Tuesday 16th August
A rare rest day & we have an off-bike adventure planned! We caught the Niagara Falls Transit Authority Trolley Bus from right outside our Super 8 motel, along with about 10 other people – masks are still compulsory on all public transport here, so we masked up.
There are many metrics for measuring the ‘biggest’ waterfall in the world – height, width, flow of water to name but 3. However, Niagara Falls is generally accepted as being the 2nd biggest waterfall in the world, behind Victoria Falls for flow of water.
Our adventure began with a brief sortie into Niagara Falls State Park – we became two of over 8 million people who visit the Park every year. In less than half a mile the calm Niagara River becomes a raging torrent as it prepares to plummet over one of the three waterfalls. Niagara translates from the Indian language as Thundering Waters – it was time to find out why.
I took a few snippets of video, as this gives a better feel for the speed & force of the water as it accelerates towards the Horseshoe, American & Bridal Veils falls.
We bought our tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat trip & headed to the Observation Deck where we stopped to take in the views of the Rainbow Bridge, gateway to Canada & the USA . The Rainbow Bridge was started in May 1940 & opened in November the following year. The roadway runs 950 feet from Canada to the USA & is 202 feet above the water level. It’s estimated that 6 billion pounds of water flow under the Rainbow Bridge every minute!
The water depth at this point is in excess of 175 feet & the current averages between 26 & 30 miles per hour.
To the West, we got our first views of the American & Horseshoe Falls – I confess I was genuinely excited, in spite of this being my third visit. I experienced the same sense of awe as when I first visited as a 26 year old in 1990.
The video footage starts by looking towards Rainbow Bridge, then pans across to Ontario on the Canadian side of the gorge & falls, then takes in the Canadian Falls themselves & finally the American Falls. Bridal Veil Falls are hidden at this point.
It was time to board Nikola Tesla, our fully electric, zero emissions boat. It takes about 7 minutes to charge the boat up to 80% capacity & this is carried out in the time passengers disembark & embark between sailings. On the way to the boat we put on our souvenir rain poncho – the first indication we were likely to get wet!
First up was the American Falls – it’s a 98 foot drop from the top of the falls to the top of the boulders below & it’s approximately 1,050 feet across. Only 10% of the water that flows over Niagara Falls does so via the American & Bridal Falls – this is exclusively water that has been extracted from the Niagara River for hydro-electric facilities.
The International Control Dam manages the flow of the water over the falls by way of movable gates. Another little known fact is that under an international treaty, the flow of water over Niagara Falls is reduced at night to allow more of the water to flow into intakes used for power generation.
Power generation facilities along the Niagara River supply more than one quarter of all power used in New York State & Ontario.
I only managed to get a few photos of the Bridal Veil Falls – it’s a mere 56 feet across & is separated from the American Falls by Luna Island & from Horseshoe Falls by Goat Island. The run-off from Bridal Veil is in the first photo & it’s on the far right in the second & third photos.
90% of the water from the Niagara River flows over the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls. They are 187 feet high & 2,590 feet across. This is where Niagara Falls roars – the sound is deafening & the spray is more intense than any storm I’ve experienced.
During periods of peak flow in summer & autumn, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second flow over Niagara Falls! This is because 4 of the 5 great lakes drain into the Niagara River, as the water makes its way to Lake Ontario – the Fifth Great Lake.
On 29th March 1948, the Niagara River ceased flowing completely & Niagara Falls fell silent. A strong South Westerly wind had pushed the ice that was in Lake Erie across the mouth of the Niagara River. This blocked the channel completely for 30 hours, until the wind changed direction. A two mile boom is now installed each autumn to stop this phenomenon happening again.
The boat took us into the heart of the Horseshow Falls & it left me feeling very insignificant compared to the power of nature.
You may have noticed that Sean & myself are modelling rather fetching blue ponchos – this is specific to the American Maid of the Mist. There’s also a Canadian Maid of the Mist & they provide red ponchos!
I only noticed how many seagulls there were when I was preparing the photos for this post – there appear to have been hundreds, yet I don’t remember seeing any on the day!
We did a final pass of the American Falls & pirouetted through 360 degrees, giving everyone an opportunity to get a few last photos, before delivering us back to our jetty. In all, the boat trip lasted about 25 minutes & it was a truly memorable & exhilarating experience! I feel fortunate to have got a few decent pictures to help me remember my adventure on The Maid of the Mist.
We took a walk up to the Crows Nest, which lets you get quite close to the American Falls & get a photo of the falls in the background.
We left the same way we arrived – the elevator back to the Observation Deck. I stopped for yet more photos & then we made our way out via the rather disappointing gift shop. I collect fridge magnets as souvenirs of placed I’ve been & surprisingly, there was only one type available in the shop & it wasn’t my thing.
We had a little bit of time to kill before our scheduled Trolley Bus back to the motel, so we invested the time wisely & went in search of a souvenir. I’m delighted to report that I eventually found a magnet that I liked!
The bus was empty (other than the driver) on the way home, but we stuck to the rules & wore our face masks! Niagara Falls had lived up to our hopes & surpassed them – we both agreed that it was one of the top 3 experiences of the adventure so far. It was up there with Glacier & Grand Teton National Parks – even better than Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower & Mount Rushmore!
In short, if ever you get a chance to visit Niagara Falls, take up the opportunity & also sail on The Maid of the Mist – it was a snip at $25.50.