Niagara Falls is one of Canada’s most accessible natural wonders, bringing in millions of visitors each year. Located just over an hour’s drive from Toronto, along with the American border, these massive falls drop approximately 57 meters. Visitors can see the falls at an astoundingly close distance from the edge at their top.
There are over 500 waterfalls in the world are taller than Niagara Falls. But Niagara Falls is the biggest waterfalls in the world by the volume of whopping water siphoned at an average of 750,000 gallons each second.
The water that runs over the falls comes from the Great Lakes. Ninety percent of the water goes over the Horseshoe Falls. Originally, as much as 5.5 Billion gallons of water per hour flowed over the falls. Today the amount is controlled by the Canadian and American governments to slow erosion. In addition, some of the water is diverted to provide power for the United States and Canada, making Niagara Falls the largest source of electric power in the world.
Niagara Falls is to waterfalls as the Great Wall of China is to walls, which is to say, it’s not your average waterfall. Niagara Falls is really the collective name for three falls that straddle the United States/Canada border, as well as the names of the New York and Ontario cities that share the border. More than 3,000 tons of water thunder over the falls every second and thousands of tourists are usually there to see it. Whether you plan to view Niagara Falls from the U.S. side or the Canadian side, it’s possible to enjoy the sights without getting wet. But it’s not as much fun.
The Niagara Falls was first recorded by Europeans in the 1600s and were famous enough by the early 19th century that Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Jerome took his bride to see them. The arrival of the railway and then the boom in car ownership after World War II made the Falls a major destination, now attracting some 12 million visitors a year.
The water flowing over the Falls starts as rivers and streams into the four of the Great Lakes: Michigan, Superior, Huron, and Erie. From Lake Erie, it flows into the Niagara River, part of the border between Canada and the USA. It passes over the falls at a speed of almost 70 mph, heading north towards Lake Ontario. From there, the water makes its way to the Atlantic through the St Lawrence River. These five Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water and are big enough to act as an inland sea, subject to fierce storms in winter that have sunk large ships. The biggest was the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down during a storm in 1975 with her entire crew of 29.
One of the best places to view the Niagara Falls on the Ontario side is from Queen Victoria Park where the Falls are illuminated and fireworks are displayed nightly during the summer.
Studies and history of Niagara Falls indicate that thousands of years ago, the Falls was 11 km downstream from its current spot. Erosion was a major issue associated with the Canadian Falls. And the rate of average erosion of the Niagara Falls rose up to 1 meter per year until the early 1950s. Thereafter the water diversions have spread out more evenly reducing the erosion in Niagara Falls. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is also a great source of hydraulic power.
Niagara Falls Facts
- The Height of Canadian Falls 170 ft. (52 meters)
- The Estimated Crestline 670 meters wide
- The depth of the river at the base of the Falls is 56 meters (184 ft.)
- The depth of Niagara River is less than the depth of the Falls
- The estimated flow rate of Horseshoe Falls is 168,000 cubic meters
- The Canadian side of the Falls was first called as “horseshoe” in 1721
- The length of Niagara River 58 km
- The upper part of Niagara River lengthen 35 km from Lake Erie
- Niagara River divides into two – the West Channel and East Channel
During the 19th century, tourism became popular, and by mid-century, it was the area’s main industry. Theodosia Burr Alston (daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr) and her husband Joseph Alston were the first recorded couple to honeymoon there in 1801. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Jérôme visited with his bride in the early 19th century.
Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province Ontario and the American state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. Horseshoe Falls is the largest falls and is located mainly on the Canadian side, while the smaller American and Bridal Veil falls are mostly on the U.S. side. Combined, the three falls have a higher flow rate than any other in the world. About 20 million people visit here annually, with many of them taking a boat ride on Maid of the Mist, the falls’ oldest attraction.
The Falls have recently been enhanced with a multimillion-dollar investment in computerized lighting for the evening light show.
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Niagara Falls is June to August. Summer is peak season. Mists and breezes from the waterfalls can make the area feel cooler. You’ll spend more money and face more crowds, but visiting in summer will allow you take full advantage of the weather and attractions. In summer, there are a number of ferry services to and from the US side, which are a great way to see the lake, as well as more conventional Lake Erie cruise boats.
Remember to take your passport and check your visa status if you want to cross the border and return.
Why Go to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls has been one of the most popular destinations for honeymooners in the world since promoters for the area helped institute “honeymooning” as a tradition in the mid-nineteenth century. Twelve million tourists from all over the world visit Niagara Falls every summer.
In addition to the stunning waterfalls, there is a large concentration of quickie wedding chapels and hotels backlit in blaring neon. Grownups, honeymooners and empty nesters have more things to do in Niagara Falls than ever before. Spend a morning playing at our award-winning golf courses, spend an afternoon sipping Chardonnay on a Niagara wine tour and then enjoy a candlelit dinner at a Falls view restaurant. You may want to relax at a spa or enjoy a Niagara sightseeing tour. A romantic kiss at the Niagara Falls fireworks is the perfect ending to any evening.
There are a large number of hotels, a casino, Vegas-style shows and an IMAX Theatre.
Must-do: The Skylon Tower has the best views of the falls, short of taking a helicopter ride.
The strategic location of Fort Erie means it has a rich history. In 1812, more than 3,000 troops were killed and wounded in a siege during the War of 1812, events commemorated in re-enactments at the Old Fort every summer.
Peak visitor traffic occurs in the summertime when Niagara Falls are both a daytime and evening attraction. From the Canadian side, floodlights illuminate both sides of the falls for several hours after dark (until midnight). The number of visitors in 2007 was expected to total 20 million, and by 2009 the annual rate was expected to top 28 million tourists.
It is estimated that 12,000 years ago when the falls were formed, the edge of the falls was as much as seven miles further down river than it is today. Until the 1950s, when the flow of water began to be controlled, the brink of the falls moved backward an estimated three feet every year because of erosion.
Fun Fact: Every 60 seconds, six million cubic feet of water rushes over the falls, enough water to fill a million bathtubs each minute.
There are two main roads into Niagara Falls: the Rainbow Bridge from the USA (Niagara Falls, New York) and the Queen Elizabeth Way (Q.E.W) Follow any signs that say ‘The Falls” or “Niagara Falls” or “Bridge to U.S.A” (just don’t follow the signs for trucks).
Several islands sit in the river near the falls. The largest, Goat Island, actually adjoins the American and Canadian falls. It’s accessible by car and has picnic areas, viewing areas, and a restaurant. Visitors can also cross a footbridge to reach the Three Sisters Islands. The Cave of the Winds attraction is accessible from Goat Island. It’s a cave located behind Bridal Veil Falls.
Niagara Falls is famed both for its beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Balancing recreational, commercial, and industrial uses have been a challenge for the stewards of the falls since the 19th century.
Over the falls
In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself “the Yankee Leapster“, jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived; this began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls.
Jumps and plunges
On October 24, 1901, 63-year-old Michigan school teacher 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. Soon after exiting the barrel, she said, “No one ought ever to do that again. it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the falls.
Have you been to Niagara? What was your favorite memory to share with other readers!? Comment Please!