Niagara Falls - The most famous torrent in the Americas (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Niagara Falls
NIAGARA FALLS is so rapid and powerful and loud that it’s hard to fathom even as you stand in front of it. It has lured honeymooners since Napoleon’s brother brought his bride here in 1804. The famous painter Frederic Edwin Church captured its drama in an enormous 1857 masterpiece that was exhibited to great acclaim in the United States and Europe. And daredevils who just can’t resist a good brush with death have plunged over its edge in a barrel, or tight-roped across the yawning chasm.
When a visitor approaches the railing overlooking the rainbow-hued, blasting torrent of water, nothing can have prepared him for the spectacle.
Niagara Falls straddles the U.S.–Canada border and comprises three falls on the Niagara River: the American Falls and smaller Bridal Veil Falls, on the U.S. side, and Horseshoe Falls, the largest and most famous, on the Canadian side. This trio of cascades originated from an ancient landscape during the last ice age 12,500 years ago. As giant ice sheets melted and formed the Great Lakes, the newly formed Niagara River carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment. Five spillways once flowed between Lakes Erie and Ontario, and over time these were reduced to just one, the original Niagara Falls.
When Franciscan missionary-explorer Louis Hennepin first spotted the falls in 1678, he guessed they were 600 feet high (183 m). They actually measure only 188 feet (57 m), but they give off that impression. Some 3,000 tons (2,722 metric tons) of water spill over the falls every second—enough to fill a million bathtubs a minute. The volume and velocity of the water creates a heavy mist that rests over the falls like a low-lying cloud, and the roar of the cascade can be heard miles away.
Niagara Falls is infamous for its tacky tourist veneer, notably on the Canadian side. But these beautiful falls played an important role in America’s early conservation movement.
Environmentalists successfully lobbied for the creation of the Niagara Reservation in 1885 to reclaim the falls from mills and factories. Central Park landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted designed much of what is now Niagara Falls State Park, a magnificent 400 acres (162 ha) of winding footpaths, wooded areas, and scenic overlooks, with the falls at its heart.
Today, visitors should get away from the crowded overlooks and experience the park and falls up close. The Maid of the Mist boat tour has been taking tourists to the base of the falls since 1846. The Niagara Gorge Rim Trail is a nice, easy hike. Or those seeking solitude can simply find a quiet spot and take in the mesmerizing views, as Olmsted intended.