"March 1, 2018 Newsletter"

What is the correct definition of a waterfall, a rapid, and a spillway???

Our newsletters are dedicated to the discussion of waterfalls, rapids and spillways of Wisconsin... searching for new ones, discussing new details about sites already known, and discussions of general interest. If you have not yet subscribed to our free newsletters you can do so below.

This issue is about definitions... What is a waterfall, a rapids, or a spillway? A “boring” subject but we have problems with many dictionary definitions! Read the dictionary definitions below and then read our suggestions... your comments and thoughts welcome!

Waterfalls: Webster: A perpendicular or very steep descent of the water of a stream. Dictionary.com: A steep fall or flow of water in a watercourse from a height. Cambridge: Water from a river or stream falling over an edge of rock to a much lower level. Wikipedia: A waterfall is a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep drops in the course of a stream or river. Oxford: A cascade of water falling from a height, formed when a river or stream flows over a precipice or steep incline. Collins English: A waterfall is a place where water flows over the edge of a steep, high cliff in hills or mountains, and falls into a pool below. National Geographic: A waterfall is a river or other body of water's steep fall over a rocky ledge into a plunge pool below. Thesaurus: A steep descent of the water of a river.
Rapids: Webster: A part of a river where the current moves with great swiftness, the surface being usually broken by obstructions, but without actual waterfall. Dictionary.com: A part of a river where the current runs very swiftly. Cambridge: A dangerous part of a river that flows very fast because it is steep and sometimes narrow. Wikipedia: A section of a river where the river bed has a relatively steep slope. Oxford: A fast-flowing and turbulent part of the course of a river. Collins English: Part of a river where the current is very fast and turbulent. National Geographic: An area of shallow, fast-flowing water in a stream. Thesaurus: High current part of river.

Spillways: Webster: a passage for surplus water to run over or around an obstruction (such as a dam). Dictionary.com: A passageway through which surplus water escapes from a reservoir, lake, or the like. Cambridge: a passage for extra water from a lake created by a dam. Wikipedia: A structure used to provide the controlled release of flows from a dam or levee into a downstream area, typically the riverbed of the dammed river itself. Oxford: a passage for surplus water from a dam. Collins English: channel that carries away surplus water, as from a dam. National Geographic: A channel or passageway through which flood/surplus water escapes or release safely from a reservoir or dam. Theaurus: A channel for an overflow of water, as from a reservoir.

We have problems with several waterfall definitions... Cambridge says “much lower levels” (does not have to be “much” lower)!... Wikipedia says “series of steep drops” (does not have to be a “series”)!... Collins says “high cliff” and “falls into a pool” (does not have to be a “high cliff” and does not have to “fall into a pool”)!... National Geographic says “rocky ledge” and “plunge pool” (does not have to be a “rocky ledge” or “plunge pool”)!... Thesaurus says “river” (does not have to be a “river”). Note that only three of the eight definitions preclude a spillway from being a “waterfall”! The definitions in rapids are mostly good... Cambridge says “dangerous”, “steep” and “narrow” (a rapids does not have to be “dangerous”, “steep”, or “narrow”)! The definitions in spillways are mostly good... Cambridge says “lake” and “dam” (does not have to be a “lake” or a “dam”)!... Wikipedia says “controlled” (does not have to be “controlled”)!... Oxford says “dam” (does not have to be a “dam”)!... National Geographic says “reservoir or dam” (does not have to be a “reservoir or dam”)!

Our suggestions for definitions (which we intend to pursue with dictionary people) would be as follows: Waterfalls... “A perpendicular or steep descent of water in a stream”; Rapids... “A part of a stream where the current moves swiftly, the surface being usually broken by obstructions”; Spillways... “A passageway for water to run over an obstruction”.

With all of the above being said there is still a problem! Many entities have had a certain name for years that are incorrect... rapids that are called waterfalls, spillways that are called waterfalls, waterfalls that are called rapids, and then we get into sites that are called “dells”, “cascades”, “punch bowls”, and various other convoluted names! We attempt to use the names that have been recognized for years and will usually point out what they should be called when the recognized name used is inconsistent with our definitions as stated above! And the really tough call... how much of a drop in a rapids will make it a waterfall!

Regards to everyone and Happy Waterfalling!
Bob Schneider

[Return to Newsletters Page]

Copyright © 2015-2018 Miriah Systems LLC. All rights reserved
This website is casual informational only.  No representation is made or warranty given as to its content.  User assumes all risk for use of all information on this website.
The Lat-Long GPS coordinates shown are not guaranteed and we assume no responsibility for any loss or delay resulting from use.

Data on this web site may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner.
eMail: info@waterfallswisconsin.com