Niagara Falls is a great place to visit any time of the year. On the Canadian side you can see all the falls from the Horseshoe Falls, through the Bridal Veil falls, to the American Falls. Visibility of the falls from the American side is sadly limited.
On the Canadian side of the river Queen Victoria Park, features manicured gardens and flowers that are constantly in bloom for much of the year, offers the best views of the falls. There are observation decks available in the park, one on the American side, and if you want to get a great view from up high you’ll probably want to climb the Skylon Tower.
Queen Victoria Park is a part of the Niagara River recreational trial that runs between Fort Erie in the South to Niagara-on-the-Lake in the North. Along the Niagara River there are many historical sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty available for the visitor to see. Firstly, take some time to look at the Niagara Parkway.
The Bridal Veil Falls is an offshoot of the American Falls and is accessible from Goat Island, on the American side of the river. If you visit the Cave-of-the-Winds walkway you can go underneath these falls. A great place to go on a hot summers day! Boat trips are available from both sides of the river with the original Maid of the Mist tour on the US side and Hornblower Niagara Cruises on the Canadian. These both take you as close to the base of the falls as it is possible to go.
Most people will agree that the best views are from the Canadian side of the river, they are particularly enjoyed with a walk down either Clifton Hill
or Murray Hill
. Clifton Hill is also the centre for amusement arcades, restaurants, hotels and other attractions. Although the Fallsview district, at the top of Murray Hill is becoming a great rival with new amusements opening.
Take the car slowly down the hill at Murray St and the American Falls are right in front of you. A spectacular view. The front passenger seat is ideal for the photographer who is looking to take multiple pictures of this waterfall, you start by looking down on them, then as you get lower down the hill they blend into the well manicured gardens of Queen Victoria Park. The same view of the Horseshoe falls is only possible from the incline railway.
The name Niagara is Mohawk in origin. It means the neck, a term applied to the neck of land between the lakes Erie and Ontario, which at one time was much narrower than is evident today.
The Niagara River flows from Lake Erie through Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario. With 567,811 litres per second (150,000 U.S. Gallons) through the combined falls and forms the largest flow of any waterfall in the world, although it has only a vertical drop of about 50 metres, or 167 feet. The Horseshoe Falls, alone, is the most powerful waterfall in North America. For those that are interested, these features were formed when the glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation period, at the end of the last ice age. They carry the flow to from the Great Lakes system through to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence river.
A lot of people notice the green colour of the water flowing over the falls, this is apparently a byproduct of 60 million tons of dissolved salts or rock powder which is finely ground pieces of rock which are suspended in the water as it flows through the system.
This area is famed for both its natural beauty and the valuable supply of hydroelectricity power that supplies the North American grid. Because of the hydroelectricity plants that exist in the area and how the flow is diverted during nights and the off-season erosion has been reduced over the face of the falls.
History and Tourism
The area was first discovered by Westerners in 1604 when Frenchmen Samuel de Champlain visited the area during his exploration of Canada. There have been many great explorers who came to the area since that time. It was however not until the 19th century that this became a popular tourist destination. Vice president Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia and her husband Joseph Alston were the first recorded couple to honeymoon here in 1801. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Jerome is also reputed to have honeymooned in the area early in the 19th century.
People continue to be fascinated at the falls, particularly the dangers. There been a number of bridges built across the river starting in 1848, a footbridge, followed within 10 years by a suspension bridge. After the American Civil War the New York Central Railroad publicised Niagara Falls as a place of pleasure and for honeymoon visits. At the same time the Canadian side was also being opened up to tourism. The iron arch bridge which carried trains over the whirlpool rapids opened in the 1890s, this bridge remains in place today (although is no longer used).
The Niagara Parks was established in Canada in 1888, soon after the development of the New York Reservation State Park at Niagara Falls in 1885. This ensure the natural beauty is preserved on both sides of the river. Local residents and visitors alike appreciate the protection of the natural environment aided by the national park status.
In March 1848 the was no water over the falls as the flow fell to a trickle, watermills stopped factories shut down because they had been power. This was caused by ice damming up the Niagara River and cannot happen today as the river is protected by a floating boom that extends 2.7 KM (1.5 miles) across the entrance to the river between Fort Erie and Buffalo. This protects the water intake for Buffalo and protects the flows used for power generation along the Niagara river.
The enormous energy that could be generated by the falls was understood early and with the invention of electricity seen as a great potential source of poser. The first efforts to harness this power was early as 1759 with the small canal above the falls powering a sawmill, later Augustus and Peter Porter purchased much of the American Falls in 1805 and enlarged the original canal to create hydraulic power for tanneries and other industry in 1853 the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Mining Company was chartered which eventually constructed the canals used to generate electricity today on the American side. In 1881 Jacob Schoellkopf created the first hydroelectric generating station using Edison’s direct current electricity, lighting local industry and homes.
There were plenty of private companies both on the American and Canadian sides of the river that were looking to generate energy from this source. The government of Ontario took power transmission under public control in 1906 and has been distributing energy to various parts of the province ever since.
Preserving the Natural Beauty
To preserve the natural beauty of the area in 1950 a Treaty was signed between the United States and Canada that limited water usage by the hydroelectric power plants. The flow to plants being greatest during night time in the summer and during the winter months when there are fewer tourists viewing the area. During peak season, April 1 to October 31, there must be 100,000 cubic feet per second flowing over the falls, while in the winter and at night this amount can be cut in half. Despite these limitations Niagara’s generating stations still produce in excess of 4.4 gigawatts of power.
Niagara Falls has long been the source of inspiration for artists, travelers, explorers, authors, filmmakers with travelers like myself finding a home here.
This river also brings its share of their daredevil’s not only tightrope walkers like Nik Wallenda, divers, barrel jumpers and even reputedly Evil Kenevil. Towards the end of October 1901 to 63-year-old school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over the falls in a barrel as a publicity stunt. She survived, bleeding, but otherwise unharmed. Niagara Parks will take a dim view of daredevils attempting stunts today.
There is plenty to see in and around the Niagara Gorge. Come back to this page in the future for more stories about Niagara’s destinations.
About the Author
Peter B. Giblett, runs a Guest House in Niagara Falls and rooms may be available tonight if you wish to stay. He also runs a website about writing, blogging, words and word-craft, called GoggledeGoox.