Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
The Niagara Falls are voluminous waterfalls on the Niagara River, straddling the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. State of New York. The falls are between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York.
Niagara Falls is composed of two major sections separated by Goat Island: the Horseshoe Falls (about 173 ft tall, 2,600 ft wide), which today is entirely on the Canadian side of the border, and the American Falls (between 70–100 feet tall, 1,060 feet wide) on the American side. The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also located on the American side, separated from the main falls by Luna Island.
Niagara Falls were 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. While not exceptionally high, the Niagara Falls are very wide. More than 6 million cubic feet of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow, and almost 4 million cubic feet on average. It is the most powerful waterfall in North America.
The Niagara Falls are renowned both for their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Managing the balance between recreational, commercial, and industrial uses has been a challenge for the stewards of the falls since the 19th century.
There are differing theories as to the origin of the name of the falls. "Niagara" is either derived from the name given to a branch of the locally residing native Neutral Confederacy, who are described as being called the "Niagagarega" people on several late 17th century French maps of the area. Or, it comes from the name of an Iroquois town called "Ongniaahra", meaning "point of land cut in two".
In 1848, demand for passage over the Niagara River led to the building of a footbridge and then Charles Ellet’s Niagara Suspension Bridge. This was supplanted by German-born John Augustus Roebling’s Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in 1855. After the American Civil War, the New York Central railroad publicized Niagara Falls as a focus of pleasure and honeymoon visits. With increased railroad traffic, in 1886, Leffert Buck replaced Roebling’s wood and stone bridge with the predominantly steel bridge that still carries trains over the Niagara River today. The first steel archway bridge near the falls was completed in 1897. Known today as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, it carries vehicles, trains, and pedestrians between Canada (through Canadian Customs Border Control) and the U.S.A. just below the falls. In 1941 the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission completed the third current crossing in the immediate area of Niagara Falls with the Rainbow Bridge, carrying both pedestrian and vehicular traffic between the two countries and Canadian and U.S. customs for each country.
On the Canadian side, Queen Victoria Park features manicured gardens, platforms offering spectacular views of both the American and Horseshoe Falls, and underground walkways leading into observation rooms which yield the illusion of being within the falling waters. The observation deck of the nearby Skylon Tower offers the highest overhead view of the falls, and in the opposite direction gives views as far as distant Toronto. Along with the Minolta Tower (formerly the Seagrams Tower, currently the Konica Minolta Tower), it is one of two towers in Canada with a view of the falls.
The Whirlpool Aero Car, built in 1916 from a design by Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, is a cable car which takes passengers over the whirlpool on the Canadian side. The Journey Behind the Falls —accessible by elevators from the street level entrance – consists of an observation platform and series of tunnels near the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Elevators descend 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels that lead and to the Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal which is one third of the way behind the massive sheet of water. One can walk on to the Upper and Lower Observation Decks at the very foot of the Falls.
There are two casinos on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. The former is situated in the Fallsview Tourist Area, alongside many of the area’s hotels, whilst the latter is adjacent to Clifton Hill, on Falls Avenue, a major tourist promenade.
The Maid of the Mist is a diesel-engined steamship boat that takes passengers from the Canadian docks, past the base of the American Falls, then into the basin of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Operating from late April/early May (weather dependent) to October 24 each year, the Maid departs every 15 minutes, and the ride lasts approximately 20 minutes. Two 600-passenger boats, Maids VI and VII, are each 80-feet long.
OVER THE FALLS:
In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself "the Yankee Leapster", jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived; this began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls. On October 24, 1901, 63-year-old Michigan school teacher Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel as a publicity stunt; she survived, bleeding, but virtually unharmed. Previous to Taylor’s own attempt, on October 19 a domestic cat named Iagara was sent over the Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength. Contrary to rumors at the time, the cat survived the plunge unharmed and later was posed with Taylor in photographs. Since Taylor’s historic ride, 14 other people have intentionally gone over the falls in or on a device, despite her advice. Some have survived unharmed, but others have drowned or been severely injured. Survivors of such stunts face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the falls.
Other daredevils have made crossing the Falls their goal, starting with the successful passage by Jean François "Blondin" Gravelet in 1859. These tightrope walkers drew huge crowds to witness their exploits. Their wires ran across the gorge, near the current Rainbow Bridge, not over the waterfall itself. Among the many was Ontario’s William Hunt, who billed himself as "The Great Farini" and competed with Blondin in performing outrageous stunts over the gorge. Englishman Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 after unsuccessfully trying to swim the rapids down river from the falls.
In the "Miracle at Niagara", Roger Woodward, a seven-year-old American boy, was swept over the Horseshoe Falls protected only by a life vest on July 9, 1960, as two tourists pulled his 17-year-old sister Deanne from the river only 20 feet from the lip of the Horseshoe Falls at Goat Island. Minutes later, Woodward was plucked from the roiling plunge pool beneath the Horseshoe Falls after grabbing a life ring thrown to him by the crew of the Maid of the Mist boat.
On July 2, 1984, Canadian Karel Soucek from Hamilton, Ontario successfully plunged over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel with only minor injuries. Soucek was fined $500 for performing the stunt without a license. In 1985, he was fatally injured while attempting to re-create the Niagara drop at the Houston Astrodome. His aim was to climb into a barrel hoisted to the rafters of the Astrodome and to drop 180 feet into a water tank on the floor. After his barrel released prematurely, it hit the side of the tank and he died the next day from his injuries.
In August 1985, Steve Trotter, an aspiring stunt man from Rhode Island, became the youngest person ever (age 22) and the first American in 25 years to go over the falls in a barrel. Ten years later, Trotter went over the falls again, becoming the second person to go over the falls twice and survive. It was also the second-ever "duo"; Lori Martin joined Trotter for the barrel ride over the falls. They survived the fall but their barrel became stuck at the bottom of the falls, requiring a rescue.
On September 28, 1989 Niagara’s own Peter DeBernardi (42) and Jeffery James Petkovich (25) became the first "team" to successfully make it over the falls in a two person barrel. The stunt was conceived by Peter DeBenardi, who wanted to discourage the youth of the time from following in his path of addictive drug use. Peter was also trying to leave a legacy and discourage his son Kyle Lahey DeBernardi (2) from using addictive drugs. Peter DeBernardi had initially expected to have a different passenger, however Peter’s original partner backed out and Peter was forced to look for an alternative, and Jeffery Petkovich agreed to the stunt. Peter claims he spent an estimated $30,000 making his barrel including; harness’s steel and fiberglass construction with steel bands and viewing ports. Peter’s Barrel also included a radio for music and news reports, rudders to help steer the barrel through the falls, oxygen, and a well protected video camera to record the journey over the edge. They emerged shortly after going over with minor injuries and were charged with performing an illegal stunt under the Niagara Parks Act.
Kirk Jones of Canton, Michigan became the first known person to survive a plunge over the Horseshoe Falls without a flotation device on October 20, 2003. While it is still not known whether Jones was determined to commit suicide, he survived the 16-story fall with only battered ribs, scrapes, and bruises.
A second person survived an unprotected trip over the Horseshoe Falls on March 11, 2009 and when rescued from the river, was reported to be suffering from severe hypothermia and a large wound to his head. His identity has not been released. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the man intentionally enter the water.