~Friday, August 20, 2021~
Oops, forgot I left the trash outside last night, so of course some masked little bandits 🦝 got to enjoy a little feast of leftover fish from our fish taco dinner last night. Spent the morning making plans for our days here in the Niagara Falls area. I just hope we get to see most everything in our 4 days here.
Jeff wanted to start off big. So after our large breakfast of pancakes, eggs, fruit and bacon, we hit the road for Niagara Falls. As we were trying to find parking nearby, we did get a glimpse of the mist from them, and really had to pinch ourselves that we were actually here. We’ve wanted to see this our entire lives. Most of the parking lots were full, and it was for the better that we drove a little further away to avoid the $25 all-day parking fees. We found the perfect spot, only about a mile away, and with a very nice walking path to our Maid of the Mist boat tour. It was kind of strange to see Canada just across the Niagara River, and not be able to go there. The borders are open for vaccinated people, but Shane has yet to receive his (yes, he has decided to finally get the vaccine when he returns home!).
The ticket system is such that you can purchase at the ticket booth or online, but there are no assigned times. You simply show up and wait in a line as if you were waiting for a ride at Disneyland. And today was the perfect day, as there was a very short wait to get to the elevator/observation tower. The elevator takes you down to the dock area where you’re presented with a souvenir blue rain poncho. Of course you can opt out of having the rain poncho if you really enjoy getting completely soaked. We opted in and even so, wished we had worn “Dri-Fit” shirts. We couldn’t understand why anyone would not want to be on the top deck of the boat so you get the full experience. With 400 seats on the double decker boat, there were plenty of seats to choose from. From the dock to the falls themselves is only about a ¼ of a mile.
As you come to the first set of falls called the American Falls (U.S. side), 1,060 feet wide/167 feet tall, you begin to hear the thunder. We tried taking video footage as long as we could (check it out), before the cameras got too wet to keep up. Then we moved on to the Horseshoe Falls (Canada side) section which is the most dramatic of them all, leading you through the rolling whitewater and massive rock formations. At a width of 2,600 feet and 167 feet tall, it is quite grandiose. Wow, the power and the grandness of it all. It is quite breathtaking and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Combined, these falls make for the biggest waterfalls in the world by flow rate with an average of 4 million cubic feet of water falling over the crest line every minute. The ride was about 25-minutes long and at the end, were completely blown away. However, we all thought the falls would be much taller and wider based on the many photos we’d seen over the years. Must be those tricky camera angles. Don’t get me wrong, they were still awe-inspiring, but just thought they’d be much bigger. The tallest waterfalls are in Zimbabwe and the widest in Argentina/Brazil. It really is amazing to see 4 Great Lakes converge into one area….first the Niagara River, then Lake Ontario, then the St. Lawrence River until it ultimately meets the Atlantic Ocean. Those waters have quite a journey.
After quenching our thirst with some ice-cold lemonade, we then took a 1-mile walk along the Niagara Gorge to the Cave of the Winds tour on Goat Island. After we purchased our tickets, we were led into the “World Changed Here” Pavilion where you get a glimpse into the history of this world-class site. We had no idea that during the industrial revolution, the Niagara Falls area had fallen victim to a huge environmental impact where all of the industrial waste and sewage was being poured into the waters. Once the potential power of Niagara Falls was unleashed, the industrialists really did a number on this once beautiful/awe inspiring place….and remember this is when the care and caution of environmental impacts were not really a concern. Many a mill and factory were established, with the first hydroelectric generating station launched in 1895. At the time, they were only able to use a direct current (DC) system, until 1896 when electrical engineer Nikola Tesla proved he could send a more powerful alternating current (AC) from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, New York, marking the first long distance commercial use of the AC system still used today. Together, the American and Canadian sides of the Falls have the capacity to produce up to 2.4 million kilowatts of electricity. It wasn’t until 1909 when the Boundary Waters Treaty was signed by Canada and the U.S. This treaty prohibited either country from polluting shared waters and over time, many of these factories and mills were dismantled so that the beauty could be restored.
Now back to the tour. We then took a 175-foot elevator down to a tunnel where you again, receive a yellow rain poncho. Then, you begin taking your series of redwood steps to platforms along the way, until you get to within 20 feet of the thundering falls at the torrent-hugging “Hurricane Deck”. It feels like you are in the center of a tropical storm, with large amounts of water and 60 mph winds coming at you from all directions.
We learned that the decking to get to the falls is removed each Fall due to the potential damage caused by ice buildup, and then reinstalled each spring by park officials. The decking is not secured to the rocks below by bolts but simply wedged into the rock crevices. It must be quite something to witness such an undertaking. With such a large volume of water coming through, we’re not sure how they get around that. They must have to divert the water somehow.
After quite a thrill ride it was time to head back, but first a trip to the grocery for a few items for our hamburger dinner. We were surprised at the limitations in grocery stores in the area. We only found 1 which was in a very sketchy part of Niagara Falls. Let’s just say, you didn’t want to take your time purusing every aisle. This led me to look up statistics on Niagara Falls and found out that it is the 40th most dangerous city in all of the U.S. 😲I think we’ll be staying closer to our campground and Niagara Falls State Park. At least there is a camp store nearby so we might have to get a little creative with meals of canned beans and rice.