tufa Mound (Canada) and some other sites.
Originally published in 1989, Karst Geomorphology and Hydrology became the leading textbook on karst studies. This new textbook has been substantially revised and updated.
During the spring of 1960, an uncle showed me a ‘petrifying spring’ near Plaxtol in Kent Dwhere twigs had been encased in a calcareous jacket. It became apparent that here was a wealth of information about a rock whose formation was so rapid, that the process could be studied in days rather than years – an exceptional state of affairs. A search of the literature also revealed that the rock, a form of travertine, had other unusual features.