|Niagara Falls Travel Guide|
The name "Niagara" is said to originate from an Iroquois word meaning "thunder of waters". The region's original inhabitants were the Ongiara, an Iroquois tribe named the Neutrals by French settlers, who found them helpful in mediating disputes with other tribes.
Some controversy exists over which European first gave a written, eyewitness description of the Falls. The area was visited by Samuel de Champlain as early as 1604. Members of his party reported to him on the spectacular waterfalls, which he wrote of in his journals but may never have actually visited. Some credit Finnish–Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm with the original first-hand description, penned during an expedition to the area early in the 18th century.3 Most historians however agree that Father Louis Hennepin observed and described the Falls much earlier, in 1677, after traveling in the region with explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, thus bringing them to the world's attention. Hennepin also first described the Saint Anthony Falls in Minnesota. His subsequently discredited claim that he also traveled the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico cast some doubt on the validity of his writings and sketches of Niagara Falls. Hennepin County in Minnesota was named after Father Louis Hennepin.
During the 19th century tourism became popular, and was the area's main industry by mid-century. Demand for passage over the Niagara River led in 1848 to the building of a footbridge and then Charles Ellet's Niagara Suspension Bridge. This was supplanted by German–American John Augustus Roebling's Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in 1855. In 1886 Leffert Buck replaced Roebling's wood and stone bridge with the predominantly steel bridge that still carries railroad trains over the Niagara River today. The first steel archway bridge near the Falls was completed in 1897. Known today as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, it carries vehicles, trains, and pedestrians between Canada and the U.S. just below the Falls. In 1941 the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission completed the third current crossing in the immediate area of Niagara Falls with the Rainbow Bridge, carrying both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Especially after World War One, tourism boomed again as automobiles made getting to the Falls much easier. The story of Niagara Falls in the 20th century is largely that of efforts to harness the energy of the Falls for hydroelectric power and to control the rampant development on both the American and Canadian sides which threatened the area's natural beauty.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The Niagara Falls area has seen continuous settlement since the 17th century, first by the Iroquois and then by Europeans who were drawn to the immense falls. Tourism started in the early 19th century and has always been the city's main industry. The town now boasts an enormous number of hotels for its size. As well as the obvious attractions of the falls, Niagara Falls markets itself as a honeymoon destination and is self-proclaimed as the honeymoon capital of the world.
Niagara Falls, New York
The City of Niagara Falls was incorporated in 1892. Historically, the city was built up around factories that utilized the power of the falling water for energy. Now the downtown area is a park Niagara Falls State Park affording a close-up view of the American, Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls. The European intrusion into the area began in the 17th Century with missionaries and explorers. This interaction of the local tribes, already hostile, was rapidly converted to open warfare by the competition for the fur trade. By the end of the 19th Century, the falls area was an ugly squalor of factories, utilizing the power of the water. The city still has a strong industrial base, but its location is away from the tourist areas. While its Canadian twin, Niagara Falls, Ontario began massively building up its tourism industry in the 1990s, allowing for casinos and tall tower hotels, essentially becoming the "Las Vegas of Canada," Niagara Falls, New York did very little. In 2004 it opened a casino in the former Niagara County Convention Center, hoping to compete with the Canadian side.
First known as Butlersburg, Niagara-on-the-Lake was incorporated in 1781 as the Town of Newark when Loyalists fled the United States during the American Revolution. In 1792 the newly renamed Niagara was named the capital of Upper Canada, but lost that distinction to Toronto as Niagara-on-the-Lake's proximity to the United States presented a danger. During the War of 1812, American forces captured and later destroyed the town before they withdrew. The British rebuilt, however, and today it has retained much of its historical charm. The present name was adopted around 1880 to distinguish the town from Niagara Falls.