Niagara Falls Travel Guide



Niagara Falls is a group of massive waterfalls located on the Niagara River in eastern North America, on the border between the United States and Canada. The Falls comprise three separate waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls (sometimes called Canadian Falls), American Falls, and the smaller, adjacent Bridal Veil Falls. While not exceptionally high, Niagara Falls is very wide, and is by far the most voluminous waterfall in North America.

Niagara Falls is renowned for its beauty, and is both a valuable source of hydroelectric power and a challenging project for environmental preservation. A popular tourist site for over a century, the Falls are shared between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The Canadian side has a far superior view, and many tourist attractions are based there. Niagara Falls attracts tourists from all over the world at all times of the year. Many couples honeymoon at the Falls. In the winter, there is a Festival of Lights, which includes numerous displays of lights throughout the Niagara Parks. There are a number of hydroelectric plants that divert part of the Niagara River to generate electricity from the Falls. The land on the Canadian side directly adjacent to the river forms the Niagara Parks. The Niagara Parks Commission maintains the park and gardens, and runs a number of attractions for tourists.

The enormous energy of the Falls was long recognized as a potential source of power. The first known effort to harness the waters was in 1759, when Daniel Joncairs built a small canal above the Falls to power his sawmill. Augustus and Peter Porter purchased this area and all of American Falls in 1805 from the New York state government, and enlarged the original canal to provide hydraulic power for their gristmill and tannery. In 1853, the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Mining Company was chartered, which eventually constructed the canals which would be used to generate electricity. In 1881, under the leadership of Jacob Schoellkopf, enough power was produced to send direct current to illuminate both the Falls themselves and nearby Niagara Falls village.

The twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York are connected by three bridges, including the Rainbow Bridge, just down river from the Falls, which affords the closest view of the Falls. Nearby Niagara Falls International Airport and Buffalo Niagara International Airport were named after the waterfall, as were Niagara University, countless local businesses, and even one celestial body.

Niagara Falls, New York is a city located in Niagara County, New York. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 55,593. It is located across the Niagara River from Niagara Falls, Ontario, both named after the famed Niagara Falls which they share. It has been considered part of the Buffalo, New York metro area. When Niagara Falls High School closed in the late 90's a new school was built. The new school merged Lasalle and Niagara Falls High Schools and the existing building at Pine and Portage, a large stone structure with a huge set of stone steps like those in Albany became an Art and Cultural Center.

Niagara Falls, Ontario (2001 population 78,815) is a city located on the Niagara River, in the Golden Horseshoe region. It lies across the river from Niagara Falls, New York, and was incorporated on June 12, 1903. The city is dominated by the Niagara Falls, which brings hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city along with other attractions like Casino Niagara, the new Fallsview Casino and Clifton Hill. Niagara Falls Ontario has always been dependent on the tourism industry, and has been much more successful than the American city, in part due to to having a better view of the falls. In the mid-1990s the Ontario Government opened a casino, and opened a second casino (Fallsview) in 2004. The casino business has been successful in attracting American tourists with the currently lower Canadian dollar. Because the economy is so dependent on the tourism trade, the income levels of residents are lower then most cities in Ontario.

Niagara Falls State Park is located in the City of Niagara Falls, New York in Niagara County. The park contains the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and part of the Horseshoe Falls. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States. In 1885, the Niagara appropriations bill was signed into law, creating the Niagara Reservation. The park also overlooks the Niagara Gorge and allows access to the Maid of the Mist tour boats, Cave of the Winds, flight of the angels, water jet rapids and other attractions of Niagara Falls.

Niagara-on-the-Lake (2001 population 13,839) is a town where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada. It is located across from Youngstown, New York.

Peak numbers of visitors occur 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. From the American side, the American Falls can be viewed from walkways along Prospect Park, which also features an observation tower. Nearby, the Cave of the Winds trail leads hikers down some three hundred steps to a point beneath Bridal Veils Falls. The Niagara Scenic Trolley offers guided trips along the American Falls.

On the Canadian side, Queen Victoria Park features well manicured gardens, platforms offering a spectacular view of both American and Horseshoe Falls, and underground walkways leading into observation rooms which yield the illusion of being within the falling waters. The observation deck of nearby Skylon Tower offers the highest overhead view of the Falls, and in the opposite direction gives views as far as distant Toronto.6 With the Konica Minolta Tower, it is one of two towers in Canada with a view of the Falls. Along the Niagara River, the Niagara River Recreational Trail runs the 56km (35 miles) from Fort Erie to Fort George, and includes many historical sites from the War of 1812. The Maid of the Mist cruises, named for an ancient Ongiara Indian mythical character, have carried passengers into the whirlpools beneath the Falls since 1846. The Spanish Aerocar, built in 1916 from a design by Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, is a cable car which takes passengers over the whirlpool on the Canadian side, below the Falls.

In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself The Yankee Leaper, jumped over Horseshoe Falls and became the first known person to survive the plunge. This began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the Falls and survive. In 1901, 63-year-old Annie Taylor was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel; she survived virtually unharmed. Since Taylor's historic ride, 14 other people have intentionally gone over the Falls in or on a device. Some have survived unharmed, but others have drowned or been severely injured. Survivors of such stunts face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal to attempt to go over the Falls. Magician David Copperfield more recently added his name to the list of these daredevils, successfully travelling (or perhaps, appearing to travel) over the Falls in 1990.

Other daredevils have made crossing the Falls their goal. Starting with the successful passage by Jean François "Blondin" Gravelet in 1859, tightrope walkers have drawn large crowds to their exploits. Englishman Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 after unsuccessfully trying to swim across the whirlpools and rapids beneath the Falls.

Already a huge tourist attraction and favorite spot for honeymooners, Niagara Falls visits rose sharply in 1953 after the release of Niagara, a movie starring Marilyn Monroe. Later in the 20th century, the Falls was a featured location in 1980s movie Superman II, and was itself the subject of a popular IMAX movie. The Falls, or more particularly, the tourist-supported complex near the Falls, was the setting of the short-lived American television show Wonderfalls in early 2004. With the recent influx of more international tourists, annual visits exceeded 14 million in 2003.

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