To the north of the Mid Craven Fault in the Malham Formation is Gordale Scar, which was carved as a meltwater channel beneath the Devensian ice-sheet. The sides of this gorge overhang to a considerable extent, suggesting that there was once a great cavern, the roof of which has subsequently collapsed.
On close observation remnants of this roof can been found to the right above the first waterfall. The left side of the cavern is noticable for its close and intimate vertical jointing dividing the limestone into thin plates sometimes less than an inch in thickness.
The waterfalls flow over large masses of tufa, more of which can be found further downstream at Janet's Foss, a short distance south of the scar.
Above the waterfalls the valley stretches for a mile as a deep trench in the limestone plateau, much of which 100 to 150 feet deep, walled by almost vertical limestone cliff. The now depreciated Gordale Beck winds down the many interlocking spurs of the vertically jointed and horizontally ledged rock.
Raistrick (1947) noticed that excess calcite in solution in the stream often produces a rich crop of 'cave-pearls' in many of the pools, small smooth pebbles commonly the size of a pea, built up on concentric layers of deposited calcite, and water-polished on the outside to a pearly texture. It is also noticed that the many joints in the stream bed means much of the water takes an underground route to re-emerge at the foot of the scar. The has the strange effect of a stream which is larger near its source and diminishes as you go downstream.