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Visiting Coo: The Largest Waterfall in Belgium

Updated on September 8, 2017
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Coo waterfalls, Belgium
Coo waterfalls, Belgium | Source
Secondary waterfall at Coo
Secondary waterfall at Coo | Source
Map location of Stavelot municipality
Map location of Stavelot municipality | Source

Scenic location with memories of the Battle of the Bulge, and monks

Coo has a waterfall, Belgium's largest, with a height of 15 metres. It is situated on the Amblève River .

It consists of a principal waterfall, supplemented by a smaller one, the volume of which may vary considerably. A theme park, Plopsa Coo, is situated adjacent to the falls.

Scenic views are available in the vicinity of the nearby Coo 1 and Coo 2 reservoirs.

Some history

Historically, the smaller waterfall is older, with records of it dating to the 15th century. The adjacent, larger waterfall was created in the 18th century by monks from the Abbey of Stavelot, with a view to protecting the village of Petit-Coo from flooding.

The nearby village of Petit-Coo has been associated with some significant events.

Battle of the Bulge, and Paul L. Bolden's Medal of Honor

The nearby locality of Petit-Coo was the scene of a noted incident during the Battle of the Bulge, during which Master Sergeant Paul L. Bolden (1922-1979), despite serious wounds, eradicated a German SS platoon. Bolden belonged to the US Army's 120th Infantry Regiment, and on December 23, 1944, under the cover of a comrade who was himself killed shortly, Bolden advanced on a heavily defended house at Petit-Coo, and by the use of a combination of grenades and a submachinegun was successful in neutralizing these defences.

In 1945 Master Sergeant Bolden was awarded the Medal of Honor, with a citation referring in detail to this achievement in the face of greatly superior enemy numbers.

Its name and location

The location of Coo, with its apparently simple name — sometimes written with a circumflex on its first letter 'o' — belies a complexity typical of Belgium's labyrinthine administrative organization.

So, technically, Coo's location can be described as:

Coo (or Côo), Petit-Coo village, Stavelot municipality, Verviers 'arrondissement', Liège province, Walloon region (the territory of which is itself largely linked, together with Brussels region, with the Francophone Executive), Belgium.

So if acquatically enterprising monks in the 18th century had needed to contend with apparent 21st century administrative needs, I wonder whom they would have had to approach for planning permission?

Artificial? authentic? natural?

Given that monks created the main falls in the 18th century, would the falls be classified as artificial (in part, if not in whole)? or, since the monks created them a long time ago, may the falls' artificiality be deemed to have been subsumed by now?

Or, for the purposes of planning permission, do all Belgium's myriad administrative divisions classify what is 'artificial', 'authentic' or 'natural', in part or in whole (and in French, Dutch and German) in exactly the same way?

Or another question which some visitors may ask, is, Does it really matter anyway?

Also worth seeing

Stavelot (distance: 6.7 kilometres) has an Abbey, founded circa 650, some of the surviving buildings of which date from the 17th century. Included among its culturally significant possessions are some highly regarded Medieval art and a museum commemorating the poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), who for a while lived at the Abbey. During the Battle of the Bulge, towards the end of World War Two, atrocities were committed at Stavelot and at nearby Malmédy (which has a noted cathedral and an abbey), for which German soldiers were later convicted as war criminals. At Chenogne, Belgium, following the Malmédy and Stavelot incidents, the deaths of German soldiers in captivity subsequently caused much controversy, although less official investigation was carried out in the aftermath of the Chenogne incident.

Spa (distance: 18 kilometres); in the 14th century, this location was already known as a watering place and for the healing quality of its spring waters, from whence the word 'spa' has entered various languages. There is some noted ecclesiastical architecture. During part of World War 1 the town served as headquarters of the German High Command. It is also known for the Spa-Francorchamps racing circuit.

St.-Vith (distance: 34 kilometres), has many Battle of the Bulge memories; there is also a church with an interesting spire.

Bastogne , (distance: 56 kilometres) where there occurred some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of the Bulge toward the close of World War Two, attracts many American visitors. Bastogne is situated in Belgian Luxembourg province (yes, Belgium indeed has a province called Luxembourg, also! and this province was previously united with the Grand Duchy of the same name; they officially split in 1839).

Burg-Reuland (distance: 47 kilometres), has an imposing castle; there are also some noteworthy buildings.

Troisvierges , Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 44 kilometres) has St. André parish church with its interesting domed spire, and an ornate interior; the main part of the building dates from the 17th century; the tower was built in 1924. Historical note: World War One on the Western Front started here.

Cinqfontaines Jewish deportation memorial, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 46 kilometres); this most sombre monument was erected in 1969, commemorating hundreds of Jews deported by rail during World War Two from near this location.

Clervaux, Grand Duchy Luxembourg (distance: 52 kilometres) attracts many visitors, with its castle, fine ecclesiastical architecture, and scenic location, .


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Coo: 148 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service from Brussels to Trois-Ponts, 2.5 kilometres from Coo. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest

Michelin 2004 Belgium, Luxembourg (Multilingual Edition)
Michelin 2004 Belgium, Luxembourg (Multilingual Edition)

More wonderfully clear mapping from Michelin; my knowledge of the Benelux countries has gone hand in hand - almost literally - with these maps.



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    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Phillip David Haskett: Yes, it would be very interesting to see the photo of Sgt. Bolden receiving the medal from President Truman. If it can be cut and pasted onto this thread of comments, it would make a good addition to the article, for people to read. Thank-you very much.

    • profile image

      Phillip David Haskett 

      5 years ago

      Mr. Fenn,

      I may try to do that sometime. I've only been able to visit the continent four times, and there's always something more interesting to do. Paul was my second cousin, and I never met him because my mother's family had moved to Arkansas in the late 1940's, she met my father there and settled in Memphis, TN. We never visited northern Alabama where Sgt. Bolden lived, and he died when I was 22. So other than the inexplicable pride of being remotely related to someone who contributed mightily to refuting the idea of a master race, I don't have much connection to him.

      My mother said she remembered him as being something of a bully, which I suppose is exactly the kind of guy you'd want to send after 35 Waffen SS troopers in a machine gun nest.

      Would you like to see the picture of him receiving the CMOH from Harry Truman?

    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Phillip David Haskett: Eastern Belgium and Luxembourg have many sites of interest in relation to the heavy US contribution to the Battle of the Bulge; Mardasson in Bastogne, Belgium is particularly impressive; also of interest is St. Vith, and Buetgenbach, Belgium and Clervaux and Dasbourg-Pont in Luxembourg (all of which I've also written about on these hubs). For someone like yourself, with family links to important events in the region it would be especially absorbing to visit, if you have not already done so. Thank-you for your comment.

    • profile image

      Phillip David Haskett 

      5 years ago

      This page came up when I googled the town where my mother's cousin Paul won the CMOH.

      I was pleasantly surprised to see his heroic deed put the place on the map, so to speak.

      I have a picture of President Truman placing it around his neck.

      I reckon he was one serious Nazi-killer.


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