Ventas Rumba (Venta Rapids)

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Ventas Rumba, Latvia - widest waterfall in Europe
Ventas Rumba - widest waterfall in Europe / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY 2.0
Most likely, Ventas Rumba is the widest waterfall in Europe. It is just 2 m tall though but its low height is compensated by the impressive width and beautiful scenery around it – the charming, picturesque Kuldiga town and historical brick bridge below the falls.

That’s how waterfalls are in Latvia

Yes, we have to admit: Latvian waterfalls (there are some 70 – 100 in total) are no match to Norwegian or Venezuelan ones. In fact, Norwegians would not notice them: meh, just a small step in the river.

But, man, they are beautiful anyway! Take Dauda Falls in the central part of the country, hidden in a lush, green canyon. Or Zartapi Ravine Falls in the north-west, located in pristine forest and falling over bright red rocks colored with black algae.

Ventas Rumba, Latvia
Ventas Rumba / Zairon, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

But the largest and by far the best known waterfall in Latvia is Ventas Rumba.

Kuldiga

This waterfall is located in Kuldiga town. Or rather – Kuldiga town is located at this waterfall, because ships had to disembark at this natural barrage and due to this here appeared settlement. Nearby was a hillfort of local people – Curonians, but in the Middle Ages, in 1242 right at the waterfall was built a large castle (Goldingen) of Livonian Order. Now this castle is lost, but a town developed around this castle and nowadays the centre of Kuldiga exclusively consists of historical buildings, it is one of the most beautiful historical towns in Latvia.

Kuldiga (Goldingen) Castle, Ventas Rumba seen to the left
Kuldiga (Goldingen) Castle, Ventas Rumba seen to the left / Zairon, Wikipedia, public domain

Waterfall

Ventas Rumba has formed on a layer of Devonian dolostone. Below it is a more fragile dolostone and, as the power of the stream erodes this softer layer, the harder layer forms overhangs which fall down from time from time. Thus the waterfall is slowly receding – and as the stream in the central part is more powerful, middle part has receded further upstreams than the sides of waterfall.

In order to facilitate the shipping and trade, in the middle of the 17th century the construction of bypass around the falls was started but works were not accomplished. Later ships became larger and Venta as inland waterway was not feasible anymore.

Catching fish in Ventas Rumba, Latvia
Catching fish in Ventas Rumba / from A.Švābe, "Latvju enciklopēdija", public domain

Catching the fish… in air

In flood time the level of water rises and waterfall becomes lower and sometimes it disappears altogether. This opportunity is used by fish, going up and down the river. But, when the water is not that high, fish has to leap. And not always these jumps are successful and fish falls back. Local fishermen earlier used this opportunity and installed special traps, boasting that Ventas Rumba is the only place in Europe where fish is caught in air!

Also nowadays one can come here, especially in April and look how the fish is leaping over the falls. The sight of hundreds of vimba breams (Vimba vimba) flying in the air is magnificent, but in earlier times it had to be even more impressive, when this was done by salmon or even sturgeon.

Ventas Rumba (further in the background) - low but very wide
Ventas Rumba (further in the background) – low but very wide / Gatis Pāvils, public domain

Widest waterfall in Europe

Total width of Ventas Rumba is 270 m – this is the length of the rim of waterfall during the flood time. In summer, when there is less water, falls are some 245 – 250 m wide.

There are some wide waterfalls in Europe but, it seems, none is wider than Ventas Rumba. Rhine Falls (Switzerland) are approximately 150 m wide, Gullfoss (Iceland) – some 220 m wide, Dettifoss (Iceland) – some 100 – 200 m wide.

If measured along the rim of falling water, some waterfalls might be wider. Selfoss (Iceland) has a weird shape and total length of the waterfall front here exceeds 500 m, although the stream is much narrower. The unusual Hraunfossar (Iceland) seep through lava layer as thousands of small trickles over a 900 m long front. The length of tufa barrages in Plitvice Lakes (Croatia) reaches 400 m and more, with numerous trickles of water flowing over it.

Nevertheless Ventas Rumba in flood time represents an uninterrupted, 270 m wide wall (or rather – step) of water and, most likely, no other waterfall is that wide in Europe.

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Ventas Rumba (Venta Rapids) 56.968347, 21.979404   Ventas Rumba (Venta Rapids)
Coordinates: 56.9683 N 21.9794 E
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: (3 / 5)
Address: Europe, Latvia, Kurzeme, at the centre of Kuldiga City
River: Venta
Height: 2.2 m
Drops: 1
Width: 249 m, during the flood time – up to 270 m

Landmarks of Latvia

View from Turaida Castle, Latvia
View from Turaida Castle / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0
Highlights of Latvia are the rich architectural heritage in Riga City, numerous palaces, country houses and castles.

Waterfalls and rapids

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, / public domain
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

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