Partner Series
What's the Largest Waterfall in the World?
Niagara Falls span the border between the United States and Canada. Though remarkably wide, Niagara is not the tallest or highest-volume waterfall in the world.
Credit: Sayran | Dreamstime

The tallest waterfall in the world is Venezuela's Angel Falls, which plunges 3,212 feet (979 meters), according to the National Geographic Society. The falls descend over the edge of Auyán-Tepuí, which means Devil's Mountain, a flat-topped elevated area of land with sheer cliff sides located in Canaima National Park in the Bolivar State of Venezuela.

Angel Falls is named after an American explorer and bush pilot, Jimmy Angel, who crashed his plane on Auyán-Tepuí in 1937. The waterfall is fed by the Churún River, which spills over the edge of the mountain, barely touching the cliff face. The height of the fall is so great that the stream of water atomizes into a cloud of mist , then trickles back together at the bottom of the plunge and continues on through a cascading run of rapids.

Angel Falls' total height, which is more than half of a mile (almost one kilometer), includes both the free falling plunge and a stretch of steep rapids at it's base. But even discounting these rapids, the falls' long uninterrupted drop of 2,648 feet (807 meters) is still a record breaker and is around 15 times the height of North America's Niagra Falls, according to the World Waterfall Database, a website maintained by waterfall enthusiasts.

When it comes to volume, picking the top waterfall is a little trickier because there is no universal standard for designating a waterfall, according to the World Waterfalls Database. Some waterfalls consist of a single, sheer drop, others include a more gentle cascade over rapids and still others involve a combination of the two (like Angel Falls).

The WWD lists Inga Falls, an area of rapids on the Congo River, as the waterfall with the largest volume. More than 11 million gallons of water flow through Inga Falls each second. However, without a vertical drop of any significant drama, Inga Falls may not count as a waterfall under other classifications.

Of waterfalls that do include a vertical drop, the waterfall with the greatest volume is the 45-foot Khone Falls, on the border between Laos and Cambodia. Spilling two and a half million gallons of the Mekong River every second, Khone Falls' flow is nearly double the volume of Niagara Falls.

Got a question? Email it to Life's Little Mysteries and we'll try to answer it. Due to the volume of questions, we unfortunately can't reply individually, but we will publish answers to the most intriguing questions, so check back soon.