The Rhine Falls are the largest waterfalls in Europe. It is also one of the youngest of the world’s major waterfalls, having been formed less than twenty thousand years ago. The falls are one of the great water features of Central Europe, and being close to the border with Germany, are considered an integral part of Germanic culture. The falls are not a protected site, but development there has traditionally been difficult due to popular resistance.
Effectively marking the southern end of the traditional Rhineland, the area of the falls was inhabited for millennia first by Celtic peoples than by German peoples, with an interruption by the Roman Empire for several centuries. The falls were held sacred by Germans in ancient and early medieval times, and figured into the Teutonic legends of the Rhine River. Although used for industrial purposes for a time in the colonial era, residents who lived near the falls have fiercely defended the falls from development.
The Rhine Falls are fed by the High Rhine, and tumble in stages a total of about 75 feet. Erosion at the falls is minimal due to the extremely hard rock formations. A large limestone rock known as the Rheinfallfelsen is the last remnant of an earlier river channel, and is considered an important geological marker in Germanic tradition.
The Rhine Falls, while not a vacation destination per se, receives large numbers of tourists, especially from Switzerland and Germany. Visitors can see the falls on foot from viewing platforms, or from nearby Woth Castle. Boating excursions can transport visitors right up to the falls for an up close experience. Web: www.rheinfall.ch (official website).