20 facts you must know about Angel Falls
+ remarks from Ben Rodriguez/ Osprey Expeditions Director
About this post.
I get a lot of questions, all the time from clients and friends about Angel Falls, so I thought it would be a good idea to post my answers and add some interesting facts to the blog.
One of my closest friends and colleague, Paul Stanley, helped me gather this information. He is an authority on this topic due to his close relationship with the Pemon, helping them to retain and protect their indigenous people culture as well as keeping the legacy of Jimmie Angel, Ruth Robertson and others alive.
His knowledge of Canaima National Park is impressive, he has gone way beyond than many. He has climbed Auyan Tepuy twice and travelled to many remote areas of Canaima National Park during his 20 years being involved with tourism and not-for-profits. He has done a lot to support local schools, soccer teams and is currently spearheading to build a Cultural Centre in Kamarata, Kamarata Valley.
Honestly, I would be hard pushed to find anyone better to participate in this post.
I am adding my personal/ professional comments in a box so you can read/learn more about the various Angel Falls Expeditions “behind the scenes”. Enjoy!
Director & Founder Osprey Expeditions
Where is Angel Falls?
Angel Falls (Salto Angel) is located in Churún Canyon (Devil’s Canyon) of Auyán Tepuy, a tabletop mountain in the Guiana Highlands in the state of Bolívar, southeastern Venezuela.
When was Angel Falls discovered and who made the discovery?
Angel Falls was discovered by American bush pilot Jimmie Angel on November 16th, 1933. It was a solo flight in Churún Canyon (Devil’s Canyon), he was flying a Travel Airs 6000B, powered by a three-hundred horsepower engine. He was so impressed with his initial discovery that he returned three days later, November 19th, 1933 and wrote in his log “FLIGHT OVER THE BIG FALLS – 1 – MILE”.
Who first saw Angel Falls?
Some historians state that the first European to visit the waterfall was Fernando de Berrío, a Spanish explorer and governor from the 16th and 17th centuries. Other sources state that the first westerner to see the waterfall was the Spanish explorer Fèlix Cardona in 1927.
Why is Angel Falls so special?
It is the world’s highest waterfall, the main drop being 807.1 metres (2,648 ft.) with a total vertical drop of 979 metres (3,212 ft.). It drops over the edge of Auyán Tepuy, a tabletop mountain in the Canaima National Park.
Who measured the height of Angel Falls?
The falls were measured by Ruth Robertson, an American Photojournalist, during her ‘Forgotten Expedition’ in May 1949. She arrived at the falls on May 12th, 1949 when she and her team, Perry Lowrey and Aleksandrs Laime, set about their work to measure them.
Who was the first person to reach Angel Falls by land/river?
His name was Aleksandrs Laime a Latvian, he arrived in Venezuela with his wife in the mid 1940’s and was interviewed by El Gráfico in 1948 when he stated that he had made the journey to Angel Falls previously (sometime between 1946 and early-mid 1948). Ruth read the interview and quickly contacted him to help lead her expedition the following year.
The name - Angel Falls?
Salto Angel (Angel Falls) was the name officially adopted by the Venezuelan Government in 1939 after an exploration trip of the Gran Sabana, in a presidential order by then President, Eleazar López Contreras. The report stated: “Salto Angel, bautizado así en honor de su descubridor, James Angel” (Angel Falls, baptized as such in honour of its discoverer, James Angel).
Other given names
- Salto Angel, Spanish for Angel Falls.
- The Kamarakoto elders of one of the local Pemón tribes in Canaima National Park call the falls, Churún Vená.
- In December of 2009, Ex-President Hugo Chavez, wanted to change the name to ‘Kerepacupai’. A name that Charles Brewer-Carias, a Venezuelan explorer, had previously proved to be incorrect, citing that there was a river called ‘Kerepacupai’ on the summit but that was in the northern part of the tepuy and not connected in any way.
Chavez’s reasoning was interesting – “how are we going to accept the thesis that the waterfall was discovered by a person that came from the United States in an airplane? No one should mention Angel Falls anymore! That was ours long before Angel reached the place.”
Angel Falls is in Canaima National Park (established June 12th, 1962). The Park was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. A natural reserve that has a unique feature, tabletop mountains, tepuis.
How High is Angel Falls?
At 979 metres (3,212ft) it is twice as high as New York’s Empire State Building and about three times taller than another popular monumental structure – Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
How does Angel Falls compare to other waterfalls?
While it is more than 10 times taller than South America’s most famous waterfalls, the Iguazu Falls, it is also approximately 15 times taller than Niagara Falls. However, Angel Falls is only about 150 meters wide at its base.
Rappelling Angel Falls
The first known attempt to climb the face of the cliff was in 1968, during the rainy season. It was unsuccessful due to the rocks being very slippery and as such dangerous to proceed. In the year 1969, a second attempt was made during the dry season. This attempt was again unsuccessful. The first climb to the summit is known to have been completed on January 13th, 1971. The climbers needed almost ten days to reach the top and one and a half days to rappel down. Permits are required and very difficult to obtain. There have been fatalities in the past.
Angel Falls and tourism
Angel Falls is an icon for Venezuelan tourism and continues to be the number one destination for incoming foreign tourists.
How does one reach Angel Falls?
By plane from either Caracas, Puerto Ordaz or Cíudad Bolívar to Canaima, then by river to the falls itself. Of course, helicopter is also another option but not easy to arrange, of course also a very expensive option.
What is the best time to reach Angel Falls?
During the rainy season, which is basically May through November. One can visit possibly at other times, but once folks disembark and reboard the curiaras (dugout canoes) regularly then it becomes too difficult to traverse the rapids en-route.
Angel Falls and films
The popular Pixar movie ‘UP’ was released in 2009 and was inspired by Angel Falls, Jimmie Angel, and the tabletop mountain. In the movie, this place was named Paradise Falls. This fall also made a small appearance in the Disney movie “Dinosaur.”
Latest film was made in 2015, “Point Break” with Edgar Ramirez. See the Angel Falls scenes.
The last visit to Angel Falls of Jimmie Angel
Jimmie Angel’s ashes were scattered over the falls on July 2nd, 1960 by Marie Angel and Jimmie Angel’s sons assisted by friends that included Pat Grant (a pilot) and Gustavo Heny.
Discoverer of Angel Falls. ‘Angel’s Flight’ – the book
A fascinating story about the Life of Jimmie Angel, American Aviator-Explorer, discoverer of Angel Falls. Available from Amazon and the Jimmie Angel Historical Project (JAHP). Written by Karen Angel, Jimmie Angel’s niece.
Canaima National Park (Wikipedia)
Canaima National Park is the second largest park in Venezuela, after Parima-Tapirapecó, and sixth largest national park in the world. It is the about the size of Belgium or Maryland.
The park protects part of the Guayanan Highlands moist forests ecoregion. About 65% of the park is occupied by plateaus of rock called tepuis, which are a kind of tabletop mountain millions of years old, with vertical walls and almost flat tops. These constitute a unique biological environment and are also of great geological interest. Their sheer cliffs and waterfalls (including Angel Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the world, at 979 metres (3,212 ft)) create spectacular landscapes. The most famous tepuis in the park are Mount Roraima, the tallest and easiest to climb, and Auyán Tepuy, the site of Angel Falls. The tepuis are sandstone and date back to a time when South America and Africa were part of a super-continent once known as Gondwana.
The park is home to indigenous Pemon Indians, part of the Carib linguistic group. The Pemon have an intimate relationship with the tepuis, and believe they are the home of the ‘Mawari’ spirits. The park is relatively remote, with only a few roads connecting towns. Most transport within the park is done by light plane from the airstrips built by various Capuchin missions, or by foot and canoe. The Pemon have developed some basic and reasonably luxurious camps, which are mainly visited by tourists from across the world.
Wildlife around Angel Falls and Canaima National Park
A study on “Biodiversity of Canaima National Park” (2009) coordinated by Fundación La Salle for Natural Sciences (Flasa) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), identifies 151 species of mammals, 95 of amphibians and 111 reptiles, 119 fish and 587 birds, for a total of 1,063 species, a richness much higher than that registered in 1995 by the Venezuela’s National Parks Institute of 822 species.
Some of the most remarkable species are: