North America’s most powerful waterfall
I have to admit I find waterfalls fascinating. I think they are among nature’s most impressive, visceral objects, offering us a glimpse of forces and energy that otherwise we would never see. Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate and vertical height (188 feet). The volume of water and the flow rate peaks in late spring or early summer – it can reach an impressive 225,000 cubic feet per second – and this is when the falls are at their most magnificent, although I find them beautiful at any time of the year.
The falls were formed when glaciers receded at the end of the last ice age and water from the newly formed Great Lakes sculpted a path through the Niagara Escarpment on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Besides delighting us with their outstanding beauty, the falls also have an important role in providing hydroelectric power and the people charged with taking care of them have to balance industrial and commercial uses with recreational ones, as they have done since the 19th century.
A fine history of thrill seekers
Of course, as well as being a magnet for honeymooners and tourists, Niagara Falls is also well known for the many daredevil feats and stunts carried out there over the decades. As far as I know, the earliest one recorded was in 1829 when Sam Patch, aka The Yankee Leapster, plunged from a high tower into the falls, and lived to tell the tale. Then there is the long list of people who tried for fame and fortune by going over the falls in a barrel, starting with schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor in 1901. She survived but recommended that no-one else try the same stunt. Attempting this is now illegal on both sides of the border, but that hasn’t stopped people from jumping or trying to swim the rapids.
You’ve got to admire those folks who have made it their goal to cross the gorge instead of taking the watery route. Tightrope walkers include French-born acrobat Charles Blondin (1859) and rival William Hunt, aka The Great Farini, from Ontario. Tightrope walking was made illegal in 1896 yet both the Canadian and US governments gave permission for Nik Wallenda to walk across the falls in June 2012. He left from the US and was asked for - and produced - his passport when he reached Canada!
Thrilling activities at Niagara Falls
You don’t have to climb into a barrel or walk across the gorge at Niagara Falls today to get an adrenaline rush –I, and thrill seekers from all over the world, have discovered there are plenty of thrill seeking activities available if you’re prepared to embrace the unknown.
The Journey behind the Falls attraction does exactly what I imagined – it takes you behind the cascading torrents of water. First you descend in an elevator for about 150 feet, and then walk along a tunnel for another 150 feet. At the end of the tunnel you’re greeted by the thunderous sound and the truly awe-inspiring view from behind the wide curtains of water. This iconic experience will stay with me forever – luckily I brought my waterproof camera and the shots I took are amazing.
To gain an entirely different perspective, taking a helicopter ride over the falls is spectacular and exhilarating and I was delighted that the flight takes you over all three waterfalls at close range. You start with the smallest, Bridal Veil, and end with the largest, Horseshoe Falls, where there is so much water that you can see a permanent rainbow. That was another great photograph!
Take a rousing ride down the Niagara River on an open-air Whirlpool Jet Boat – just be prepared to hold on tight and get very wet indeed. This is a boisterous, wet and wild tour through the white waters of the Niagara Whirlpool. As a classy follow-up to the river adventure, and especially if planning to eat out, why not take a trip on the fabulous paddle wheeler, Niagara Belle, which offers a more leisurely cruise along the Niagara River - and you can have a delightful dinner on board.
We’ve all got to eat and sleep when on a visit to Niagara Falls and hotels here are plentiful and easy to access. There is good availability when it comes to parking. Whether you’re looking for budget accommodation or a touch of luxury, Niagara Falls has something to suit every taste.
Summer of Thrills
From June 27th through September 1st 2014, the Niagara Summer of Thrills is underway. This is a remarkable stunt show featuring Enrique Valencia from Texas. He has temporarily relocated to Niagara Falls for ten weeks so he can share his daredevil acts with us, performing two different types of stunts daily (except Wednesdays and Thursdays) for ten minutes each time, four times a day.
Perched on top of the ten-story Imperial Hotel on Victoria Avenue, Valencia has erected the so-called Wheel of Fate – a revolving wheel that he uses for a variety of stunts. He also rides a motorcycle across a high wire while his assistant, who is suspended beneath him, performs acrobatic routines. The show includes circus performers – acrobats as well as fire and chainsaw jugglers.
Niagara Falls is one of those amazing attractions that has something to offer all year round – after all, the falls don’t take a vacation, they are always there and always in fine fettle. Whether you want to go behind them, stand in front of them, view them from the river or from the air, they are sure to delight and dazzle you, just as they fascinate me.