Southern Utahn captures waterfalls that appear to flow in reverse

ST. GEORGE — Is gravity failing? A Southern Utahn captured multiple waterfalls flowing upside down as powerful winds drove whispy water and mist upward over carved, red rock cliffs near Ivins.

A waterfall flowing backward near Ivins, Utah, Jan. 16, 2023 | Video still courtesy of RJ Hooper, St. George News

A reverse waterfall occurs when water is blown upward by strong winds and appears to flow in reverse, according to Wikipedia. The rare and unique phenomenon can be caused by wind blowing at speeds higher than approximately 46.6 mph.

Photographer RJ Hooper captured the surreal sight on Jan. 16 while flying his drone, he said in a Facebook post, adding that the device “struggled against 60 mph wind over the cliff edge.”

“Seriously, the most incredible day for such unique conditions,” he wrote.

Hooper told St. George News that he wasn’t surprised to see the reverse waterfalls as the rain system was “moving out” as cold air was moving in,  and he expected “some pretty strong wind.”

While multiple waterfalls were flowing, some were unfazed and some were blown back partway as the rest flowed into the canyon, but there was one that was “incredible.”

“I didn’t think it was going to be that pronounced, where it was literally looping the water back over the top like that,” he said.

The photographer has only seen waterfalls flowing backward a couple of times in the last 20 years. In those cases, he was visiting the same area, but with the “old, digital cameras, you really couldn’t do it justice.”

Waterfalls flowing backward near Ivins, Utah, Jan. 16, 2023 | Video still courtesy of RJ Hooper, St. George News

The video clips were shot with a drone from about a mile away from the falls from a friend’s driveway, Hooper said. And while he was shooting for most of the day, the reverse waterfalls only lasted for about an hour and the flow “tapered off” shortly after.

Since the news broke at other media outlets, Hooper said people have contacted him, wanting to travel to the area and see the waterfalls. However, the falls are short-lived and typically only flow a few times a year.

“It’s kind of a hit or miss thing and they can come and go,” he said. “People think it’s a normal thing but it’s definitely a rare, rare occurrence.”

The phenomenon has been witnessed across the globe, including in Australia, Japan, India and the United Kingdom, often noted to have occurred during bouts of powerful wind or monsoons, according to Wikipedia.

Those interested in viewing more of Hooper’s work can visit his Facebook and Instagram pages.

St. George News reporter Jessi Bang contributed to this story.

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