Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States; more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York.
Address: Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Flow rate: 84,760 cubic feet per second
Bridges: Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Rapids Bridge
Niagara Falls is rich with fascinating history, from battles, to daredevils, the history of Niagara Falls is interesting. Visitors are often surprised by Niagara’s fascinating history and rich cultural heritage. The War of 1812 was a turning point in Niagara Falls history, when the fledgling United States army fought British Loyalists for the new lands that would become Canada. Niagara historical sites, battlefields, museums and military re-creations are a memorable journey into the past.
From Fort Erie, south of Niagara Falls, to Niagara-on-the-Lake, north of Niagara Falls, you can visit the past, carefully restored and recreated. At Fort Erie, authentically dressed guides in 1812 period costume re-create life in this former British garrison. Fort Erie was also an entry point for freedom-seeking black slaves escaping persecution in the U.S. The point of entry into Canada from Buffalo, across the Niagara River, was known as “The Crossing” and the start of the Freedom Trail, part of the Underground Railroad.
There are innumerable stops for those interested in the history of the area including Brock’s Monument, a tribute to the British General who lost his life at the Battle of Queenston in 1812; Old Fort Niagara with fortifications from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries; and Fort George, the British headquarters during the War of 1812.
History of Niagara Falls
Since its formation more than 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls has been a destination for world explorers, honeymooners and daredevils alike. Today, visitors flock to the region to be awe-inspired by the beauty and power of Niagara.
Niagara Falls has an extensive history dating back hundreds of years. The Falls were first discovered by French explorer Father Louis Hennepin in December 1678 and the Niagara USA region soon became a French stronghold, as they built forts at the mouth of the Niagara River, which is now modern day Old Fort Niagara.
Niagara Falls was the birthplace of commercial hydro-electric power. In Niagara USA, Nikola Tesla developed the alternating current system, which allowed for the transmission of power generated along the Niagara River to homes and businesses. In 1895 one of the world’s first commercial hydropower plants was constructed.
The Power of the Falls
The potential power of Niagara Falls attracted industrialists who worked to harness its force using water wheels to drive their mills and factories. The world’s first large-scale hydroelectric generating station opened in Niagara Falls in 1895. The plant used the direct current (DC) system, however, which could only transmit electricity 100 yards.
In 1896, the famous electrical engineer Nikola Tesla proved that he could transmit electric from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, New York, using his new alternating current (AC) induction motor. That marked the first long distance commercial use of the AC system that is still used around the world today. The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center is located above the site of the Schoellkopf Power Station, from which electricity was first sold as a commodity.
Hydroelectricity is one of Niagara Falls’ most important products. Together, power plants on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls have the capacity to produce up to 2.4 million kilowatts of electricity. Under an international treaty, the flow of water over Niagara Falls is reduced during the night to allow more of the water to flow into the intakes used for power generation. This plan ensures that the Falls’ natural beauty remains unaffected during prime viewing hours.
Niagara Animals, Flora and Fauna
Audubon designated the Niagara River Corridor as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 1996, the first internationally recognized area in the world. The river supports thousands of wintering gull and waterfowl species.
The lower Niagara River supports one of New York State’s endangered fish, the Lake Sturgeon.
The Niagara River ecosystems support many of New York State’s protected animal species, such as the Lake Sturgeon, Peregrine Falcon, and American Bald Eagle.
The Niagara River Gorge is home to 14 species of rare plants, some threatened and endangered.
In 1901, 140 of the 170 trees native to western New York were found growing on Goat Island.
The total number of flora species documented on Goat Island over the last two centuries is just over 600.
Where is Niagara Falls?
The waterfalls of Niagara Falls are located on the Niagara River which connects two of the five Great Lakes. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Collectively the waterfalls are named Niagara Falls. They consist of three different waterfalls. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls in the USA and the Canadian “Horseshoe” Falls in Canada.
The Niagara River serves as an international border between the USA & Canada. There are two distinctive cities. Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada, and Niagara Falls New York, United States of America.
Niagara Falls Starting Point
The water starts off in North America, coming from streams and rivers that empty into 5 out of the 6 Great Lakes; Michigan, Superior, Huron, St. Clair and Erie. These lakes drain a large part of North America, flowing down through the Great Lakes basin from West to East. The water makes its way to Niagara River, which interestingly flows north!
Down the Falls
From the Niagara River, the water passes over the falls, before flowing around 23km (14 miles) north into the final of the Great Lakes; Lake Ontario. From here there is yet another river, the St. Lawrence, and then it’s final resting place in the form of the Atlantic Ocean. If you were to follow the flow of water from it’s starting point in Lake Michigan, all the way to the end, it would take at least 15 hours.
Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S. Established in 1885 as the Niagara Reservation, it was the first of several such reservations that eventually became the cornerstones to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Frederick Law Olmsted was a visionary for Niagara Falls State Park. He also designed Central Park in New York City.
Niagara Falls State Park stretches over 400 acres, with close to 140 acres of that underwater.
Green Island, situated between Goat Island and the mainland, was named after Andrew Green, first president of the commission at the State Reservation at Niagara. He was a very prominent professional in New York City and was critical to the construction of Central Park, as well as the planning of northern Manhattan and today’s Bronx. Green helped establish great cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Natural History®, Metropolitan Museum of Art®, and the Bronx Zoo®, and most importantly, led the Greater New York movement that joined the municipalities around Manhattan Island into today’s 5-borough city.
Three Sisters Islands were named after the daughters of Parkhurst Whitney, a hotelman and prominent local citizen. The daughter’s names were Asenath, Angeline, and Celinda Eliza.
A statue of Chief Clinton Rickard, who was the founder of the Indian Defense League in 1926, can be found near the Great Lakes Gardens in Niagara Falls State Park.
Facts about Niagara Falls
- The Falls at Niagara are about 12,000 years old
- Falls were formed when melting glaciers formed massive fresh-water lakes (the Great Lakes) one of which (Lake Erie) ran downhill toward another (Lake Ontario). The rushing waters carved out a river in their descent and at one point passed over a steep cliff like formation (the Niagara escarpment). From the original falls going over the Niagara Escarpment, the water began to wear its way back up the river. The path that it left is known today as the Niagara Gorge (a deeply-cut and very scenic river path).
- Currently, Niagara Falls wears its way back another approximately 1 foot/year.
- The Niagara River flows at approximately 35 miles/hour (56.3 kilometers/hour).
- There are actually two waterfalls in Niagara, the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
- It is the combination of height and water flow that makes Niagara Falls so beautiful.
- The Horseshoe Falls are 180 feet (57 meters) high and allow 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water over the crestline every minute during peak daytime tourist hours (that is about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!).
- Man-made attractions of Niagara Falls include Maid of the Mist, Table Rock Scenic Tunnels, Spanish Aero Car, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, Marineland, Casino Niagara, IMAX Theatre, and the new Butterfly Conservatory.
- In 1959, the face of Niagara was changed when Louis Tussaud’s English Wax Museum was opened.
- Niagara Falls was an area early settled and vigorously active in Canada’s formative years.
- The Minolta Tower rises 325 feet above the Horseshoe Falls.
- Skylon Tower rises 775 feet above the Falls.
- In 1960, Roger Woodward was the boy who had survived a descent over the Falls after a boating accident above the Falls.
- Hydro Electricity generated in Niagara Falls at the Sir Adam Beck 1 and Sir Adam Beck 2 power stations from redirected waterflow serves the electrical needs of Southern Ontario and Western New York.
- Blondin was a funambulist (tight-rope walker) who performed numerous crossings of the gorge in Niagara Falls during the mid-1800s.
- Blondin performed endless stunts on the high-wire, from crossing blindfolded to carrying a cooking stove and preparing an omelet on the high wire.
- Most spectacularly, was the stunt during which Blondin carried on his back Harry Colcord his 148-pound manager August 19, 1859.
- Annie Taylor “Queen of the Mist”, a school teacher from Bay City Michigan was the first person to travel over the Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901.
- Since her feet, many stunt artists have challenged the mighty Falls usually in home-made barrel-like contraptions.
- More recently, a couple of foolhardy individuals have attempted to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls in a kayak and a jet ski – they both perished.
- Niagara Falls’ night time illumination makes a visitation to Niagara a spectacular event at all times of the day.
- Ice bridges from below the Falls when ice floes travel over the edge and collect at the base of the Falls.
- Niagara Falls Ontario Canada is known as the Honeymoon Capital of the world.
- The word Niagara comes from the word “onguiaahra” which means “a thundering noise”.
- “Uncle Toms Cabin”, a famous novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe was partly inspired by the writers trip to Niagara Falls and her subsequent interest in Reverend Josiah Henson who smuggled runaway slaves across the Niagara River into Canada.
- Until 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was erected, the Falls at Niagara were the symbol of America and the New World. Visitors from all over the world targeted Niagara as a must-see during a visit to North America.
- The Spanish Aero car ride provides a spectacular trip across the famed Whirlpool Rapids a few miles down from the actual waterfalls.
- Water is redirected from traveling over the Falls in order to drive large hydro-electric turbines that produce electricity for Southern Ontario and Western New York State.
- An “Old Scow” (a steel barge) remains stranded a few hundred meters above the Falls and has been marooned there since August 6, 1918, when a near tragedy was averted by three men who opened the dumping hatches of the barge to let water in and ground the out-of control boat.
- One of the largest Butterfly Conservatories in North America has been added to Niagara’s growing list of attractions.
- Water that flows over the Falls at Niagara ultimately ends up in Lake Ontario – from there, water drains by way of the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.
- One of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 took place on July 25, 1814, at Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ontario… A total of 7500 Americans and Canadians fought for six hours. At the end, 1,000 soldiers lay dead or wounded.
- The 20th Century Fox Movie, “Niagara” starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1952.
- In March of 1848, the waters stopped flowing over Niagara’s famous cliff when the Niagara River was plugged temporarily at the mouth of the river in Fort Erie, Ontario.
- Niagara Falls is steeped in history and was one of the most popular and busiest New World visiting spot.
- Water painting artists embraced this City’s natural wonders as a source for their artistic inspirations – there exist hundreds of these early impressions – consult your local library for reference to these early images.
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