March 28, 2020

Niagara Falls, New York, USA

May 2012

We must have visited Niagara Falls more than forty times.  It was just an hour's drive from my workplace in Rochester in Upstate New York.  In some months, we were taking visitors almost every weekend.  However, we never got tired of the spectacle.  And would go again though now it is 15,000 km away from current home in Singapore.

Niagara Falls, located at the border between United States and Canada, is not the tallest or the widest.  However it has an incredible punch: maximum water flow in the world.  The water flow generates maximum negative ions on the planet; and negative ions step up a feeling of happiness.  No wonder, Niagara Falls remains a top destination for honeymooners.  The Falls attract more than 12 million visitors a year.

Four of the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) drain their water  into the fifth (Lake Ontario) through Niagara Strait (and thus through Niagara Falls).  The falls erode the rock over which water tumbles down and are receding at about a feet a year.  Geologists think, unless there is intervention, the falls would recede back to Lake Erie and cease to exist.  You have just 50,000 years to enjoy Niagara Falls before it vanishes.

The Niagara falls is about 3 km long (in a U shape) between its American extremity and Canadian extremity; and is about 30 to 50 metres high.  Niagara falls are made up of three distinct waterfalls:  American Falls, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls.  The first two are in United States.  The third is on the border between United States and Canada.  Horseshoe Falls carry 90% of the water flow.  American Falls and Bridal Veil are separated by Luna island.  Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls are separated by Goat island.

You get a full perspective of Niagara Falls from atop the Prospect point (an observation platform).  You see the American Falls first, then Luna island, then Bridal Veil, then Goat island, and in the distance Horseshoe Falls.  The left bank belongs to United States (which is a protected State park; no buildings) and the right bank belongs to Canada (which is a town with lots of buildings).

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls from Prospect point

Upon entry into the Park, you are more likely to find a good parking space in Goat island than anywhere else in the park.  If you do, you are lucky.  Your first perspective of Niagara Falls would be a quiet river (at your level) flowing down over the rocks.  You would hear the thunderous sound.  And spray rising from somewhere below.  To see the Falls you need to walk to the edge of Goat island.

First, all you can sense is just the spray and a thunderous noise of water flowing down

As you get closer you realize you are atop the spectacular Horseshoe Falls

When you reach the very edge of land, and lean over Terrapin point, you can see the copious flow of water through the Horseshoe falls which starts where you stand and ends on the opposite side in Canada.

View of Horseshoe falls at Terrapin point, American end.  Canadian end at background.

Walk to your left to the other end of Goat island, and you see the Bridal Veil doing a similar stumble in the foreground, the Luna island (with people standing on the observation platform) in the middle, the American Falls at the back, the Prospect point (which has an observation deck at the top and an elevator to the bottom to the ferry terminal for the "Maid of the Mist" tour, and the Rainbow bridge connecting US and Canada at the back.

View of Bridal Veil, Luna Island, American Falls, Prospect Point & Rainbow bridge

An elevator in Goat island takes you down through the Cave of the Winds to the Hurricane deck (a temporary wooden platform built at the base of the Bridal Veil) where you can go as close to the water and spray as you want.  This is about the closest you can get to water on the American side.  At that proximity, the downward rush of water, the rise of the spray, everyone getting drenched (a lot), and the noise are all awe inspiring.  Nature at its best.

Hurricane deck at the base of Bridal Veil Falls

Up, close, and personal feel of Bridal Veil Falls

The Hurricane deck has an option to skip the area closest to the falls to avoid getting drenched.  However, do not bother.  You get drenched fully anywhere on the deck.  Just the intensity varies.  And it is fun.  The coolth of the water hurts you just for a short while. (Yeah, comparable to your Dentist saying "this is going to hurt you only for a fleeting moment"!)

When you get back up the elevator, walk to the Luna island to see the same Bridal Veil (and the Hurricane deck) from the top.

Bridal Veil Falls from atop Luna Island.  Water flowing downward to Hurricane Deck

Walk to your right, to the other edge of Luna island, and you see the top of the American Falls.

View of American Falls from Luna Island

Next, you need to get to the Prospect point area. This involves a long walk back to exit Goat island, cross the bridge to mainland, and to the center of the Park.  The Prospect point is a tall tower with an observation deck jutting into the strait to give Americans as much a frontal perspective of the Falls as possible.

The view from the Prospect point is awesome.  The spray from the Horseshoe Falls seems to rise to twice the height of the falls itself!

View of American Falls and Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point

View of Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point

View of Rainbow bridge connecting New York State (right) with Ontario Province (left)

Canadians claim that Americans have the falls and Canadians have the view.  That is not quite true.  The river has the view.  The best place to see Niagara Falls is on the deck of the Maid of the Mist boat that starts at the base of the Prospect Point, goes aside American Falls and Bridal Veil and goes to the center of the Horseshoe Falls area giving one a 360 degree view of the Horseshoe Falls.

Maid of the Mist Tour Ferry Terminal at base of Prospect Point

Maid of the Mist Tour:  View of American Falls

Maid of the Mist Tour:  View of Bridal Veil Falls and Hurricane Deck

Maid of the Mist Tour:  Boat approaches Horseshoe falls.  And the cameras go inside bags.

Maid of the Mist Tour:  Horseshoe falls, American end.  Terrapin point at top right.

Maid of the Mist Tour:  Horseshoe Falls, Canadian end

When you approach the horseshoe area, the intensity of water spray makes you tuck way your camera into waterproof bags. 

At this point, I can only describe our experience at the center of the Horseshoe Falls without any picture.

A copious flow of water was pushing the boat out of the horseshoe.  However, the boat's motor kept chugging with power just to stay in the same place.  All around us, we could only see water falling from a 51 metre height with a thunderous noise.  And the spray rise to 100 metres, and stay afloat in the air or descend gently (while being held aloft by fresh spray springing up).  White, all around.  Nature at its spectacular best.

After giving us about a minute to savour the experience,  the boat makes a gentle turn toward its base.  We get out of the horseshoe area.  And the river that was so ferocious just a few seconds back flows gently and quietly without even a ripple on its surface.  A hungry bird was looking for some fish in the water.  (Yes, fish fall with the water and about 90% survive to head to Atlantic).

Calm, after storm!

Maid of the Mist Tour:  Boat starts returning to base.  And a bird carries on with its life.

Now you know why we keep going back again and again.  And again.

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