Source: Vientiane Times
Khonephapheng Waterfall in Khong district of Champassak province has been recorded as the world largest waterfall, according to the website of www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com.
World Waterfall Database lists the world’s largest waterfalls by width and ranks Laos’ natural wonder on top. The representative list contains those known to have an average width of at least 300 linear feet (91.44 metres) based on data available to the website.
The website mentioned the scale of the waterfall and that Khonphapheng Falls is a series of falls and rapids where the Mekong River splits into seven large channels, as well as hundreds of smaller ones. It cascades 69 feet over a series of falls and rapids that when measured from one edge to the other stretch over 10 kilometres in width, making it the widest waterfall on the planet.
Due to the immense volume of the Mekong River, the amount each channel of the river drops varies. The most defined parts of the waterfall drop about 45 feet (13.7 metres) at about a 60 degree angle, but other parts of the river, including the largest channel, appear more like a series of rapids.
A fisherman casts his net in front of the Mekong River’s Khonphapheng Waterfall in Khong district of Champassak province. –Photo Xayphaphone Matmanivong
One of the smallest channels doesn’t appear to even have any discernable rapids at all – rather it makes a slow and steady descent as it winds down the escarpment. In monsoon season, the flooding river swallows the waterfall entirely, leaving nothing more than a rough stretch of waves and riffles.
Deputy Director General of Tourism Development Department of the Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry Ms Phonemaly Inthaphome told Vientiane Times that “We found out about this website six months ago but we still haven’t clearly detailed what we’ll do with the data to promote our waterfall.”
“Our department has already informed the ministry about the records from this website, which we have not yet fully discussed but we do have plans to promote it. The Asean Eco Tourism Forum will also be our good chance to promote the falls, which we’ll host next week in Pakxe district of Champassak province, ” she added.
On the World Waterfall Database rankings the largest waterfall in the world by width is Khonphapheng Falls on the Mekong River at 10,783 metres followed by the Para with 5,608 metres on the Rio Caura in Venezuela; the Guaira with 4,828 metres on the Rio Parana in Brazil; Kongou falls with 3,200 metres on the Ivindo River in Gabon and the Iguazu with 2,682 metres on the Rio Lguazu in Argentina.
The World Waterfall Database was established to provide a complete, accurate record of the waterfalls throughout the world. Looking in any freely available encyclopaedia, entries for waterfalls usually yield a short list of well known or well publicised waterfalls but the lists are far from complete and usually rife with inaccuracies due to the data never having been field checked. Most people are unaware of these discrepancies because experts in the field have not readily been able to verify data on such a wide basis.
After decades of independent research and futile efforts to keep their data accurate, founders Bryan Swan and Dean Goss established an online database to keep track of the world tallest and most voluminous waterfalls in 2002.
The data slowly grew to record almost 1,000 of the world’s most notable waterfalls but until 2008 had never been designed as a record for all of the data they had collected. With the advent of programmes such as Google Earth, NASA Worldwind and various online mapping tools, not only can the world’s waterfalls be easily mapped now, but the data can be easily translated to a user friendly interface and a complete record of all the waterfalls on the planet can now be undertaken.
The project will most certainly take decades, if not centuries to complete, because the true extent of the waterfalls on the planet has never been probed, but the record has now been established for future generations.
Bryan Swan is a professional graphic designer, photographer and avid waterfall hunter who founded the Northwest Waterfall Survey. Born and raised in Seattle Washington, he has been exposed to the outdoors – and waterfalls in particular – for most of his life.