How Does The Tiny Waterfall Hold Back the Stream?
According to river experts….
1. In April, 2021 the Frying Pan River was flowing at extremely low levels since water was being held upstream in Reudi Reservoir in anticipation of filling the lake to 100% to combat future drought conditions.
2. Large boulders block the main Frying Pan River flow, creating a deep pool of calm, slow moving water above the feature.
3. This calm water continues downstream and passes over a flat rock that further slows and smooths the water just as it pours over the lip.
4. The stream maintains a solid, unbroken “curtain of water” across the entire face as gravity carries it over the edge and down, creating an air space between the falling water and the rock behind.
5. Water backs up in this empty space as long as the curtain maintains its solid, unbroken form, with Surface Tension holding the wall together.
6. Surface Tension of this falling “water curtain” is greater than the force of the stream behind it, which traps and hold the rising water behind the wall.
Like a soap bubble, if anything punctures or disrupts the falling “water curtain”, the entire structure will instantly collapse.
This natural phenomenon occurs only when the conditions are perfectly balanced. It disappears when the river conditions change even a slight amount and these rocks are normally submerged during of the year.
Thank you to the following river experts who helped us to understand how this natural phenomenon briefly exists:
Rick Lofaro, Executive Director, Roaring Fork Conservancy
Jim Kravitz, Naturalist Program Director, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES)
Dr. Edward Kempema, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Wyoming
Video created by Outside Adventure Media. All rights reserved.