The Six Types of Waterfalls You’ll Find in Maine

A handy primer to learn your punchbowl from your horsetail.

Little Falls
By Adrienne Perron
Illustrated by Claire Baldwin
From our July 2023 issue

No two waterfalls are alike, of course.  And, as Maine guidebook author Greg Westrich reminded us recently, they can change quite bit throughout the season, particularly in Maine, with its thin soil and widely distributed granite bedrock. Still, waterfall gurus have undertaken to broadly categorize falls by the manner in which the water descends. Here are six you’re likely to encounter in Maine (and here are 25 of our favorite falls, all across the state).

horsetail waterfall


When water stays in contact with the rock beneath it, falling in long, thin strands. In Farmington, water trickles down 45-foot Mosher Hill Falls in a classic horsetail formation.

Cascade waterfall


Like many small falls one after another, cascade-type falls descend a series of steps, but without pools for each tier to splash into. Typically, the calmest or lightest-flowing types of falls. Lovell’s Kezar Falls, tumbling down staggered rocks into a deep ravine, is a fine example. 

Punchbowl waterfall


Tumbles into a roughly circular pool of water, which looks like . . . well, you get it. Often great for swimming, as at Gulf Hagas’s Screw Auger Falls.

tiered waterfall


Also known as staircase or multi-step, with falls stacked one on top of another and plunge pools beneath each step, as at four-tiered Katahdin Stream Falls, glimpsed along Baxter’s State Park’s Hunt Trail.

slide waterfall


Like horsetail falls, they’re partly characterized by constant contact with rock, but they’re sloped rather than steep. If the rocks are smooth enough and conditions right, folks may even slide down them, as they’ve been known to do at eight-foot, 45-degree Tobey Falls, in Willimantic.

Block waterfall


Often wider than they are tall, block falls are long and rectangular, with broad rivers and streams thundering down. See Grand Falls, on the Dead River, in West Forks, which measures some 40 feet tall and 100 feet across.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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