Cities Named for Obstacles to River Navigation

Guest post by Dan T. – Thank you, Dan!

Sioux Falls – Source:

North America is a land of many rivers. Rivers which served the early
European explorers, traders, and settlers as highways, just as they had
for the indigenous people. However, moving along those highways was not
always easy. Obstacles to travel, such as waterfalls, rapids, shoals,
and sandbars, were not uncommon and played a significant role in the
development of the continent.


Montreal, for example, is located at the head of navigation of the St
Lawrence River. Some cities in eastern United States are located along
the Fall Line, where rivers dropped from the upland region to the
coastal plain. These cities initially supported the transfer of goods
from land transportation to river boats and vice versa. Later they grew
when the falls were harnessed for water power. Among the cities along
the Fall Line are Philadelphia, Trenton NJ, and Richmond VA.

Fall Line at Richmond, Virginia – Source:

Shallow areas (shoals) were found to be a good place to harvest
freshwater shellfish (mussels and clams). While some of them were eaten,
especially by the indigenous peoples, the main use for the shellfish was
to make mother-of-pearl buttons.

Hightower Shoals – Source:

During the California and later Gold Rushes, some sandbars were found to
contain significant alluvial deposits of gold. Some towns growing at
these deposits contain the word “Bar” in their name, although there are
others who also include that word. These other Bar-places are not
included in this list.

Rapids of the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie – Source:

All of these types of navigation blockage are reflected in the naming of
towns, not only in English, but also from other languages. “Sault” and
“chute” both mean “waterfall” in French and they’re represented among US
and Canadian place names. “Rapides” is French for “rapids”, but it only
shows up in French-speaking areas, since it’s likely to be translated to
English elsewhere. French voyageurs named some rapids caused by certain
rock formations “dalles”, which usually means “flagstones” in French.
That term is reflected in two entries: Wisconsin Dells and The Dalles,
Oregon. Indigenous languages are also represented in the list.

American Falls ID
Bang’s Falls NS
Barrett Chute ON
Beaver Falls PA
Beacon Falls CT
Bell Rapids ON
Big Bar CA
Big Chute ON
Big Falls WI (Rusk County)
Big Falls WI (Waupaca County)
Big Rapids MI
Bishop’s Falls NL
Black Falls Crossing, AZ
Black Rapids ON
Black River Falls WI
Blue Rapids KS
Bonnington Falls BC
Boston Bar BC
Brasher Falls NY
Bridal Falls BC
Burk’s Falls ON
Burleigh Falls ON
Burritts Rapids ON
Calhoun Falls SC
Camel Chute ON
Cannon Falls MN
Cedar Falls IA
Cedar Falls NC
Cedar Rapids IA
Central Falls RI
Chagrin Falls OH
Chelan Falls WA
Chippewa Falls WI
Churchill Falls NL
Chute-à-Blondeau ON
Chute-aux-Outardes QC
Chute-Saint-Philippe QC
Clinton Falls IN
Coleman Falls VA
Columbia Falls MT
Coon Rapids MN
Coon Rapids IA
Cooper’s Falls ON
Crystal Falls MI
Crystal Falls ON
Cuyahoga Falls OH
Dell Rapids SD
Delphi Falls NY
Duncan Falls OH
Ear Falls ON
Eaton Rapids MI
East Grand Rapids MI
Elk Rapids MI
Fall Creek WI
Fall River MA
Falls NC
Falls PA
Falls Church VA
Falls City NE
Falls City OR
Falls City TX
Falls Mills VA
Falls of Rough KY
Fenelon Falls ON
Fergus Falls MN
Ferguson Falls ON
Foresters Falls ON
Four Falls NB
Fourth Chute ON
Glen Falls WV
Glens Falls NY
Gold Bar WA
Goodyears Bar CA
Grand Chute WI
Grandfalls TX
Grand Falls/Grand Sault NB (one city, but it goes by either English or
French names)
Grand Falls-Windsor NL
Grand Rapids BC
Grand Rapids MB
Grand Rapids MN
Grand Rapids MI
Grand Rapids OH
Grand Rapids WI
Granite Falls MN
Granite Falls NC
Granite Falls WA
Granite Shoals TX
Gray Rapids NB
Great Falls MT
Great Falls SC
Great Falls VA
Green Mountain Falls CO
Haines Falls NY
Hannawa Falls NY
Hampton Falls NH
Hawkins Bar CA
High Falls NY
Highland Falls NY
High Shoals GA
High Shoals NC
Honeoye Falls NY
Hudson Falls NY
Idaho Falls ID
Inglis Falls ON
International Falls MN
Iroquois Falls ON
Jessup Falls ON
Jones Falls ON
Jordan Falls NS
Kakabeka Falls ON (Ojibwe: “waterfall over a cliff”)
Keshena Falls WI
Kettle Falls WA
Kingsey Falls QC
Klamath Falls OR
Lachute QC
Leaf Rapids MB
Letart Falls OH
Linville Falls NC
Little Chute WI
Little Falls ME
Little Falls MN
Little Falls NJ
Little Falls NY
Little Falls WV
Little Falls WI
Little Grand Rapids MB
Little Rapids NL
Little Rapids ON
Little Rapids WI
Long Rapids MI
Long Sault ON
Ludlow Falls OH
Lyons Falls NY
Maddington Falls QC
Mahood Falls BC
Malay Falls NS
Manitowoc Rapids WI
Maple Falls WA
Maple Rapids MI
Marble Falls TX
McIndoe Falls VT
McKees Half Falls PA
Menomonee Falls WI
Metaline Falls WA
Minnehaha WA (Dakota: “waterfall”)
Montour Falls NY
Moore Falls ON
Moravian Falls NC
Mormon Bar CA
Munroe Falls OH
Muscle Shoals AL
Neosho Rapids KS
Neshaminy Falls PA
Nestor Falls ON
Newton Falls NY
Newton Falls OH
Newton Lower Falls MA
Newton Upper Falls MA
Niagara Falls NY
Niagara Falls ON
Nictaux Falls NS
Nine Mile Falls WA
North High Shoals GA
Ocean Falls BC
Oconomowoc WI (Potawatomi: “waterfall”)
Oconto Falls WI
Ohiopyle PA (Lenape: “it turns very white”, refering to the water in
the falls)
Okanagan Falls BC
Olmsted Falls OH
Onaping Falls ON
Otonabee ON (Ojibwe: “river that beats like a heart”)
Otter Rapids ON
Ottumwa IA (Sauk (Sac) or Meskwaki (Fox): “tumbling waters”)
Palmer Rapids ON
Park Rapids MN
Pelican Rapids MB
Pelican Rapids MN
Powerview-Pine Falls MB
Park Rapids WA
Post Falls ID
Rapid City SD
Rapids City IL
Rapides-des-Cèdres QC
Rapides-des-Joachims QC
Rapids NY
Red Chute LA
Red Lake Falls MN
Redwood Falls MN
Renesselaer Falls NY
River Falls WI
River Rapids FL
Roanoke Rapids NC
Rock City Falls NY
Rock Falls IL
Rock Falls IA
Rock Falls WI
Rock Rapids IA
Rocky Bar ID (ghost town)
Rosseau Falls ON
Roxton Falls QC
Sauble Falls ON
Sauk Rapids MN
Sault-au-Mouton QC
Sault Ste Marie MI
Sault Ste Marie ON
Sawyers Bar CA
Scott Bar CA
Second Falls NB
Seneca Falls NY
Seven Sisters Falls MB
Severn Falls ON
Sheboygan Falls WI
Shelburne Falls MA
Shelburne Falls VT
Shoal Creek AB
Shoals IN
Shoals NC
Shuswap Falls BC
Silver Falls MB
Sioux Falls SD
Sioux Rapids IA
Sissiboo Falls NS
Skaneateles Falls NY
Slate Falls ON
Smiths Falls ON
Smoky Falls ON
Smooth Rock Falls ON
Solomon Rapids KS
Somes Bar CA
South Glens Falls NY
Stave Falls BC
St Croix Falls WI
Steep Falls ME
Stirling Falls ON
Stony Rapids SK
St Regis Falls NY
Sturgeon Falls ON
Sugar Rapids MI
Swift Rapids ON
The Dalles OR
The Falls NS
Thief River Falls MN
Tinton Falls NJ
Tumwater WA (Chinook Jargon: “waterfall”)
Twin Falls ID
Valley Falls KS
Valley Falls NY
Valley Falls OR
Valley Falls RI
Valley Falls SC
Walters Falls ON
Wappingers Falls NY
Ware Shoals SC
West Glens Falls NY
Wetumpka AL (Muscogee: “rumbling waters”)
Wetumpka OK
Weymouth Falls NS
Whitefish Falls ON
White Rapids NB
Wichita Falls TX
Wisconsin Dells WI
Wisconsin Rapids WI

SOURCES: (updated on 1/10/22)

This entry was posted in Canada, cities, commerce, economic development, environment, geography, Geology, history, industry, land use, Maps, Native Americans, natural history, nature, North America, place names, rivers/watersheds, States, topography, toponymy, Trade, transportation, waterfalls and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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