Ventas Rumba (Venta Rapids)
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.
Map of the site
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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 Waterfall in the central part of the country, hidden in a lush, green canyon. Or Zartapi Waterfall in the northwest, located in pristine forest and falling over bright red rocks colored with black algae.
But the largest and by far the best known waterfall in Latvia is Ventas Rumba.
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 center of Kuldiga exclusively consists of historical buildings, it is one of the most beautiful historical towns in Latvia.
Ventas Rumba has formed on a layer of Devonian dolostone, Plavinas Formation. Below it is a more fragile dolostone and, as the power of the stream erodes this softer layer, the harder layer forms overhangs, and falls down. Thus the waterfall is slowly receding – and as the stream in the central part is more powerful, the middle part has receded further upstreams than the sides of the 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 the inland waterway was not feasible anymore.
Below the falls, closer to the bridge there is a smaller step across the river – it is called Mazā Rumbiņa (the Little Falls). It, reportedly, recedes back, coming closer to the large falls.
Catching the fish… in air
In flood time the level of water rises and the 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 the 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 the air!
Also nowadays one can come here, especially in April, and look at 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.
Widest waterfall in Europe
Total width of Ventas Rumba is 270 m – this is the length of the rim of the waterfall during 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) is 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 the total length of the waterfall front (for the most part dry) here exceeds 500 m, although the stream is much narrower. The unusual Hraunfossar (Iceland) seeps through the 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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