Niagara Falls

[Ontario's Niagara Falls]

When Oscar Wilde saw the falls ~ there's actually two: Goat Island splits the river into the American Falls and Canada's Horseshoe Falls ~ he's supposed to have called them the second-greatest disappointment for honeymooning couples. But Wilde specialized in outrageous remarks, and disappointment is probably not what you'll feel when you're standing by the iron fence right where the riverbed drops away and the water, with the weight of the four Great Lakes behind it, plummets 49 metres (160 feet) to the rocks below, or when you've boarded the Maid of the Mist below the falls and are moving through foaming water toward that very white torrent. Too bad that "awesome" is now applied to football passes and the latest video game; this is one place where that word really fits.

Incredibly, it all stopped one night in March 1948. On the 29th, local residents went to bed as usual but, the way most of us wake up at an unexpected noise, were startled awake by the unexpected silence. The river wasn't running and the falls weren't falling. The curious prowled the empty riverbed, the industrious blasted rocks that had been scraping the Maid of the Mist's hull, and the fearful went to church to prepare for the end of the world. Freak weather conditions had clogged up the river with ice between Fort Erie and Buffalo, but by April 1st the jam broke up and Niagara Falls returned to normal. (Ice booms keep this particular bit of history from repeating itself.)

[The Niagara Falls Cable Car]

You can look up at the falls from an observation deck or down on the falls from an observation tower or a chartered plane or helicopter. Or, several kilometres below the falls, you can ride the Spanish Aero Car over the bay that the river has carved as it makes a 90-degree turn. Designed by a Spanish engineer ~ hence the name ~ it has been carrying sightseers since 1916. The cable car travels the equivalent of five football fields each way, and it's interesting how sturdy cables can start to seem pretty thin as you're dangling high above a whirlpool.

Beyond the whirlpool the river moves on to Lake Ontario, broadening and slowing and showing little evidence of the turmoil it has left behind.

[A Niagara River Scene]

When you can't stare at nature's tremendous spectacle any longer, there's an incredible banquet of sights and activities in and around the city of Niagara Falls ~ the area entertains 12 million visitors each year. If you haven't seen enough water at the falls, there's Marineland Canada. For other liquids, visit the area's wineries. For drier delights, choices range from the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden to museums and exhibits that commemorate an amazing variety of people and events, from battles fought along the Niagara during the War of 1812 to the daredevils/idiots who feel compelled to hurl themselves over the falls, and even Elvis Presley ~ he does pop up everywhere. And a butterfly conservatory and a casino are slated to be open this fall. If you're not careful, you'll be too busy to spend any time at the falls or in your heart-shaped bathtub!

For more information, contact the Niagara Falls, Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau; phone 1-905-356-6061 or 1-800-56FALLS; fax 1-905-356-5567; E-mail; Internet site

Your comments are welcome at "dhaaheim at telus dot net"

Http:// -- Revised: July 25, 2010
Copyright © 1996

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