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9 unforgettable urban waterfalls

By: Matt Hickman on May 19, 2016, 1:05 p.m.
Paterson Great Falls — Paterson, New Jersey

Photo: Jorge Moro/Shutterstock

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Nature in the city

For many, the word “waterfall” conjures a distinct image of an idyllic, semi-secret place that can be accessed only by committing to an arduous hike through the woods. This, of course, isn’t always the case.

Across North America, there are a handful of significant waterfalls located smack dab in the downtown core of major cities. For what they lack in seclusion or unspoiled natural beauty, these urban waterfalls — most of them natural or once-natural features of rivers — make up for in history-changing impact. These are the waterfalls that America’s early manufacturing hubs sprayed forth from. After all, what’s a bustling 19th century mill town without a raging, hydropower-producing waterfall in the middle of it?

Over the decades, many urban waterfalls have been used, abused, altered and largely forgotten as the cities around them eventually fell into decline. Others have survived as tourist attractions or energy producers. Others, once blighted and near-erased by development, are being cleaned up, revitalized and rediscovered by a generation looking for beauty in unexpected places.

We’ve rounded up nine of North America’s most noteworthy waterfalls surrounded by sizable cities — and in the case of the mighty Niagara Falls, two sizable cities. Ranging from 20 to 167 feet tall, all are unique in size, strength and historical impact. All of them have a story to tell.