The Horizontal Falls or Horizontal Waterfalls (nicknamed the "Horriez") is the name given to a natural phenomenon on the coast of the Kimberley region in Western Australia.
The only place in the world where water falls sideways, the Horizontal Falls of the Buccaneer Archipelago is an amazing display of nature.
The archipelago is named for English buccaneer and privateer William Dampier, who charted the area in 1688 on one of his three circumnavigations of the world.
Captain James Cook described him as a magnificent navigator, and it is interesting to ponder how he negotiated the hundreds of islands and ferocious currents in this area with its tidal range of up to 10 metres – hence the many rips, including the Horizontal Waterfall.
The unique experience of the Horriez demonstrates the awesome power of the massive tidal movements of the waters in Talbot Bay.
David Attenborough described the natural phenomenon of Horizontal Falls as...
"One of the greatest wonders of the natural world".
With massive tidal differences of up to 10.8m on a spring tide in Talbot Bay, the Horizontal Waterfalls (technically termed “pinch rapids”) are a created as seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps than the other, creating a waterfall up to 5m high on a King tide. With each change of tide the direction of the fall reverses, creating vast tidal whirlpools on the outgoing side.
Comprised of sandstone, quartzite, siltstone, shale and dolomite with abundant stromatolites, the Horriez are formed from a break in-between the McLarty Ranges. . The first and more seaward of the gaps is approximatley 25 metres wide, whilst the second and more spectacular gap is approximately 12.5 metres wide. As the fast-moving tidal current squeezes through two closely aligned gorges the water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, building up faster than it can flow through the gap, appearing like a waterfall turned on its side.
Poulton Creek, which features a healthy mangrove system, feeds into the innermost reservoir, “The Inland Sea”, contributing an inundation of freshwater to the marine environment. At low tide, a large sandbank is exposed between the gaps, with coral bombies emerging near the walls of the falls. Crocodiles are not uncommon.
As one of the premier tourist attractions of the West Kimberley, the Horizontal Waterfalls attract thousands of visitors annually by seaplane from Broome and Derby, on charter boats and in private vessels. As there are no roads this unique waterfall is not accessible by vehicle.
You can view the Horizontal Falls from the air with a scenic flight from Broome or Derby all year round. Get up close with an extended cruise or visit by float plane and land at the Horizontal Falls and hold on tight as you take a thrilling boat ride through the rushing water torrents. The limited accessibility of the Horriez makes it why, as David Attenbourough states..
"Few people have ever seen this spectacle."
To see the Horizontal Falls at its most dramatic, timing is important. There are technically two waterfalls which make up The Horriez, however most tours only travel through one due to safety reasons. The boat trips allow visitors to get up close and personal with the sheer power and ferocity of the second falls.