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Waterfalls are commonly formed in the upper course of a river in steep mountains. Because of their landscape position, many waterfalls occur over bedrock fed by little contributing area, so they are ephemeral and only occur during rainstorms. The further downstream, the more perennial a waterfall can be. It is even possible for waterfalls to occur far downstream due to transient discontinuities in a river’s longitudinal profile caused by climatic changes and anthropogenic activities. Waterfalls can have a wide range of widths and depths, and this diversity is part of what makes them such a charismatic and interesting natural phenomenon.
The rock stratum just below the more resistant shelf will be of a softer type, meaning that undercutting due to splashback will occur here to form a shallow cave-like formation known as a rock shelter under and behind the waterfall. Eventually, the outcropping, more resistant cap rock will collapse under pressure to add blocks of rock to the base of the waterfall. These blocks of rock are then broken down into smaller boulders by attrition as they collide with each other, and they also erode the base of the waterfall by abrasion, creating a deep plunge pool in the gorge downstream.
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A river sometimes flows over a large step in the rocks that may have been formed by a fault line. Waterfalls can occur along the edge of a glacial trough, where a stream or river flowing into a glacier continues to flow into a valley after the glacier has receded or melted. The large waterfalls in Yosemite Valley are examples of this phenomenon, which is referred to as a hanging valley. Another reason hanging valleys may form is where two rivers join and one is flowing faster than the other.
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