CATARACTS (from Latin, cataracts, a "water-fall"), one of the names given to sud den descents in streams of water, the more general English term being fall or falls. A considerable declivity in the bed of a river pro duces rapids. When it shoots over a precipice it forms a cataract. If it falls from steep to steep, in successive cataracts, it is often called a cascade. In rocky countries rivers abound in falls and rapids. In alluvial districts, falls, of course, are very rare. Rapids and cataracts are often a blessing to rugged countries, since they furnish the cheapest means of driving machines in manufactories, etc. In recent times water-falls have been utilized in the fur nishing of electric power in addition to ordi nary water power. Many cataracts are able for their sublimity, the grandest known being Niagara Falls (q.v.), on the Niagara River, between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Some others of note arc mentioned below.
The Montmorency River, which joins the Saint Lawrence a few miles below Quebec, forms a magnificent cataract, 250 feet high. The Missouri, in the upper part of its course, descends 357 feet in miles. There are four cataracts, one of 87, one of 19, one of 47 and one of 26 feet high. The Yosemite River in California forms a series of magnificent falls, with a total descent of 2,600 feet. The first of them is a plunge of 1,500 feet, and is followed, after a series of beautiful cascades, by a final plunge of about 400 feet. Fully 200 miles from the mouth of the Hamilton River in Labrador there is a magnificent series of cataracts known as the Grand Falls, the largest having a height of over 300 feet. In Colombia, South America, a great cataract, that of Te quendama, is formed by the Bogota River. The river precipitates itself through a narrow chasm, about 36 feet broad, to the depth of over 600 feet. On the Potaro River in British Guiana, the Kaieteur Fall, 740 feet high, and about 370 broad, is a splendid spectacle, and just below it is a second fall of 88 feet.
The most remarkable waterfall in Africa is one with which Dr. Livingstone's missionary travels first made us acquainted. This is a cataract on the Zambesi, called by the natives Mosioatunya ("smoke sounds here"), named by him Vittoria Falls. The stream, about 1,860 yards broad, flowing over a bed of basaltic rock, is suddenly precipitated into a tremen dous fissure, extending across the bed of the river from the right to the left bank, to the depth of about 370 feet. The breadth of this fissure or crack is only from 80 to 90 yards, and the pent-up waters, from which immense col umns of vapor are continually ascending, are then hurried through a prolongation of the chasm to the left with furious violence. The
so-called Cataracts of the Nile are not, prop erly speaking, cataracts. A more correct desig nation for them would be "rapids? The Stanley Falls on the Kongo comprise seven cataracts. On the Tugela River in Natal there are the Tugela Falls. On the Umgeni River, in the same country, are the falls of the Great Umgeni (364 feet) and the Kar Kloof Falls (350). There seem to be no waterfalls of more note in Asia than those of the Cavery River of India.
One of the grandest falls in Europe is that of the Ruikanfoss (usmoking on the Maan River in Norway. The height of the cataract is 805 feet. In Sweden, on the Gotha River, a few miles below its outlet from Lake Wener, are the celebrated falls of Trollhatta, which have a height of over 100 feet. The cas cade of Gavarnie, in the Pyrenees, is reputed the loftiest in Europe, being over 1,300 feet high. Its volume of water, however, is so small that it is converted into spray before reaching the bottom of the fall. Another waterfall in the Pyrenees is that of Seculejo, in the neighbor hood of Bagneres-de-Luchon. It descends from the Lac d'Espingo, into the Lac de Seculejo, or d'Oo, a singularly romantic mountain reser voir, from a height of 820 feet, and is the most • copious of the Pyrenean waterfalls. The Swiss Alps likewise contain some falls of great sub limity. At Lauterbrunnen, in addition to numerous other cascades, is the renowned fall of the Staubbach, about 870 feet high, which, however, from its small volume of water, has time of the terrific adjuncts of a cataract, and resembles, in front, a beautiful lace veil suspended from the summit of the precipice. Near Martigny is the picturesque waterfall of the Sellesche or Pissevache, the final leap of the cascade being 128 feet. The falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen are renowned over Europe. They are 300 feet broad and nearly 100 feet high. In Italy the falls of Terni, or the Caseate del Marmore on the Velino, have been immor talized by Lord Byron, and, though artificial, are justly regarded as among the finest and most picturesque in Europe. They consist of three falls, the aggregate height of which may be estimated at 550 feet. The falls of the Anio or Teverone, at Tivoli, are likewise very beauti ful. They, too, are artificial, and have a fall of about 80 feet.