One of the most fascinating attractions in Switzerland is an incredible waterfall that holds a remarkable record. Not because of its height but because of the enormous power of the water.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about the Rhine Falls, an amazing force of nature that you simply have to put on your Switzerland bucket list.
1. The waterfall is located on a famous river in Northern Switzerland
As the name of the waterfall suggests, it’s located on the Rhine River, one of the most important rivers in Europe.
More specifically, it’s located on a section of the Rhine known as the High Rhine. This section of the river flows from Lake Constance to the city of Basel in the northern part of Switzerland.
The closest towns in the vicinity of the waterfall are Neuhausen am Rheinfall, which borders it just to the north, and Schaffhausen, a historic town just northeast of this remarkable natural attraction.
2. It’s located on the border of two Swiss near the German border
The waterfall is situated just south of the German border and right on the border of the German cantons of Schaffhausen (SH) and Zürich (ZH).
Zürich is also the name of the largest city in Switzerland and is located just a short distance south of the waterfall. This makes visiting this remarkable city in combination with the waterfall and its surroundings perfectly possible in just one day.
3. It’s far from being the highest waterfall in the world
The waterfall is quite spectacular due to its sheer size. We’re not talking about the height of the waterfall, though, because it only has a height of 23 meters (75 feet). It also consists of just a single drop.
What makes this particular waterfall so impressive is its width which reaches about 150 meters (490 feet). That’s the length of about one and a half football fields which is quite a distance.
4. Rhine Falls is the most powerful waterfall in Europe
Because of the extended width of the waterfall, it’s also the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The flow rate is extremely high and you can feel the power of the water when you approach this force of nature.
One of the most remarkable facts about Rhine Falls is that the flow rate is quite a bit higher during the summer months compared to the winter months.
The average flow rate during the summer is 600 cubic meters per second (21,000 cubic feet per second) while the flow rate during the winter only reaches 250 cubic meters per second (8,800 cubic feet per second).
The maximum flow rate of the Rhine Falls that has ever been recorded was 1,250 cubic meters per second (44,000 cubic feet per second).
To give some reference to this number, that’s about half the flow rate of Niagara Falls in the United States and Canada, slightly less than Iguazú Falls in South America, and more than Victoria Falls in Africa, quite amazing!
5. The waterfall was formed at the end of the last glacial period
The waterfall was formed during a period referred to as the “Würm Glaciation.” This period lasted between 115,000 and 11,700 years ago.
The waterfall is believed to have been formed anywhere between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago, a period in which the Rhine was pushed further southwards.
One of the remnants of the limestone cliff that formed the river bed of the Rhine before this period still stands in the middle of the waterfall today. This rock is referred to as the “Rheinfall Felsen.”
6. The waterfall can’t be used to produce hydropower
The area around the waterfall has been used as a mill site for multiple centuries and plans to build a hydroelectrical station have been made since the 19th century.
It’s estimated that a powerful waterfall like the Rhine Falls could produce about 50 MW every year in case a power-producing station was to be built here.
Even though the Swiss Council of State originally approved plans for such a facility to be built here in 1944, the public outrage was so big that these plans were shelved.
Many famous people joined the protest and this eventually resulted in a ban on any hydroelectrical and navigational facilities to be constructed on the High Rhine. This law remains until today, even though the plans have never been dismissed.
7. There are two historic castles located just near the waterfall
The main reason why the protests were so fierce is that the waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Switzerland. To make things even better, two famous castles are located nearby as well.
One of these is “Laufen Castle,” a structure with a history dating back to the 9th century that overlooks the magnificent waterfall. This was the residence of the Barons of Laufen and now features a restaurant and youth hostel.
On the opposite side of the waterfall, you can find “Wörth Castle,” an equally remarkable structure that was built on a small river island in the Rhine River. This castle was completed in the 14th century and renovated in 1836. It’s another place where you can enjoy an amazing dinner overlooking the waterfall.
All these elements make tourism most probably more profitable than the construction of a hydroelectrical power plant, reason enough to retain this remarkable location just the way it is.
8. This force of nature can be discovered by boat or on viewing platforms
The most popular ways to explore the Rhine Falls are either by boat or on one of the viewing platforms nearby. Boat trips bring you up to the waterfall so you can experience the extreme force of this powerful feat of nature.
The most popular boat trips start on the Neuhausen am Rheinfall side of the waterfall, while some of the most spectacular viewing platforms are located on the Zürich side.