The formation of Whitelady Waterfall

The Whitelady Waterfall, Lydford Gorge, Devon

The Whitelady Waterfall is an outstanding sight to behold, and a great family photo opportunity. The water runs down the gorge’s face like a skein of silk, inspiring theories around its name. How the waterfall was formed is less fanciful than the myths.

A force of nature

This waterfall is a prime example of river capture – where two rivers intercept, or a larger river takes on a smaller one. In this instance, the mighty River Lyd ensnared the lesser River Burn, and in doing so, was forced to change course. The River Lyd’s greater strength meant that it could erode the bottom of the gorge faster than the River Burn, resulting in a huge difference in height. The result is that the River Burn plummets into the gorge and the amazing natural feature named the Whitelady Waterfall is formed.

A very green scene

Not only does this formation mean we get to enjoy the stimulating sights and sounds of Whitelady Waterfall today, but it also benefits the surrounding wildlife. When the rain moves in for a long stay, the waterfall becomes more aggressive. The wind and spray from the impact of water on rocks provides a rainforest-like environment that nurtures all manner of plant life, and is a hotspot for many varieties of mosses and ferns. The atmosphere of this place is evocative of a prehistoric scene.

In a world of its own

Whitelady Waterfall’s light mist makes it difficult not to believe you’re heading into another land, and its unique climate makes it a great place to escape to. Standing beneath the falls today truly allows you to understand the immense journey the Whitelady undertook to be here. 

Moss covered rocks in the river Lyd, Lydford Gorge
Moss covered rocks in the river Lyd, Lydford Gorge
Moss covered rocks in the river Lyd, Lydford Gorge