Day 16. Niagara Falls

In which we look at, sail up to, walk around underneath, and look at the river flowing out from, Niagara Falls. Today is all about the Falls. Mostly.

Be careful Mr Cow!

We got up pretty early to get a good start at a pretty full slate of Falls-related activity, starting with the traditional boat ride. Tourist tip – grabbing a quick breakfast and coffee at the coffee shop in the hotel lobby was eye-wateringly expensive even by tourist-trap standards. Maybe stock something from a supermarket to keep in your hotel fridge if you’re passing by one.

Anyway, heading along the clifftop to the ramp down to water level to get to our boat, what did we see?

More like Maid in the mist, right?

Not gonna lie, this is one of my favourite photos from the day, and Niagara Falls is pretty darn photogenic. The quite large ferry made tiny, tiny! by the enormity of the falls, lost in a sea of mist and the tremendous sheen of the early morning sun on the water.

Down at water level awaits the dock. “Maid of the Mist” is the ferry that leaves from the American side of the falls; the Canadian one is the much less romantically named “Niagara City Cruises“. There’s a wide, not-too-steep ramp heading down from cliff level and an elevator if you’re not feeling so energetic. We walked down the ramp getting to the boat, and elevated up coming back.

And from water level you get a dramatic view of the falls.

Our ferry took us along the American side, getting close up and personal with the American Falls (on the left of the photo) and Bridal Veil Falls (the very thin falls to the right of the photo, barely separated from the American Falls. You’d have to be told to know they were separate).

Tourists are provided with ponchos (red if you are on a Canadian boat, blue if American, of course), because it will get wet, and, yes, make sure you are careful with your phone or camera. Gladly my trusty Samsung S-something, I forget exactly which one I had then, S5 I think?, was water-resistant.

And you get pretty close up to Horseshoe falls too, see the photo near the top of this page. This is as close a photo as we got though; there’s a line where water-resistant stops and common sense starts, and that’s when you put your phone in your pocket and just enjoy the ride. Which was … I mean, I’m needing to break out the thesaurus here. Niagara falls is immense beyond human capacity to understand; stunning in its power, spectacular in its aspect.

Boat ride over, we moseyed on up to the top again, okay, elevated, and walked along the cliff rim (safely behind large railings as you can see, don’t worry) to a point just past the falls. And again; awesome, magnificent, a constant movement through repeating patterns of flow. We stood there and just watched, trying to absorb the spectacle.

Okay. Watched and took some photos. This is, I think, my second most favourite snap of the day. Something about that light on the water really works for me.

Also on our agenda was the “Journey Behind the Falls“. CAD24 (as of the time of writing) gets you access to a series of tunnels behind the falls with some interesting (if rather obscured by falling water) views out, and some interesting placards of falls-related facts.

More interesting than the tunnels, though, is what they lead to – an observation deck halfway up, or down depending on how you like to look at things I guess, with even more <reaches for thesaurus> compelling sense of the size and power of nature. You don’t get much closer than this short of going over the falls on a barrel. Which is frowned upon.

Speaking of going over the cliffs on a barrel, one of the other favourite Niagara Falls tricks is walking over it on a tightrope. The oldey-timey thrillseekers didn’t do it over the falls as such, that was far too wide to do using 19th century ropes (although that has been done more recently using 21st century ropes). They did it over Niagara Gorge, a few kilometres downstream and easily reached by local commuter bus. A ramp leads down from cliff level to just above river level, where White Water Walk runs alongside for some distance and provides some great views of the river.

All the water that comes over the falls has to go somewhere, and this is where.

Millenia of water flow have carved out a great gorge. Which, again, when you get close, is magnificent and no little bit scary.

The water flow generates standing waves that rise feet above water level. The gorge is a Class VI rapid, which is defined as “constant threat of death because of extreme danger”.

Yep, sounds about right.

A busy morning of boating, tunneling and white-water walking had given us an appetite for a late-ish lunch. A few blocks from the waterfront is a Works Burger store. Yes, it’s a franchise, but a good burger and a cold beer is a nice lunch even if there are dozens of other identical stores across Canada.

Doreen, attempting to be healthy, ordered the All Dressed Salad, which is a beef patty on a salad. I think she underestimated the amount of bacon that might come with it.

I had the Blues Burger with an elk patty, because as I always say, when in Canada, eat elk! The elk was lean and gamey, as you would expect, and the blue cheese dressing on it worked very well.

Ah, Canada. Even your condiments are foreign and exotic. “Ketchup aux tomates”, what on earth might that be?

Lunch dealt with, we had a few hours to kill and wandered up to the Niagara Falls Military Museum. Built in the old militia armory*, it’s a pretty good example of an amateur local museum. There aren’t spectacular tanks and aircraft, but lots of personal kit, small arms and artifacts donated by the local people who went to war, and in some cases if they didn’t come back, by their families.

We had to phone the number on the sign out front to get let in; the local volunteers were inside, hard at work, but had forgotten to unlock the door. When we were in we had a good chat, and bonded over the fact that British leadership in the Second World War had badly mistreated both Canadian and Australian troops. Ah, Britain; bringing people together through shared grudges.

* Remember, the US and Britain had been to war in the 18th and 19th centuries, and as recently as 1866 there was an attempted (if hilariously incompetent) invasion of Canada by Irish rebels operating from the US, so having armed forces on the border was a natural thing to do.

Dinner that night was at the Queen Victoria Place Restaurant, which has a fantastic view of the falls at dusk.

The food was okay, but honestly I would go there for a drink to enjoy the sunset and eat somewhere else.

So, Niagara Falls. A giant tourist trap, yes. Also one of the great wonders of the natural world. I wish I’d saved some superlatives for now to wrap it up, but I’m all out. It’s magnificent, and well worth a trip.

Tomorrow we hit the road again and see the American Rivendell.

Comments Off on Day 16. Niagara Falls