The Mystery of Missing Waters

Destination: Rhine Falls, Schaffhausen, Switzerland

I just love water. It is my favorite nature element, let it be sea, ocean, river, creek or a water puddle… Ok, maybe I prefer the bigger waters but my kids definitely know how to have fun with water puddles – and that is fun to watch (and even join in sometimes)! Anyway, because I love water, I often choose destinations that include, well, what else than water. One of my favorite places in Switzerland is definitely Rhine Falls, the most powerful water fall in Europe. Being 150 meters wide and 23 meters high, it is definitely a place where one can experience the mighty powers of flowing water. We’ve been there a zillion times, sometimes trying to fit in with all the other selfie-taking-tourists and sometimes more off-season, when there’s enough space for kids to run around or drive their scooters by the river Rhein. We’ve probably taken almost every visitor of ours there. And we keep going back.

Rhine Falls at its normal might, photo:pixabay

Last time was different, thought. This time we were on the road with my little brother, who’s not exactly so little anymore. We made a shortcut trough Germany, which now feels a luxury under the given circumstances (yes, I am talking about the nasty little virus who closed down all the borders in Europe and is making us all sit tightly at home.)… Anyway, cutting through the edge of Germany is the shortest way to Rhine Falls from where we live. We parked the car, trying to get as close to the waterfalls as possible. We heard the noise of water rushing down the fall as usual, only it was not as loud as before. I didn’t pay much attention to that little detail, but got the bunch moving instead… We walked downhill through the woods that separate the parking lot and the river, and stopped by the riverbank.

Rhine Falls at its normal migh, photo:pixabay

I was staring at the waterfalls in disbelief. Where did all the water go? Asked our Sweet little Princess, stunned, and I didn’t know what to answer Where did the water go? Echoed little Prince Charming, and I still didn’t know what to say. It made me smile inside, thought… without even understanding the whole issue, as usual he still just had to copy everything his big sister ever said or did… And Sweet Little Princess didn’t even realize to be annoyed, she was so concentrated on the missing waters. And really, at least half of the water had definitely gone somewhere else. Staring at the rocks where it usually had water, felt absolutely weird.

We walked around the water edge to get to the side of Rhine Falls, but it didn’t get any better. Standing on the side of the waterfalls had always before brought a cold refreshing shower into our faces, but not this time. The waterfalls had shrunk down a lot since the last visit there. And suddenly I understood. The situation had been exactly same in my other favorite destination, Aare Gorge, some weeks earlier. At least half of the usual amount of water had disappeared somewhere. Last summer was extremely dry around here. So dry that the municipal council send us a note asking to use as little water as possible in the household. I remembered the hungry wasps falling down from sky, dead, in the middle of their food searching flights because there were no flowers. They starved. Come to think of it, of course drought affects the mighty river Rhein, too.

Rhine Falls at its normal might, photo:Pixabay

It made me sad. During my few years in Switzerland, I have seen the glaciers sinking, the water levels dropping everywhere. And I have experienced extremely hot and dry summers, which the local farmers say are by no means within normal marginal. Maybe it is just a temporary switch in the climate, which I heavily doubt. However, I can’t help but wonder. Is this what we are leaving behind to the next generation, to our kids? A severely wounded planet.

And the kids? They didn’t feel like pondering around the mystery of missing waters too long. Our Sweet little Princess was chagrined about not getting the cold water shower standing by the edge of the falls, and little Prince Charming really didn’t understand the difference. As far as he was concerned, there was enough water for a small boy like him. They spottet a familiar playground by the river bank and went to do what every kid knows best – play. They dragged my brother with and I got a moment for myself, sitting on the bench and enjoying the sun. I sighed off my miserable thoughts and concentrated on enjoying the moment.

It might take a while before we can go to Rhine Falls again. We have to beat the ongoing corona-crisis first. And oh boy, I have to admit that for a restless soul like me, it is not easy to stay put. But I’ll manage, for the sake of all of us. At least meanwhile I can write down all the adventures I didn’t have time to write before, because I was too busy venturing… But I really, truly hope by the time we return to Rhine Falls, the mighty waters are again thundering like never before.

Rhine Falls at its normal might, photo: Pixabay

Rhine Falls facts:

  • Width 150 meters
  • Height 23 meters
  • Depth of the basin 13 meters
  • Age approx. 15 000 years
  • Capacity of flow, summer: approx. 600 000 liters per second
  • Capacity of flow, winter: approx. 250 000 liters per second
  • Lowest capacity of flow, 1921: 95 000 liters per second
  • Highest capacity of flow 1965: 1 250 000 liters per second

Since 1983 Rhine Falls and its environment are in the state inventory for countryside and natural monuments of national importance.

To plan your visit, go to https://rheinfall.ch/en/

Comments

  1. Kevin Wagar

    What timing to read this! I was just reading about the largest waterfall in Ecuador. It suffered a much more dramatic turn recently when a sinkhole swallowed up its entire water supply. It went from being a site where tens of thousands visited every year to being closed down overnight. Sounds like the seasonal change of the Rhine is handled a bit more my style!

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