Niagara Falls, Ontario

We knew we were in for some wet weather at Niagara Falls so we booked in there for 4 nights as we wanted to see the falls on a sunny day.  Typically, the mornings were nice and the afternoons rainy and stormy.  We were staying at a nice quiet campsite on the St Lawrence river, 10 km’s upstream from the falls.  This is a wide and fast flowing river and as we looked across the river at land on the other side we were actually looking at a large island with the other half of the river on the other side-the flow of water along this river is incredible.

We were staying on a road called the Niagara Parkway that runs along the river to the falls.  This is a country setting and there were some spectacular houses on huge sections along here and it made for an interesting cycle ride.  Many of these houses had boats moored on the river although we rarely saw one being used.  I can’t imagine how it can be pleasurable to be boating on a fast flowing river, knowing that if you have engine failure you are going to quickly drift to the falls! This happened about ten years ago. A man was boating with two children. They had engine failure, got into the rapids, the boat turned over and they fell in. The man drowned, the girl managed to grab ahold of something and was rescued, the boy went over the falls! Luckily, he survived infact, he wasn’t even injured.  He’s the only known person to fall over the falls and survive.  Of course other crazy people have gone over in barrels etc, personally I can’t see the attraction.

Over 5000 bodies have been found at the foot of the falls since 1850 and about 40 people a year ‘choose’ to go over knowing they won’t survive!

Here are some funny photos we saw of people acting as though they are going over…

 

We drove into the falls on our first day to check out the parking etc and then went onto the vineyards looking to buy some nice chardonnay.  The Niagara region is on a similar latitude to southern California and the wine growing regions of France so the climate is good for wine, except they produce more sav’s and pinot’s.  We had a few tastings but didn’t buy any, we thought the chardonnay’s were yuk!

The next day we drove back to the falls, parked for the day-$25! And explored.  You can view the falls from the US or the Canadian side and undoubtedly the Canadian side is the best as you are lower down and have a great view of the horseshoe shaped fall.  On the US side you are higher and the access looks more tricky, having to view the falls from an island.

Tourist crowds were thick all along the viewing areas by the falls, you literally had to wait your turn to get along side the wall.

We are not great fans of these touristy crowds and find it all a bit frustrating and tiring but we managed to get some good viewing time in.  The falls are magnificent in the shear volume of water that floods over them, they are the most powerful falls in North America, it’s hard to believe these falls freeze over during as especially cold winter.  The colour of the water was beautiful to see, a lovely emerald green, this is created by the fast flow of the water grinding the rocks and creating flock flour.  We have this same event in our glacial fed lakes in NZ, but there the rock flour turns the water turquoise blue.

   

Despite their beauty and magnificence, you can only look at the falls for so long before you have to consider them ‘seen’.

 

There are other ways to experience the falls, you can take a boat pretty close to the bottom of them but we thought you wouldn’t see much more and would get very wet, so we decided not to queue for a ticket.

 

You can also walk behind the falls. I thought this sounded very interesting, I assumed there was an undercut behind the falls-criminals on the run always hide behind waterfalls in the movies!!  However this is actually a walk through a tunnel system and part way along this tunnel is a cut out where you can see the falls-again we decided to pass on that.

The only touristy thing we did was to go up the SkyLon tower for an aerial view of the general region.  The falls looked very impressive from up there but it was so windy it was hard to stand up!

The first photo below shows the Bridal Veil  Falls on the US side, and the second photo is the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

 

Both Canada and the US use the falls to generate power. About 10% of the water flow is diverted to the power plants via an international control dam.  At night time the falls flow is further halved for power usage but of course it does not affect the power of the falls that the tourists expect to see.

We found the falls impressive but didn’t go back in for another look, the town of Niagara was a bit touristy and commercial, unappealing.

After leaving the region I saw some images of the falls at nighttime and I rather wish we had gone in for a night time peak as they light the falls up, and that could have looked rather good.

The campsite we stayed in had an arch type structure you had to drive through to get in and out.  Driving in S had only about 2 cm clearance on the sides and top, but he drove in with no issues.  I couldn’t believe it when I looked up and saw him driving through!!  On our way back out we took it slowly as the low side of the arch was on the high side of the coach, again with only 2 cms to spare, but this time with me up the ladder at the back and radio contact, just about the whole campsite turned out to watch.  He’s such a good driver, didn’t need my help!!

Leaving the Niagara region meant leaving Canada for us. There was about an hours delay getting through the border, and we are now in upper state NY as we start our drive south west.