First and foremost, I’ve gotten some feedback about the seemingly low ratings for the vast majority of waterfalls on this website. I’ve even had a co-worker jokingly tell me “you must not have liked most of the waterfalls you’ve seen.”
The truth is, I enjoy almost all of the waterfalls we’ve written about (as well as those we didn’t even make a formal write-up for). However, I realize how our scenic ratings system may not jive with the common perception of the star ratings you see in the literature.
So hopefully this page will clear that up!
Let me begin by declaring that the scenic ratings on this website are not the same as Yelp or TripAdvisor ratings, or other 5-star ratings systems you see out on the internet. That’s probably the main reason for the feedback I’ve gotten regarding the “low” ratings.
Indeed, our scenic ratings system merely reflects a less subjective metric that tries to factor in various properties of the waterfall(s) being considered such as size, reliability of flow, visitor experience, etc.
We’re striving towards a more-or-less consistent standard based on our own personal experiences evaluated across all of the waterfalls we’ve surveyed, documented, and presented on this website (over 1,200 and counting!). So below is the criteria upon which the scenic ratings are based…
Rough guidelines for scoring:
0 Man-made waterfalls (but not necessarily man-modified or diverted [both robbing or feeding the falls]) or marginally counted as waterfalls (that just so happened to be given a name)
1 Typically 30ft or 10m or less. Dry waterfalls that would’ve scored higher would score here unless there was a good reason to bump up its score. Unreliable flow waterfalls (incl ephemeral waterfalls) would also generally be in this category even if they happen to be very tall.
2 Typically 50-100ft or 15-30m. May have taller waterfalls with not-quite-reliable flow, or shorter waterfalls with reliable flow. Visitor experience also separates this from 1s but not quite as must-see as 3s
3 Typically 150-250ft or 50-80m but has reliable flow. Can be shorter if powerful and/or wide
4 Typically over 300ft or 100m but has reliable flow. Can be shorter and/or thinner if powerful, well-situated, and/or unusually memorable (in a good way)
5 Mammoth waterfalls. Basically exceeds all other categories in terms of size, beauty, flow, etc. Waterfalls in this category are essentially major world class attractions
Ratings are based on:
- Scenic allure/impression during our visit (can act as +0.5 bonus or -0.5 bonus from base rules); so if we saw a nice waterfall that was dry, then we don’t give it a good score until we visit it in better times
- Only focused on the main waterfall (or surrounding waterfalls if close enough to add to experience)
- Reliability of flow based on impressions from our visit (though admittedly, this is hard to quantify)
- Overall experience not directly related to the waterfall itself (i.e. is it crowded? Full of beggars? etc.) is not baked into ratings. However, human-caused intervention (e.g. graffiti, litter, dams, diversion, destruction, etc.) can adversely impact rating
- If falls has been visited multiple times, only take the highest score for impression, but average out or use the new info to gauge reliability of flow (which can factor into rating)
- If falls has been closed then either don’t rate it, or if parts of it closed that impacted the quality of experience, then dock score accordingly
- If more than one waterfall on excursion, only base score on the best waterfall of the bunch then add +0.5 or more bonus based on how good the other waterfalls were (as it would enhance overall experience)