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Canada: Montreal, Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls (Visit 2), Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara on the Lake (Visit 2), Quebec City, Toronto, Toronto (Visit 2)
Niagara Falls, Canada: Thunder that tumbles
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Niagara Falls in itself is a destination. One can easily spend a night or two in this town that reverberates, day in and out, with the rumblings of the majestic Niagara Falls. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a night at Hotel Sheraton in a room that overlooked the falls. That night and like all other nights, the falls get illuminated by coloured flood lights that offers visitors a totally different experience. And as if that's not enough, there are fireworks. Eventually, the night sleeps, but I couldn't.
Anyway, this time round, I only had a few day-time hours to be at the falls. Our base was Toronto. Niagara Falls is just about a 2-hour drive. For our day trip, we had booked through Viator. Their local vendor, specialising in small-group tours, would be taking us around for the day. We would leave the city at 7:45 AM and would be back around 5:30 PM.
As scheduled, our minivan arrived at the corner of Front Street (our nearest pick-up point; barely a minute's walk from our hotel). In all, we were 16 in the group. The driver of the van was also our guide and narrator. He did a good job and kept us all well-informed and in good spirits.
Once we left the city limits behind, the landscape changed. On one side was the majestic Lake Ontario and on the other were fields that harvest a variety of fruit. The region is blessed with micro-climate that help grow fruit all along summer including strawberry, prunes, peaches, apples and grapes. However, the weather is not so favourable to grow citrus fruit like lemons and oranges.
Whenever discussions of Niagara Falls come up, the first question usually is from which side should one view the falls? Most swear by the Canadian side; while some back the American side. And the lucky ones who have visas of both the countries usually would view from both the sides! The Rainbow Bridge (I love to call it the Friendship Bridge) connects the 2 countries. The mid-point of the bridge is a good spot to see the best of both the worlds.
Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. From largest to smallest, they are Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Horseshoe Falls straddle the international border between Canada and the United States, while American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls lie entirely within the United States. Bridal Veil Falls are separated from Horseshoe Falls by Goat Island and from American Falls by Luna Island.
Our plan at the falls was to spend 45 minutes at the Horseshoe Falls and then we had a couple of hours on hand with the option to take a boat near the falls or visit the Skylon Tower. Since I had done the Maid of the Mist during my previous visit and because my wife was not too keen in getting wet, we opted to experience Skylon Tower.
Located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America that has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft). During peak daytime tourist hours, more than 168,000 m3 (six million cubic feet) of water goes over the crest of the falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate. Niagara Falls was formed when glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation (the last ice age), and water from the newly formed Great Lakes carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment en route to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Horseshoe Falls drop about 57 metres (187 ft), while the height of the American Falls varies between 21 and 30 metres (69 and 98 ft) because of the presence of giant boulders at its base. The larger Horseshoe Falls are about 790 metres (2,590 ft) wide, while the American Falls are 320 metres (1,050 ft) wide. The distance between the American extremity of the Niagara Falls and the Canadian extremity is 3,409 feet (1,039 m).
The peak flow over Horseshoe Falls was recorded at 6,400 cubic metres (230,000 cu ft) per second. The average annual flow rate is 2,400 cubic metres (85,000 cu ft) per second. Since the flow is a direct function of the Lake Erie water elevation, it typically peaks in late spring or early summer. During the summer months, at least 2,800 cubic metres (99,000 cu ft) per second of water traverses the falls, some 90% of which goes over the Horseshoe Falls, while the balance is diverted to hydroelectric facilities. This is accomplished by employing a weir – the International Control Dam – with movable gates upstream from the Horseshoe Falls. The falls' flow is further halved at night, and, during the low tourist season in the winter, remains a minimum of 1,400 cubic metres (49,000 cu ft) per second. Water diversion is regulated by the 1950 Niagara Treaty and is administered by the International Niagara Board of Control. The verdant green colour of the water flowing over the Niagara Falls is a byproduct of the estimated 60 tonnes / minute of dissolved salts and "rock flour" (very finely ground rock) generated by the erosive force of the Niagara River itself.
About 10,900 years ago, the Niagara Falls was between present-day Queenstown, Ontario, and Lewiston, New York, but erosion of their crest has caused the waterfalls to retreat approximately 6.8 miles (10.9 km) southward. The Horseshoe Falls, which are about 2,600 feet (790 m) wide, have also changed their shape through the process of erosion; evolving from a small arch to a horseshoe bend, to the present day gigantic V. Just upstream from the falls' current location, Goat Island splits the course of the Niagara River, resulting in the separation of the mostly Canadian Horseshoe Falls to the west from the American and Bridal Veil Falls to the east.
Engineering has slowed erosion and recession. The current rate of erosion is approximately 30 centimeters (1 ft) per year, down from a historical average of 0.91 m (3 ft) per year. According to the timeline of the far future, in roughly 50,000 years Niagara Falls will have eroded the remaining 32 kilometres (20 mi) to Lake Erie and will cease to exist! Thankfully, we and many of our generations to come, will be witness to this wonder.
After spending our scheduled time at various view-points of Horseshoe Falls, our van dropped the two of us at the Skylon Tower. All other guests had opted for the boat ride. We had 2-hours on hand... we would spend about 45 minutes at the observation deck of the towers and the rest we decided to spend viewing the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
The Skylon Tower is a observation tower, eatery, tourist attraction and a famous landmark on the Niagara Falls skyline. Rising 775 feet from the base of Niagara Falls, the Skylon Tower offers stunning views of both the American and Horseshoe Falls, as well as the rest of Niagara Falls. The entry to Skylon Towers is $15 per person. And a trip up is highly recommended since the view from the top offers a very different and rewarding perspective.
We left Niagara Falls at about noon. Our next stop was Niagara on the Lake but not before a brief stop at the Whirlpool Aero car a few kms. away but on the way.
The Whirlpool Aero car was designed by a Spanish engineer, Leonardo Torres Quevedo and has been in operation since 1916. The cable car is suspended from six sturdy cables and offers a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool which is formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turns abruptly counterclockwise and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.
High above the racing Niagara River, you'll be transported through the air in an antique cable car. Far below, the torrent of water abruptly changes direction and creates one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural phenomenon – the Niagara Whirlpool. Sometimes frightening and always unforgettable! The aerial cable car travels safely between two different points of the Canadian shore of the Niagara River over the spectacular Whirlpool. A round trip is about one kilometer (3,600 feet) and takes about 10 minutes to navigate. Since we didn't have the time, to take the actual ride, a few pictures kept us happy.
Niagara Falls Image Gallery Photo viewer
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