Travel - Locations
By: - at March 2, 2015

Top 15 Interesting Facts about Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the World, and easily compares with other famous attractions like the Giza Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower. Unlike these other famous locations, however, Niagara Falls is not man-made. Each year, millions of tourists are drawn to the falls and make it a point to vacation here. Over the years a viable tourist trade has grown up around the Falls and in the surrounding communities. It is responsible for drawing in more visitors each year and for bringing in more commerce to the area.

American Side and Bridal Veil Falls - furthest to right
Niagara Falls American Side

Even though Niagara is not the largest falls in the world (that privilege belongs to the Victoria Falls in Africa), they are the most popular, especially for couples; they even have the nickname ďThe Honeymoon CapitalĒ. Thatís what the official website says at least, but maybe they were trying to boost up sales. If you are not the romantic type, but still want to know what the Niagara Falls have to offer, and what makes them so special, here is your list of interesting things about them. Surely at least one or two of them will get your interest, and if you canít afford a trip, there is always the fact that you can watch one of the live webcams and pretend you are there.

Canadian Side - "Horseshoe" Falls
Canadian Side or "Horseshoe" Falls


15)  Water Hoarders
You might have heard that only one percent of the planetís water is freshwater. In reality, the number is a bit more favorable, and itís around two percent. The only problem is that most of it is either in the glaciers or underground. So, if you are thinking about the water in lakes and rivers, then the real number is a measly 0.01 percent. But be happy if you ever decide to move near Niagara Falls, because the Great Lakes contain a whopping 21 percent of the earth's freshwater.

great lakes basin

That is a lot of water just in itself, but when you keep in mind that most of that water courses through the Niagara Falls, when you are standing in front of them, you are witnessing a fifth of the worldís drinking water fall into an abyss of thunderous roars and mist. If that doesnít put things into perspective for you, little else will.

American and Bridal Veil Falls
American and Bridal Veil Falls

The Great Lakes are so massive, that walking along the shores is the same distance as walking half of the Earthís equator. It might take you a bit, so make sure you have comfortable shoes on if you give it a try.


14)  Americaís Oldest State Park
The Niagara Falls State Park was created in the year 1875, which is an impressively long time ago. The story of how this happened, and that would later lead to other national parks to pop up all around the states, is all about sticking it to the man.

Americaís Oldest State Park

Back then, taking advantage of the natural resources that the falls provided was A-Okay, and many industrialists did so with gleeful, carefree greediness, building mills and factories galore. However, some early environmentalists noticed that it was a really bad idea to destroy one of the most beautiful spots on the continent to make some bucks. In 1860 they started protesting and created the Free Niagara movement. After fifteen years of protests, the New York state government finally listened to them and purchased the lands, creating the Niagara Falls State Park.

By the way, the name of the movementís leader was Frederick Law Olmsted, the man that designed Central Park.

Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted
Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted


13)  Tropical Storm Simulator
The Falls have lot more to see than just a lot of water falling and being really noisy. Aside from the whole natural park that you can visit, you can get really intimate with the falls and visit its nether regions. Thatís the Niagara Gorge, of course.

Niagara River Basin in Niagara Gorge
Niagara River Basin in Niagara Gorge
By Zwergelstern via Wikimedia Commons

All you have to do is take a 175-foot trip down the falls in an elevator, and you will find yourself in the middle of a tropical storm. Due to the mist constantly emanating from the falling water, there is always a faint rain falling down in the Gorge, and you can parade all around it. The parkís resort offers you a nice poncho and sandals, and has a wooden plank walkway installed during the warmer months of the year so you can see how life is down there for the local wild life; from the plants that grow down there to all of the different raining fish.

Niagara Whirlpool along Niagara Gorge
Niagara Whirlpool along Niagara Gorge
By Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons

Well, perhaps itís not exactly raining fish, but you have to admit that itís really impressive that fish actually jump down the falls when swimming down-stream, and 90 percent of them survive. The other ten percent must be the easiest dinner a bear could ever have, almost like getting take-out pizza. Or at least it would be if there were any bears around. Letís hope there are no bears around.


12)  Look at the Pretty Colors
Watching the falls by daylight is really impressive, but donít think that the fun ends when the sun sets. In an effort to make water more exciting, even when itís dark, the park installed some flashlights all the way on the other side of the falls to light them up at night. These are the kind of flashlights strong enough to blind an alien mother ship and make them curse at you as they fly by. They are really potent, but they are also of many different colors, and when they are reflected in the mist and the shimmering waters of the falls, it becomes a spectacle worth blinding a million extra terrestrials.

But no worries if you are the kind that likes to see things explode, because in summer, you can see fireworks every Friday and Sunday night. Now that talk about the falls being such a romantic place starts to make some sense. And if you feel patriotic, you can pretend itís the Fourth of July every weekend of the summer and have an excuse to wear a flag shirt at all times, if you ever feel inclined to do such thing, but at the same time you need a way to justify yourself.

Niagara Falls (American Falls) From US Side
Niagara Falls (American Falls) From US Side
By Sujit kumar via Wikimedia Commons


11)  Hold on, Mate
Daredevils trying to best Mother Nature are nothing new, and when you remember that the Niagara Falls are the second tallest falls in the world, itís only normal that they would attract a lot of wannabe famous, or just plain unconscious people trying to earn their fifteen minutes of fame, or just get an adrenaline high.

Tourists Posing for Barrel Photograph
Tourists Posing for Barrel Photograph

In the past there were many of the first kind; for example, the first person to survive a fall inside a barrel. It was not a brave man, but a 63-year-old schoolteacher that wished to make herself famous. She survived with just some good bruises, but sadly, she died as poor as it can get.

Another famous daredevil was a man named Charles Blondin, who just thought that it was too boring to simply cross over the falls on a tight rope. So, to add some excitement, he crossed, with her manager who was twice his size getting a piggy bag ride. No wonder he had to stop for a rest midway.

Daredevil Charles Blondin born in 1824
Daredevil Charles Blondin born in 1824

In the last decade, two people died trying to best the falls, one of them was a man that jumped off the falls with a watercraft and whose parachute failed. An Egyptian tourist was able to take a picture of the impacting moment, which hopefully will help discourage future jumpers.





10)  When Hell Freezes Over
Usually, the strength of the fallsí water crashing down is too strong that it flippantly ignores winterís attempts to make it stop. Even in the coldest days of the year, the Niagara Falls never completely freeze and water is always falling. Of course, the water flow can slow down, and the riversides freeze every year; so much that it was a really popular activity to cross from one side to the other walking on the ice. That was banned a long time ago, so there is no need for you to get out your snow boots or skates.


By Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia Commons

However, as said before, it was a really popular practice back in the old days where safety was something nobody cared about; so when the only single day in history when the falls froze for good, you can be sure there was someone in there to take advantage of it.

Aerial View of the Niagara Falls
Aerial View of the Niagara Falls

One cold March day of 1848, an ice jam on the upstream of the river had the falls completely stopping, and you can be sure there was someone there to cross over the falls and take pictures. If Facebook had existed back then, it would have been posted on everyoneís wall.


9)  Cleaning Up
There was actually one instance where the falls were completely stopped, and it wasnít just for a few hours, either. In fact, it was for quite a while longer: several months longer. This miracle didnít happen because God really wanted a white Christmas that year and went overboard with the snow either, but because of manís work. Back in the year 1969, they completely stopped the flow of the river to oversee an important project.

American Falls During Winter
American Falls During Winter

What was that project? Well, they wanted to primp up the falls, cleaning up all of the accumulated sediments and loose rocks that had been dragged over the years from the Great Lakes and into the falls. This task was meant to make the waters flow better and generally improve the way the falls would look. Eventually though, and after months of looking really hard, they decided that it would cost too much money, and the project was dropped altogether. Itís interesting to note that they went through the trouble of making one fifth of the running freshwater in the world stop in order to study this problem, only to decide that it was too much effort. You already stopped the water! Taking out a few rocks couldnít be that much harder, Moses.

Canadian Side During the Winter
Canadian Side During the Winter


8)  The Goat Herder
This story sounds a bit like a fairy tale, one of those with a moral hidden thatís meant to teach children some important lesson about lifeÖ perhaps about not blaming your pet goat for eating your homework when you really didnít do it.

niagara falls and goat island

As it happens though, this is a true story about how Goat Island got its name. To get you up to date, Goat Island is an island that formed 500 years ago and that currently divides the falls in two. The island was former due to the accumulation of sediments that were dragged by the currents, and that had been part of the vanished lake Tonawanda. This newborn island was named after the goat herder John Stedman, who had all of his goats die - frozen to death during an especially cold winter back in the year 1780.

John Stedman and the falls

That actually makes no sense whatsoever; the story about the goats has absolutely no relation with the island, unless somehow the goats were in the island for some unexplained reason and got stuck until they became horned popsicles. It would be nice, if you happen to visit the area, to ask some locals more details about this one.


7)  Have a Good Swim
There is yet one story left of a daredevil that defied all logic and common sense and decided that jumping into the deadly waterfalls was a good idea and that it would be totally fun and awesome. This one brave soul is named Kirk Jones, a citizen of Michigan.

Niagara Daredevil Kirk Jones of Michigan
Niagara Daredevil Kirk Jones of Michigan

Kirk had been planning the stunt for a few years, but he ended up doing it in one moment of drunken spontaneity. In the middle of a visit to the falls with a friend, he decided that safety and planning were too boring for him, and he jumped into the river with nothing but the clothes on his back. He swam downstream and then fell the 175 feet down to the roaring waters below. Then, he emerged to the surface, likely having used up all of the good luck of his life, and after refusing a ride on a boat, swam to the shore and got out of the water on his own.

niagara falls

Risking his life and the 2.3 million dollar fine had to be worth it, as well as being banned from Canada for life. At least, it would have been if his friend hadnít been even drunker than him and didnít know how to make the camera work to record the feat. Better luck next time, Kirk! Oh waitÖ


6)  The Wheel Goes ĎRound and ĎRound
If the 175-foot-fall off the Niagara Falls doesnít quite cut it for you, and you want some extra height to make everything funny, congratulations, you would probably feel nothing watching the movie Vertigo. And you are also a lucky camper, because your wish can become true.

Clifton Hill's Infamous Skywheel overlooking the Falls
Clifton Hills' Skywheel overlooking the Falls

All you have to do to see the falls, not from the bottom of the Gorge, but exactly at 175 feet above the level of the falls, is get a ride on the Skywheel. This massive wheel is one of the bigger on the world, and it will grant you a sight of the falls that only birds should have, as well as one of the whole landscape. Itís also the perfect place to enjoy the lightshows displayed every night, or the fireworks if you get to plan ahead and book a trip during the weekend.

Skywheel all Lit Up at Night
Skywheel all Lit Up at Night

Itís a nice thing of the creators to make the gondolas completely closed and add air conditioning and heaters so you can stay warm and cozy even in the coldest months of the year. That way you donít have to freeze to death like poor Stedmanís goats.


5)  Uncle Tomís Cabin
The falls have inspired many artworks, with dozens of landscape artists flocking to them for a chance to capture their beauty, but itís not only images that they inspire. Famous novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe got inspired by them too. After one visit, she learned more about the history of the falls, and more precisely, about the story of Reverend Josiah Henson, and how he had smuggled escaped slaves through the falls from the Unite States to Canada. An escaped slave himself, the good reverend had become an author and abolitionist after becoming a free man and citizen of Canada. He earned some fame for inspiring Stoweís character; an escaped slave like the reverend that helped other slaves make it through the borders, and he used the chance to publish his own memories and become famous on his own merits.

Uncle Tom's Cabins at Stamford Centre Niagara Falls, Canada
Uncle Tom's Cabins at Stamford Centre Niagara Falls, Canada

If you are around the area, you sure can go see Hensonís cabin, which has been since then become an historic site, and where he lived until his death, or the Underground Railroads art gallery museum.


4)  More American than Apple Pie and Freedom
Whenever you think about that one perfect, clear image that instantly screams ďAmericaĒ; you can bet your britches that what comes to anyoneís mind is the Statue of Liberty. But as odd as it may seem nowadays, it wasnít always like that. The statue wasnít made and brought to New York until the year 1886.

Top of Skylon Tower
Top of Skylon Tower
By Rotatebot via Wikimedia Commons

So, before that, the national monument that was known as a symbol of all things American was the Niagara Falls. Everyone who visited the country was bound to come to the very top of it and see the falls, because if you didnít, you really hadnít visited the United States.

Skylon Tower and Revolving Restaurant Overlooking Falls
Skylon Tower and Revolving Restaurant Overlooking Falls

Itís amusing then, when you come to realize that only part of the Niagara Falls is really in USA territory. Because the falls are actually divided in two sections, one that is called the American falls and another called the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.


3)  The Camera Loves Them
The falls are such an impressive, recognizable landmark that movie directors canít stay away from them, and many have used them as background or as important plot devices for their movies. From having their own movie called, not surprisingly, Niagara, to showing up in the most super movie of them all, Superman with Christopher Reeve, Niagara Falls has spent plenty of time on the silver screen. Itís not only in movies of the last century that you can see the Niagara Falls featured either. If you pay close attention, you can spot them in disguise, making a cameo on the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Itís not only movie stars that love the Niagara Falls either. Even royalty canít stay away. Back in the year 1939 King George IV visited, and in the 1990s, it was Princess Dianaís turn to visit the enchanting place in the company of her two sons.

King George IV
King George IV

Princess Diana in 1995
Princess Diana in 1995


2)  Itís All About Bows
One of the best things of having a constant cloud of water vapor in the air is that when you mix it with light, you get one of the fanciest natural phenomena you can see when light decides to get fancy. Forget about going out to hunt down rainbows and hope you get lucky, because in Niagara Falls, they happen every day, all the time. Maybe it takes a bit of the chasing fun out of it, but itís also very convenient. Donít hope to see any leprechaun holding gold-filled cauldrons though.

rainbow over the falls

Before the year 1925 and the installation of the flashlights, if the night was clear you could enjoy the sight of moonlight rainbows, which are a rare occurrence. Sadly, since the lights were added, this is no longer possible.


1)  Miracles in the Water
Despite how deadly and treacherous a waterfall can be, and especially one of the Niagara Falls' size, there has been one case where someone (other than your dear friend Kirk) survived the fall. It happened in the year 1960, when a man called Honeycutt took two of his coworkerís kids, 17-year-old Deanne and 7-year-old Roger, for a boat trip around the falls.

Bad luck caused the motor to die out when they were a little too close to the fallís brink, and then the boat capsized. Deanne was lucky enough to be grabbed by a nearby rescuer before she could fall, but little Roger and Honeycutt plummeted down the whole 175 feet to the foamy waters below.

Canadian Side of Niagara (Horseshoe) Falls
Canadian Side of Niagara (Horseshoe) Falls

Honeycutt, sadly, died, but young Roger was wearing his life jacket, which his sister had put on him. He resurfaced and was rescued by one of the tourist boats that was around the area. Itís a miracle that such a young boy survived such a fall, but maybe he had a guardian angel that day with him.


Conclusion
Niagara Falls is really something worth seeing, and itís always nice to know a few facts beforehand. That way, you can better plan your trip, and you won't have to rely as heavily on the availability or expense of local tours. Just remember not to go overboard. You don't want to drive your friends or family nuts by playing know-it-all. That's almost as bad as being known as the person who makes everyone sit through a million and one vacation photos. Of course, having a couple of hundred quality pictures to show off is definitely reasonable. Bring your camera and snap enough of these pictures so that you'll be able to pick out some amazing ones after you explore the falls and the surrounding city.

Whether you just want to use your knowledge to pick the best spots for sightseeing, aim to try something more adventurous, or simply want to give more historical or cultural depth to your vacation, there are options for you at Niagara Falls. This beautiful and historic site is sure to take your breath away.



 

 

 

 

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