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Top 10 waterfalls of Guyana

Kaieteur at low water, February 2007. Visible the enormous cave - habitat of swifts
Kaieteur at low water, February 2007. Visible the enormous cave – habitat of swifts / Wikimedia Commons, Bill Cameron / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  In short

This list includes 10 enormous waterfalls of Guyana. Wondermondo can not assert that these are the largest falls in this country – but each of these falls is very impressive!

Waterfalls are listed in alphabetic order.

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WorldYellow Realm of waterfalls

In the eastern Venezuela, Guyana and very north of Brazil are located numerous spectacular waterfalls, including the tallest waterfall in the world – Angel Falls.

There is no other place in the world similar to this spectacular realm of waterfalls. This place has its own specific, unique foundation – Roraima Formation.

Roraima Formation

Very very long ago – 1.6 – 1.8 billion years ago (in fact no human can comprehend such span of time) – in the area of present-day Guyana was deposited sand and silt. Such sedimentation takes place under the water – in seas and oceans.

Sedimentation lasted for a very long time and several kilometers thick layer accumulated. Now, this formation is up to 1,800 m thick, it takes some 160 000 – 200 000 km² large area. It has been compressed for many millions of years, forming a very solid, resistant sandstone and conglomerate rock.

Uplift

As time went by, the former sea became dry land. The area was uplifted to one height – and the sea washed away part of Roraima Formation, forming larger and smaller islands. Then it was uplifted upwards again – and the whole area was above the sea.

Layers of Roraima Formation are strictly horizontal and erosion here created spectacular vertical walls, which often are more than 1 km high.

Most likely the last uplift was in Oligocene – more than 20 million years ago. Since then the life on these isolated flatlands – tepuis – is developing without much contact with the outside world.

Rain and rivers

The climate of Guyana is very hot and very humid. As a result, much of the land is covered with dense forest, and everywhere are flowing powerful rivers. The name Guiana reportedly originates from indigenous people and means “the land of waters”.

Mountains and summits of tepuis are no exception to this. These highlands are large enough to have their own microclimate and their own rivers.

“Bridal veils” and rapids

Smaller waterfall near Kaieteur - possibly this is Old Man's Beard
Smaller waterfall near Kaieteur – possibly this is Old Man’s Beard / Stefan Krasowski, / CC BY 2.0

Sooner or later each of these rivers reaches the rim of the plateau and – down it goes! Often the water is falling down without touching the cliff and vaporizes before hitting the ground.

Most plateaus are not big enough to form large rivers. Due to this from the sky-high sandstone walls are falling just small streams, forming waterfalls of the “bridal veil” type. The number of such waterfalls increases multiple times after heavy rain.

Down, in the plains of Guyana, rivers become very large. The mighty Essequibo before its delta becomes 6 km wide!

On these wide rivers also have formed numerous waterfalls and rapids – but these falls are low – most frequently just a pair of meters high.

Guyana

The immense forest and mountains in Guyana, near Kaieteur
The immense forest and mountains in Guyana, near Kaieteur / Ian Mackenzie, / CC BY 2.0

In Guyana are located more than 300 major waterfalls and rapids as well as countless smaller falls.

Most tourists see just two of these falls – the breathtaking Kaieteur and much smaller Orinduik Falls.

Other waterfalls of Guyana are well hidden from occasional travelers. Well – this is the 21st century – but in Guyana, the pristine forest still covers most of the country and countless waterfalls are not available to hasty tourists, and quite a few most likely have not been visited by anyone at all.

Kaieteur

A waterfall that is both very tall and very wide, is a rarity even in Guyana.

An outstanding waterfall – one of the best in the world – is Kaieteur. This magnificent landmark is a lucky coincidence – it is 251 m tall (!!!), 113 m wide, has one single plunge over a cliff overhang. And last but not least – it is located in a breathtaking, pristine setting.

Different kinds of catfish live above Kaieteur Falls and below the falls. Below the falls lives Lithogenes villosus but upstream – two extremely rare endemic fishes Corymbophanes andersoni and Corymbophanes kaiei. Genetic analysis shows that these fishes are isolated since the Oligocene. (1) Thus we can make a vague assumption that Kaieteur exists for more than 20 million years!!!

Other giant waterfalls

Several more waterfalls of Guyana are very impressive. The 190 m tall and 60 m wide Kumerau Falls sometimes are dubbed "the other Kaieteur". King Edward VIII Falls represent a fantastic 256 m tall drop of an approximately 15 m wide stream. Oshi Falls (214 m tall and some 30 m wide) and Kamarang Great Falls (160 m tall and approximately 46 m wide) represent an unforgettable sight.

History and present time

Surprisingly little is known about the history of Guyana before the coming of Europeans. This land was (and still is) inhabited by Caribs and Arawaks. Caribs were fiercely resisting the invaders, thus making this part of South America far less attractive to outsiders.

Unfortunately the epidemics, which were brought by whites, killed many indigenous people. A huge amount of knowledge about this land is lost.

Royal place names

One of the big losses is the lack of indigenous place names. In some places they have been preserved – Kaieteur is definitely a local name.

Europeans though started another trend in the naming of local waterfalls. Several large falls in Guyana were named after the members of the British Royal Family from the 1920ies – 1930ies. These falls were discovered from airplanes – well, this also eliminates any possibility to ask locals for their names.

Today some of these names are just clumsy and cause much confusion – but here they are, a living part of Guyanese history.

Thus most people are confused to learn that there are King Edward VIII Falls and King George VII Falls – and both are very different and far from each other.

Gold, diamonds and energy

Eastern Kanuku Mountains near Rewa River, Guyana
Eastern Kanuku Mountains near Rewa River / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nevertheless white people penetrated the jungle of Guyana step by step. Starting from the 1960ies whites occasionally can be met almost everywhere. More adventurous and desperate ones are lured by diamonds and gold, which are found throughout a major part of the country.

Since the 1970s though another resource is eyed by large companies and government – the unharnessed hydropower. Elsewhere in the world, this is done – Norway, the United States, and many other countries have exchanged their waterfalls against cheap and… well, clean energy. Guyana still hasn’t done this. Amaila Falls might be the first victim in this trend.

Wilderness

Happily most of Guyana has seen little or no influence of human activities. There still are thousands of square kilometers of intact rainforest and hundreds of untamed waterfalls. Experienced wanderers need weeks to get to distant places and – some places have not been reached yet.

Very few waterfalls have been measured in nature and there are possible significant changes in numbers if proper research would be done someday.

Other pretenders to Top-10 list?

It is well possible that there are many enormous waterfalls which had to be in the top-10 list – but are not there because these are little known. See yourselves: in upper reaches of Karowrieng at 5.721058 N 60.110958 W could be located more than 300 m tall waterfall, in upper reaches of Purupuruni at 5.397516 N 59.705156 W – similar very tall waterfall. A very impressive gorge starts with an enormous waterfall at 5.445346 N 59.752610 W. There are many, many more places like these.

 

References and links

  1. James S. Albert; Roberto E. Reis. Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes. 2011.

 

Other articles

WorldViolet List of top 10 waterfalls of Guyana

01

Amaila Falls

4.1 out of 10 stars 41.3%

Height: ˜ 60 m
Average width: ˜ 45 m
It seems that the fate of beautiful Amaila Falls is decided – after some years the water from this waterfall will be diverted to Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Amaila Falls
02

Aruwai Falls

3.7 out of 10 stars 37.3%

Height: ˜ 60 m (over 2 km distance)
Average width: ˜ 500 m
Several impressive rapids and waterfalls have formed on Mazaruni River on its route down from Pacaraima Mountains. Aruwai Falls are among the most impressive ones.

Here Mazaruni falls into narrow gorge. The stream is squeezed and is approximately 50 – 70 m wide. Falls have several steps over the distance of 2 km, total height difference exceeds 60 meters.

03

Kaieteur

7.1 out of 10 stars 71.0%

Height: 251 m
Average width:113 m
There is little doubt that Kaieteur is one of the most impressive waterfalls on Earth. This fall has got all what an impressive fall needs – enormous height, width, free fall of big amounts of water and – beautiful scenery around it.

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
04

Kamarang Great Falls

4.2 out of 10 stars 41.8%

Height: ˜ 160 m
Average width: ˜ 46 m
Kamarang Falls are located in a remote western corner of Guyana, which is rarely accessed by travelers – thus we rarely see images of this magnificent waterfall.

Waterfall has one main, vertical plunge with smaller steps at least in the upper part of falls. Below the falls river flows in a deep, misty gorge.

Kamarang Great Falls, Guyana
05

King Edward VIII Falls

4.1 out of 10 stars 41.3%

Height: ˜ 256 m
Average width: ˜ 15 m
Many giant waterfalls have formed on the abrupt eastern escarpment of Pacaraima Mountains. One of the tallest and most impressive ones is King Edward VIII Falls.

This waterfall forms a single, vertical plunge over the Precambrian quartzite and conglomerate cliff. The force of the water has eroded sturdy rocks and has formed an amphitheater which is covered with pristine rainforest.

King Edward VIII Falls in the 1930s, Guyana
06

Kumerau Falls

4.2 out of 10 stars 42.3%

Height: ˜ 190 m
Average width: ˜ 60 m
Kumerau Falls (also Kumarau Falls) belong to most impressive falls of the world.

Waterfall has formed on Kurupung River, on an escarpment of Merume tableland. Falls have eroded the Precambrian quartzite and have formed some 4 km long gorge. In the gorge are located several smaller caves with the rare siliceous stalactites inside.

Kumerau Falls
07

Kurutuik Falls (Kurutuwu Mehru)

4.1 out of 10 stars 41.3%

Height: ˜ 100 m
Average width: ˜ 25 m
In a little visited area on the border of Brazil and Guyana, near Roraima Plateau, are located several impressive waterfalls. One of the most impressive is Kurutuwu Mehru what could be translated from Carib language as Great Snail Falls.

08

Marina Fall on Ipobe

4.1 out of 10 stars 41.3%

Height: 152 m
Average width: several metres
In the 1930ies several large waterfalls of Guyana were discovered from airplane. One of the most beautiful discoveries was Marina Fall – approximately 152 m tall waterfall of "bridal veil" type, with two drops.

09

Orinduik Falls

4 out of 10 stars 39.8%

Height: ˜ 25 m
Average width: ˜ 150 – 230 m
There have formed several beautiful waterfalls on Ireng River. The best known are Orinduik Falls. This waterfall falls over a semiprecious gemstone – red jasper.

Orinduik Falls, Guyana
10

Oshi Falls (King George VI Falls)

4.3 out of 10 stars 42.8%

Height: 214 m
Average width: ˜ 30 m
Oshi Falls belong to the most spectacular falls in the world – but few people manage to see them.

This waterfall forms a single, vertical plunge adorning a broad cliff amphitheater. The landscape here still is covered with pristine rainforest.

Oshi Falls, Guyana

WorldYellow Recommended books

Kaieteur Sky


Three friends plan a reunion in Guyana, to remember their old friendships and the happy times of their childhood. Khadija, from England, believes her past and future can be found in Guyana’s Interior region, where they journey for part of their trip. Ann, from Toronto, is distressed by the intertwining of her and friend Leonora’s family. Their trip to Kaieteur Falls, ends in near-disaster, with their friendships stretched to the limit. The reunion brings the friends from their past to their present, under a Kaieteur sky.

Navigators Travel to Guyana


Navigators Travel to Guyana is the follow up to Navigators Travel to Barbados written by Howard Liverpool. This time our intrepid explorers travel to Guyana and learn about the history and geography of the country. They also sample some of the local cuisines and have a scary encounter with a ram sheep.


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