One of the most captivating attractions of Bahir Dar is the Abay River, which passes through the city from its source, Lake Tana towards the nearby Blue Nile Falls (Tis Abay), which are simply breathtaking. The falls are also the site for the Great Millennium Dam and Power Plant, currently under construction, which promises to make good use of the heretofore-underutilized Blue Nile by generating enough electricity to curb the power shortage for the rapidly growing economy of Ethiopia.
The Blue Nile Falls are situated 30 Km south of Bahir Dar and are considered to be one of the most beautiful and pristine waterfalls in all of Africa. The cascading water plunges over a 45-meter high rock face spraying a fine mist of moisture that looks like smoke (hence the name Tis Abay meaning Smoky Nile) and drenches onlookers miles away.
James Bruce, the 18th century explorer who is regarded as being the first European to set eyes on Tis Abay was so struck with the overwhelming beauty of the scene that he exclaimed that the falls were: “one of the most stupendous sights of creation……..a magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not efface or eradicate from my memory; it struck me with a kind of stupor, and a total oblivion of where I was, and of every sublunary concern”.