The Rhine Falls (German: Rheinfall [ˈʁaɪnfal] , a singular noun) is a waterfall located in Switzerland and the most powerful waterfall in Europe.[2][3][1] The falls are located on the High Rhine on the border between the cantons of Schaffhausen (SH) and Zürich (ZH), between the municipalities of Neuhausen am Rheinfall (SH) and Laufen-Uhwiesen/Dachsen (ZH), next to the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland.

Rhine Falls
German: Rheinfall
Rhine Falls with Rheinfall Bridge and Laufen Castle
LocationOn the border between the cantons of Schaffhausen and Zürich next to Schaffhausen, in northern Switzerland
Coordinates47°40′40″N 8°36′54″E / 47.67778°N 8.61503°E / 47.67778; 8.61503
TypeSegmented Block
Elevation364 m (1,194 ft)
Total height23 metres (75 ft)[1]
Number of drops1
Total width150 metres (490 ft)[1]
flow rate
250 m3/s (8,800 cu ft/s) during winter,
600 m3/s (21,000 cu ft/s) during summer [1]

They are 150 metres (490 ft) wide and 23 metres (75 ft) high. In the winter months, the average water flow is 250 m3/s (8,800 cu ft/s), while in the summer, the average water flow is 600 m3/s (21,000 cu ft/s). The highest flow ever measured was more than 1,250 cubic metres per second (44,000 cu ft/s) in 1999, and the lowest, 95 cubic metres per second (3,400 cu ft/s) in 1921.[1]

Geology edit

The Rhine Falls and Rheinfallfelsen seen from the Rhine
Aerial view of the Rhine Falls in 2008

The Rhine Falls were formed in the last ice age, approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago, by erosion-resistant rocks narrowing the riverbed. The first glacial advances created today's landforms approximately 500,000 years ago. Up to the end of the Wolstonian Stage approximately 132,000 years ago, the Rhine flowed westwards from Schaffhausen past Klettgau. This earlier riverbed later filled up with gravel.

About 132,000 years ago the course of the river changed southwards at Schaffhausen and formed a new channel, which also filled up with gravel. Part of the Rhine today includes this ancient riverbed.

During the Würm glaciation, the Rhine was pushed far to the south to its present course, over a hard Late Jurassic limestone bed. As the river flowed over both the hard limestone and the easily eroded gravel from previous glaciations, formed the waterfall. The Rheinfallfelsen, a large rock, is the remnant of the original limestone cliff flanking the former channel. The rock has eroded very little over the years because relatively little sediment comes down the Rhine from Lake Constance.

The formation of the Rhine Falls is shown in a permanent exhibition at the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen.

Economics edit

The north side of the falls is a millsite. In the 17th century, a blast furnace for smelting iron ore found in the limestone was built. It was in operation until the first half of the 19th century.

Neuhausen - Watermill at Rheinfall

In 1887 the ironworks applied for permission to divert between one fifth to one half of the river's flow for electricity generation. The Swiss Alpine Club, the Schweizerische Naturforschende Gesellschaft (a nature group) and several scientific societies opposed the plan.

In 1913 an international competition was held for the best plan for a shipping route between Basel and Lake Constance.

View of the Rhinefall basin with Laufen Castle, seen from the west

In 1919, a company wanting to build power stations in northern Switzerland were told that any such station at the Rhine Falls "must serve the economic interest of the public".[4]

In 1944, the Swiss Council of States granted permission to build the proposed power station. The permission was to become effective on 1 February 1948, with construction to begin in 1952. But in 1951, the Neuen Helvetischen Gesellschaft (New Swiss Society), under the leadership of Emil Egli, got 150,000 Swiss citizens to sign a petition protesting the project; among the signatories were 49 famous citizens, including Hermann Hesse and Carl Jacob Burckhardt. The petition not only scuttled the power station project, but effectively prevented all future hydropower and navigation engineering projects on the upper Rhine to the present day.[5]

Today, the falls are still under consideration for hydropower projects. If the full water flow were used, the power generated would average approximately 50 MW. The economic value of the falls as a tourist attraction may be greater.

Tourism edit

The nearest communities are Neuhausen am Rheinfall just north of the Rhine Falls, where tourists can also view the Wörth Castle (Swiss German: Schlössli Wörth),[6] and Laufen-Uhwiesen, with the Laufen Castle (German: Schloss Laufen) overlooking the waterfall. Access to the other side of the river is possible through boat services or via a sidewalk on the railway bridge (Rheinfallbrücke) upstream of the waterfall.

Aside from boat tours to the Rhine Falls' rock (Rheinfallfelsen), there are also viewing platforms with views on the waterfall built on both sides of the Rhine River. These are reached via steep and narrow stairs (access by fee on the Schloss Laufen side). Elevators exist in some places. Guided tours of various lengths start from Laufen Castle on the Zürich side of the falls – a youth hostel is also located in Schloss Laufen. Various restaurants are located in Schloss Laufen, Schlössli Wörth and the Rheinfall park.

Transport edit

Train of S-Bahn Zürich arriving at Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall railway station
Neuhausen Rheinfall railway station with elevators to the Rhine Falls
Busses of vbsh next to Schaffhausen railway station
Boat trip to Rheinfallfelsen, a rock in the middle of the Rhine Falls

Public transport in Switzerland is famous for its density and its coordination between services (trains, busses and boats) due to the clock-face schedule. There are several train stations near the Rhine Falls. The closest ones, within walking distance, are Neuhausen Rheinfall on the northern side of the falls and Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall on the southern banks of the river. Both stations are serviced by S-Bahn trains only. The town of Neuhausen has two additional S-Bahn railway stations, Neuhausen and Neuhausen Badischer Bahnhof (Neuhausen Bad Bf), which are further away from the Rhine Falls. Schaffhausen, the largest railway station in the area, is even farther away (ca. 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi)), but can be reached by frequent bus services operated by Verkehrsbetriebe Schaffhausen (vbsh) and PostAuto. The closest bus stops in walking distance to the waterfall are Neuhausen Zentrum (Neuhausen Central) and Schloss Laufen, Rheinfall.

As of December 2022, the following services exist from/to railway stations near the Rhine Falls:

Train edit

InterCity (IC) (combined hourly service):

RegioExpress (RE) / Interregio-Express (IRE):

Zürich S-Bahn:

Schaffhausen S-Bahn:

St. Gallen S-Bahn:

Bus edit

Verkehrsbetriebe Schaffhausen (vbsh) lines:

Trolley bus line 1 of vbsh (direction: Herbstäcker) is the most direct bus service between Schaffhausen railway station and the Rhine Falls.

  • 1: every 10 minutes between Waldfriedhof and Herbstäcker (via Schaffhausen), calling at bus stops Neuhausen Zentrum and Neuhausen, Kreuzstrasse (near Badischer Bahnhof)
  • 7: every 10–20 minutes between Schaffhausen and Neuhausen SBB, calling at bus stops Neuhausen, Kreuzstrasse and Neuhausen Zentrum
  • 21: half-hourly to hourly service between Schaffhausen and Beggingen, calling at Neuhausen, Kreuzstrasse bus stop

PostAuto lines:

Boat edit

During warmer seasons, frequent boat trips are offered from the Rhine Falls basin to one of the rocks in the middle of the waterfall (Rheinfallfelsen).

There are no boat lines between the Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen (or any other town along the Rhine River), but from April to October there are regular boat services along the scenic High Rhine (Hochrhein) between Schaffhausen (Schifflände) and Kreuzlingen (Lake Constance), operated by the Schweizerische Schifffahrtsgesellschaft Untersee und Rhein [de] (URh). Frequent bus services (vbsh lines 6, 8, 25) operate between Schifflände and Schaffhausen railway station.

Private transport edit

The Rhine Falls are easily accessible by car, coach, or bicycle. Large pay-parking lots are located on both sides of the Rhine Falls. The nearest exits on the A4 motorway are Uhwiesen, Flurlingen or Schaffhausen Süd.

History edit

Tourists have been awed by the Rhine Falls for centuries. In the 19th century, the painter J. M. W. Turner made several studies and larger paintings of the falls,[7] and the lyrical poet Eduard Mörike wrote of the falls:

J. M. W. Turner: Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Halte dein Herz, o Wanderer, fest in gewaltigen Händen!
Mir entstürzte vor Lust zitternd das meinige fast.
Rastlos donnernde Massen auf donnernde Massen geworfen,
Ohr und Auge, wohin retten sie sich im Tumult?
(Hold your heart, oh traveller, tightly in mighty hands!
Mine nearly collapsed, shivering with pleasure.
Restlessly thundering masses thrown upon thundering masses,
Ear and eye, whither can they save themselves in such an uproar?)

In 1840, author Mary Shelley visited the Falls while on a tour of Europe with her son. She described her visit in a travel narrative that she published in 1844, Rambles in Germany and Italy. She says: "A portion of the cataract arches over the lowest platform, and the spray fell thickly on us, as standing on it and looking up, we saw wave, and rock, and cloud, and the clear heavens through its glittering ever-moving veil. This was a new sight, exceeding anything I had ever before seen; however, not to be wet through, I was obliged quickly to tear myself away.".[8]

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Facts & figures". Schaffhausen, Switzerland: Interessensgemeinschaft Rheinfall. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Northeast Switzerland". Berlitz:Switzerland Pocket Guide. Princeton, NJ: Berlitz Publishing Company. April 1999. p. 39. ISBN 2-8315-7159-6.
  3. ^ "Lakes and Rivers" (official site). Berne, Switzerland: Presence Switzerland. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  4. ^ Uehlinger, A. (1941): Die Naturschutzbestrebungen am Rheinfall. In: Schweizer Naturschutz 7:95–102.
  5. ^ Alfred Barthelmeß (1988): Landschaft-Lebensraum des Menschen S. 165 ff. Verlag Alber.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Turner painting at
  8. ^ Shelley, Mary (1996). Travel Writing. London: Pickering. p. 102. ISBN 1-85196-084-8.

External links edit