What the explorers expected at Khone it is hard to know. They had heard of a waterfall, and Lagree later confided in a letter to his sister-in-law that he had hoped to see another Niagara, a vast single fall of water tumbling from precipitous heights. Instead, they found a series of falls and cascades, some dropping directly more than sixty feet into the broad basin of deep water immediately below, others falling in stages, a few feet at a time. This was not Niagara, but it was a formidable obstacle nonetheless, a series of interlocking falls and cascades running some seven miles and extending from one bank to the other.
After having traveled from Stung-treng between a multitude of islands which almost always prevent one from seeing both banks at once, one ascends the river to reach an immense and magnificent basin which is approximately one league and a half wide and some forty meters deep.
To the north, it is bounded by a compact mass of islands, in the middle of which rise the first hills seen for some time. It is across these islands and through twenty different channels that the waters of the river, confined for some time between their meandering banks, throw themselves into the tranquil basin where they mix and die down.
When one crosses the basin, one sees a series of waterfalls of different shapes and heights and a moving curtain of foam, at the entrance of each of the arms that cast their waters into the basin, obscures the horizon.
The waters do not, however, fall in cascades everywhere. In some long and sinuous arms they have leveled the obstacles and run in torrents. These are the channels which the locals use to their advantage to pass through in their light, completely loaded barges.
The two most important channels and the most beautiful waterfalls are found in the two extreme arms of the river, those of Salaphe and of Papheng. There one can see waterfalls more than fifteen meters high and of a width that sometimes reaches one kilometer. The line of waterfalls stretches, broken into several groups, over a total width of twelve to thirteen kilometers.
Everything in this gigantic landscape breathes force and assumes crushing proportions. This grandeur does not exclude grace: the vegetation which covers the rocks everywhere, and even hangs from the waterfalls, softens the awesome appearance of certain parts of this picture with pleasant and striking contrasts. At the foot of these waterfalls, enormous fish similar to dolphins, frolic and, in the most tranquil places, pelicans and other aquatic birds allow themselves to be carried nonchalantly by the current.
Garnier, Vol 1: 72-73