The North-Estonian Klint, cliffs and waterfalls

The North-Estonian Klint is the steep northern margin of the flat limestone plateau. It is one of the most picturesque natural monuments in Estonia, it is also one of the symbols of the Estonian nature.

Usually, the upper part of the escarpment, exposed above the sea level, is considered as the Klint. However, the erosional escarpment bordering North Estonia, continues under the sea, with steep slopes or several terraces, down to the basement at a depth exceeding 100 m. Thus, the total height of the escarpment below and above the present sea level reaches about 150 m. In this escarpment, Vendian, Cambrian and Ordovician rocks are exposed.

The Klint and especially its margin is fragmentary, divided into Klint bays and promontories. The Klint bays were formed by the erosion of rivers before the ice age and during interstadials, as well as by the intruding glaciers. Where the Klint promontories reach the sea, they are exposed as high coastal cliffs. The most remarkable cliffs in the western part of the Harju plateau are on Väike-Pakri Island (13 m), on Pakri Cape (24 m), at Türisalu (30 m) and at Rannamõisa (35 m). East of Tiskre, the Klint turns away from the coast, forming a Klint bay, where Tallinn is situated. East of Tallinn, within the Harju plateau, the Klint does not reach the sea and is fragmentary. There are higher cliffs at Muuksi (47 m) and at Tsitre. In Lahemaa, the Klint is far from the sea and mostly buried under younger sediments. Here, the absolute height of the Klint margin is the highest, reaching 67 m at Vihula.

East of Lahemaa, the absolute heights of the Klint are smaller, but it is more continuous and its relative heights are higher. The highest and most remarkable part of the Klint is on the Viru Plateau, east of Kalvi, culminating at Ontika, where it reaches 56 m a.s.l. East of Toila, there are remarkable cliffs at Voka (44 m) and Päite (41 m). The Udria cliff (22 m) is the easternmost cliff reaching the sea coast. East of Udria, the Klint turns away from the sea. Covered by Quaternary sediments, it continues towards Narva.

The edges of the valleys cut into the limestone plateau are steep near the Klint margin. Many rivers and rivulets fall from the Klint terrace as waterfalls or cascades, forming canyon-like or ravine-like valleys.

Between Paldiski and Narva, 33 waterfalls and cascades higher than 1 m have been noted. The waterfalls on larger rivers are 3–8 m high. The highest are the Narva Falls, which are mostly dry because of the hydroelectric power plant, and the Jägala and Keila Falls. The highest waterfall in Estonia is artificial, created by directing the water from a drainage trench to the Gulf of Finland at Valaste, near the Ontika Cliff. This 26 m high waterfall has cut an outcrop through Cambrian-Ordovician boundary beds. The largest cascade in Estonia is Treppoja, where water falls from 12 terraces. Waterfalls at Vasaristi in Lahemaa are among the most picturesque in Estonia.

In most waterfall profiles, water falls from the hard Ordovician limestone terrace, eroding the soft Cambrian and Lower Ordovician sandstone. The waterfalls tend to recede about 10–20 cm per year.

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