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10 Most Incredible Cave Waterfalls on Earth

Waterfalls are some of the most beautiful natural forms that can be found in the world, their shimmering streams of water hurtling downwards. More fantastic still are waterfalls buried beneath the earth, as rivers flow between stone and rock to form underground torrents. Here are 10 of the most amazing cave waterfalls on the planet.

10. Natural Bridge, Springbrook Park, Australia

Sitting over Cave Creek, a tributary of the Nerang River, the Natural Bridge illustrates the amazing erosive power of water. Previously, water flowed over the roof of the cave, splashing back into it and deepening it, until the water found a quicker route – cutting directly through the roof of the cave.
The Bridge is just one of many beautiful spectacles in the Queensland National Park and sits in the territory of the local Kombumerri aboriginal people. Swimming was once permitted, but is now banned as the water is dangerously shallow, while diving is strictly forbidden.
Photo by Tatters:)

9. Smoo Cave, Scotland

Photo by subflux

The Smoo Caves are unique in the UK for having been formed by both rainwater and by seawater: the first chamber is a tidal gorge, while the inner chambers have been formed by freshwater erosion. They also contain the largest sea cave in Britain, the main chamber of which measures 120ft wide and 45ft high. The name ‘Smoo’ is thought to be derived from the Norse ‘smjugg’, meaning hole, creek or cleft. Aside from containing a huge salt water-formed cavern, the caves also include a waterfall; the Allt Smoo river flows through the roof of the cave system, down the Fallis Smoo (or chimney Smoo), before plummeting 80ft to fill a 25ft deep pool of water.

Photo by Jenni Douglas

8. Mine St Michel, Luxembourg

Photo by Loke.be-
This amazing waterfall is found in the St Michel iron mine in the Montrouge mining complex in Luxembourg. The mines were opened in 1897 and closed almost exactly a century later in 1997. These pictures were taken by a team of intrepid potholers, who came across these startlingly blue waters.
Photo by Loke.be-

This waterfall is one of several in the Spring Room of the Marvel Cave, sitting some 500ft underground. The caves system was originally called Marble Cave, as early explorers believed that they could see marble on the cave’s roof – though they were eventually proved wrong. A theme park, Silver Dollar City, now sits atop the cave mouth.

7. White Scar Cave, Yorkshire

Photo by Ron Curtis

The White Scar Cave is the longest show cave in Britain and features a 300ft long chamber, with a 90ft ceiling, known as the Battlefield Cavern. Sitting in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the caves were only discovered in 1923 but run for miles. The caves also feature several waterfall chambers, which feed into the subterranean river Greta.

6. Gaping Gill, UK

Photo by Jarvist Frost
This waterfall runs an amazing 360ft (twice as high as the Niagara falls), dropping into Gaping Gill, the largest underground chamber in the UK. The cavern measures 475ft long, 82ft wide and 115ft high – and is large enough to contain a cathedral. Before even arriving at the cave’s mouth, the water seen here had already fallen 245ft, before reaching the bottom of the cave.
Photo by Jarvist Frost

The cavern is found in the side of the 2,373ft limestone mountain, Ingleborough, the second largest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, and was formed by water erosion from the Fell Beck stream – which after falling through the chamber, re-emerges further down the mountain.

5. Złoty Stok, Poland

Photo by Eddek_FZ

This amazing shot was taken in the Złoty Stok gold mine in Poland. The 30ft waterfall sits at the end of 600ft of hand cut mines, which were first excavated in the 17th century. Now you can tour these antique passages, which have lain unused for decades.

Photo by fotoholik-pl

4. La Grotte aux Fees, Valais, Switzerland

Photo by saresnar
This waterfall flows nearly 240ft down from the Dents du Midi glacier and is thought to be the highest underground waterfall in the world in a show cave. It’s also a tad cold at 10’C, or 50’F. The cave’s name means literally ‘Cave of the Fairies’, and it is said that if you put your hand into the cave’s fairy well, you will be granted a wish. The cave has been known since Roman times and its name in the local dialect means ‘Hole of the sheep’ – as it was once used as a sheepfold

3. Thunderhead Falls, South Dakota, USA

After falling 600ft, the Thunderhead Falls hit the pool seen above – at a rate of 8 cubic feet, or 500lb of water, per second. The tunnels were blasted out with gunpowder over the course of 20 years to get at the gold deposits contained within. It was 50 years later that the caves were opened to the public after a curious passer by noticed water running from the mountainside.

2. Ruby Falls, Tennessee, USA

Located 1,120ft underground, beneath Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, the Ruby Falls are America’s tallest underground waterfall, falling 145ft in a huge vertical shaft. After reaching the bottom of the chamber, the collected rainwater and spring water then passes through the mountain, eventually joining the Tennessee River at the base of the mountain.
Photo by Murray Barnes

The Falls have been a tourist attraction for 80 years, and have inspired musicians ranging from Johnny Cash (who wrote ‘See Ruby Fall’) to Mastodon (who recorded a music video in the chamber).

1. Waiahuakua Sea Cave, Hawaii, USA

Known as Waiahuakua, this is the second longest sea cave in the world, stretching 1,155ft. It is known as the Sacred Water Cave and as the Double Door cave – as it has both an entrance and an exit. Kayak tours run through the cave to allow visitors a close-up view of the caverns huge length. A fissure in the roof of the volcanic rock allows water to gush into the amazing cavern.
Photo by Matt Parker

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Comments, questions and reviews by other travellers

By the way. Ruby Falls is ABOVE any other naturally occurring "accessible" underground waterfall. Mystery Falls gets part of it's water FROM Ruby Falls not the other way around. I ought to know... I've been in and rappelled/ascended Mystery.

And no, access to Mystery has been closed for safety reasons.

Good point, Andrew, we were there during the summer. My poor mother was in high heels, and carrying a baby since strollers could not be used. No one told her it was a mile walk each way. Yikes! Then to see a hose pipe sticking out of the cavern wall drizzling water was just the last straw for my mother, and deeply disappointing for us kids. Mother fussed about that "hiking" trip until the day she died.

Good point, Andrew, we were there during the summer. My poor mother was in high heels, and carrying a baby since strollers could not be used. No one told her it was a mile walk each way. Yikes!

Ruby Falls:Hard and long walk for young children

Ruby Falls is a mile long trek each way through tunnels littered with huge rocks and uneven flooring. Young children may need to be carried, strollers could not navigate through the tunnels. The day we saw Ruby Falls there was only a *hose* pipe sticking out from the cavern wall drizzling some water into the cavern. We were terribly disappointed. Perhaps some days Ruby Falls may actually have water flowing out of the cavern wall. Good Luck! I would recommend going only if there had been a LOT of rain recently.

4 Replies

Thanks for the warning! I imagine a lot of these falls walks are amazing - IN SEASON.

You must have very good eyesight to spot a "hose pipe" 145 feet up in a dark cave that is probably lit from the top with lights shining in your face. I can think of dozens of underground waterfalls that easily exceed the height of Ruby Falls and have better water flow year round. Yes, anything in a cave is directly related to outside weather. Air flow, water, humidity, etc. The water in Ruby Falls comes from Mystery Falls directly above it. BTW- Mystery Falls is like 280 feet high and usually has good water flow.

Of course Mystery Falls would also be susceptible to the weather, but is it a bit more reliable than Ruby Falls? Meaning at least you could see some big falls?

I used to be a tour guide for Ruby Falls, for two years and over 775 tours, including countless hours cleaning, restoration and other maintenance.

I'm afraid your information is not quite correct. While strollers, wheelchairs, walkers and other assistive devices are not allowed on the trails, the walk way is paved with concrete (except for the bridges that cross the stream) throughout and are smooth enough to run a dolly without any problems. There are stairs but they are of a few steps each.

The entire trail TO the waterfall is 1/2 mile ONE WAY, it is a total 1 mile ROUND TRIP. It's been measured... several times with (professional) surveying gear.

There are no huge rocks to negotiate around or over. That is part of the cave walls and ceilings, but not the flooring.

As for the waterfall itself, it is a natural occurring waterfall with a sizable lake above it which is fed by rain water seeping it's way through the mountain. Yes, after a rainfall of 3+ inches the waterfall becomes enormous and sometimes the cave is prone to flooding.

During dry years there is less water, but hardly a trickle or a drizzle. If you were expecting Niagara type of water fall then of course it would be disappointing.

Small children and those with health conditions (heart/lungs) are suggested to skip the trip. Yes, parents would be expected to carry their child if they cannot walk the entire way.

The cave has been "Grandfathered in" when the ADA came into action. Thus they are exempt from "reasonable access", as it would require extensive modification to the cave itself, which would destroy many of the formations along the trail.

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