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Waterfalls have long attracted the attention of travellers, some of whom were writers and artists who have left us a cultural legacy of their observations and interpretations. Likewise, geologists have studied and recorded these landscape features since the infancy of their science. An examination of travellers’ experiences of waterfalls since the emergence of Romanticism in eighteenth-century Europe reveals a variety of responses, both utilitarian and aesthetic. Seen as valuable sources of renewable energy, impediments to navigation, beautiful, sublime or picturesque natural wonders and resources for tourism, waterfalls continue to appeal to the Romantic traveller and the pleasure-seeking tourist. Increasingly, waterfalls are being threatened by schemes to exploit them, especially for power generation or intensive tourism development. In many parts of the world, this presents a serious challenge to those responsible for the management of this often spectacular aspect of geodiversity. This paper explores these various themes which are contextualized within the historical and cultural framework of Romanticism.

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