The Rheinfall (or Rhine Falls) near Schaffhausen is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, with a flow rate that varies from 250 m3/s in winter to 600 m3/s in the summer months. (It vies with Dettifoss in Iceland as the most powerful European waterfall.) The waterfall is only 23m high, but 150m in width. The falls were formed about 15,000 years ago in the last Ice Age, when the Rhine River was forced into a new riverbed and erosion-resistant rocks narrowed the riverbed.
In the middle of the falls is the Rheinfall felsen, a large rock that has withstood the force of the river for thousands of years. It’s the remnant of the original limestone cliff which flanked the original channel that was carved out by the Rhine. (It’s also called the Mittelfelsen, or Middle Rock.) A platform on top of the rock reached by a steep set of stairs can be reached by regular boat shuttles across the river.
Getting to Rheinfall
The nearest town is Neuhausen am Rheinfall, from where you can see Rheinfall and the Wörth Castle. There are frequent buses between Neuhausen am Rheinfall and Schaffhausen.
You can cross the river a short distance upstream of the waterfalls on the Rheinfall Brücke (bridge) or via a boat shuttle below the falls, to get a view from both sides.
Boat trips up the river to the falls and the Rheinfallfelsen leave from both sides of the Rhine. There are viewing platforms on both sides of the Rhine. Guided tours of the falls start from Schloss Laufen on the Zürich side of the falls.
Some interesting facts
- The highest flow ever measured was 1,250 cubic metres per second (44,000 cu ft/s) in 1965
- The lowest flow was 95 cubic metres per second (3,400 cu ft/s) in 1921.
- The falls cannot be climbed by fish, except by eels that are able to worm their way up over the rocks.
- Several developments threatened the falls, but were all eventually rejected – this included a power station approved in 1944, and eventually overturned after a petition was signed by 150,000 Swiss citizens.
- My Switzerland – The Rhine Falls