PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
The Great Lakes are massive bodies of water. They collect the rainfall and snowmelt from much of eastern Canada and the Northeastern US. The collected water flows from lake to lake on it's journey to the sea. Situated in the middle of this immense water flow, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, is a ledge.
The ledge is the Niagara Escarpment. It runs for a great distance, but it's heart is the point where the waters of the Great Lakes thunder over it. Niagara Falls is truly a wondrous spot.
A sharp curve at the base of the falls makes the Canadian side the best location for viewing the falls. There are actually two falls separated by an island on the Niagara River as it rushes over the escarpment. The larger is the Canadian, or Horseshoe falls. The American falls cascades into the river just downstream.
There are a number of ways to experience Niagara Falls. Simply walking along the paths atop the gorge provides a spectacular view of both falls. There are several good vantage points from which you can take pictures, or simply sit and admire the view.
There are also wooden walkways leading up the rocks next to the American Falls. Even though the American Falls are much smaller than the Canadian Falls, it would still be impressive standing that close to the crashing water!
It's even possible to walk back behind the falls in tunnels. Branches off the main tunnels pierce the cliff face behind the falls. You don't get to see much, but you do get up close and personal with the roar of the torrent.
We chose to view the falls from one of the Maid of the Mist boats. We joined a river of humanity for an elevator ride down to the river, then along the waterfront where translucent blue plastic ponchos were issued before boarding.
The short trip up-river passes close by the American Falls and presses directly into the cauldron of Horseshoe Falls. The boat then hovers in the midst of the torrent. You can feel the tons of steel beneath your feet being pulled and twisted, but the helmsman maintains a steady position at the foot of the falls.
Looking up, you can see the thickness of the river as it plunges over the escarpment. Thousands of tons of water per second race to the foot of the cliffs, generating gusts of wind and mist that batter the boat and provoke smiles and occasional squeals from the passengers.
The crashing waters create a cloud spray that fills the horseshoe of the Canadian Falls, often extending well above the lip of the falls. The Maid of the Mist Boats actually disappear into the mists where they pause before the full might of the falls.
The view of the falls at night is also spectacular. As the sun sets, the colors reflecting off the waters change from gold to red to violet. Once the sun has dipped below the horizon, colored lights illuminate the falls in ever changing hues.
The city surrounding the falls exists for the tourists drawn by the falls. It's like a carnival midway, complete with wax museums and tunnels of terror. The gaudiness of the tourist center is a complete contrast to the natural beauty of the falls.