Niagara Falls

(continuer en français) – Last updated: February 18, 2023

Niagara Falls has an appeal that is sometimes irrational, with a romantic connotation usually associated with it. The natural spectacle of this great rushing of water has long been in the memories of those who have visited the Falls. When the first Europeans arrived, the falls were quickly noted on maps and mentioned in travel accounts. The name derives from Aboriginal wordings without the exact source being identified.

The Niagara River connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and is one of the links that allow the waters of the American Great Lakes to reach the ocean through the St. Lawrence River. The Niagara River also serves as the border between Canada and the United States.

The two countries share the falls, there are two separate falls, the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls on the US side. Between the two is Goat Island.

Canada’s falls are the most spectacular. Horseshoe-shaped, over a length of about 2600 feet, 800 metres, the waters plunge from a height of 170 feet, 52 metres, causing a permanent cloud of steam, refreshing in summer, freezing in winter, but always hiding a part of the scenery. They collect nearly 90% of the total volume.

The American Falls are both narrower, a little more than 984 feet, 300 meters,  wide, and especially lower, only 69 feet, 21 meters high, a heap of rocks interrupting the waterfall.

Niagara Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America. Before the invention of electricity, this power was used to operate mills through canals diverting some of the water. Since the advent of electricity, the water has been used to produce the energy. Visitors are cheated out of part of the show, since depending on the time of day, up to 70% of the water is conveyed through tunnels to the electricity production, especially at night.

In winter the falls do not stop, the icy humidity becomes much more unpleasant for visitors. If the cold weather persists, ice formations can accumulate, changing the appearance of the site. Sometimes an ice bridge may even form on the river, after fatal accidents have occurred, it is now forbidden to use it to walk closer to the base of the falls.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries tourist numbers increased as means of transport developed. For a time the banks overlooking the falls belonged to private owners who charged dearly for access to the view. Gradually the public authorities put an end to these abuses and created freely accessible parks.

It is estimated that there are over 20 million visitors each year, the vast majority prefer to visit the Canadian side.

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