Ruth's Waterfalls
of the Finger Lakes, Rochester, and Ithaca, NY.

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A clinometer is a measuring device you use to measure the angle of a line of sight above or below horizontal. They are used by construction workers to measure grade angles, by forestry workers to measure the height of trees, and by movie directors to measure the height of the sun. They are also used by satellite antenna installers to find satellites.

The one we use is called a Suunto Tandem and has both a compass and a clinometer in one unit. Prices range from about $70 to $170 depending on model, but you may be able find a used one for less on an auction site. We got ours at

To use the clinometer, you look through an eyepiece with one eye to see the angle measuring scale and a horizontal line. With the other eye, you sight on the object you want to measure, like the crest of a waterfall. When the horizontal line is aligned with with the crest of the waterfall, you simply read the scale to find the angle in degrees.

When you use a clinometer, try to sight on a distinct object like a small sapling, stick, or rock at the crest of the waterfall or the edge of the plunge pool. Take your sighting three times and then average the results.

Of course, you will have to sight on the same object with the clinometer that you use with the rangefinder to measure the distance.

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