Niagara Falls Facts, Fun Things to Do, and History

Written by Collins Obara |
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The Niagara Falls in Ontario Canada is among the top natural wonders in the world with three spectacular waterfalls; Bridal Veil, American Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls. The 56-kilometer spectacle of nature creates the numerous memories and experiences that you would expect in a world-class tourist destination. However, it is not only a desired tourist destination, but it has a rich and fascinating history. Let's explore the history, interesting facts, and fun activities available at Niagara Falls.

History and Formation of Niagara Falls

The history of Niagara Falls dates back to thousands of years to the Ice Age where the large water torrents draining to River Niagara were resealed from the melting ice. Niagara Falls is not that old geologically. 12,000 years ago, the water was said to have plunged over the Niagara Escarpment edge which is a long, steep slope running east to west from New York through Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario

However, the Niagara Falls formation was a very slow process which is still continuing. The yearly thawing and freezing of Niagara River wear the rocks away under surface together with the slow erosion and frequent rockfalls which are said to move the Niagara Falls further upstream. However, the modern influences are responsible for causing the Falls to wear away. Lots of remedial work has been performed to help preserve the Falls. Water volume has greatly been reduced by the hydroelectric power diversion.

Discovery of the Niagara Falls

The first people to discover the power of Niagara Falls are the Native Americans living in the Niagara region. Father Louis Hennepin was the first European to document the Niagara Falls area. It was during the 1678 expedition when Father Louis was impressed by the significance and size of Niagara Falls. He documented his travel in  “A New Discovery” when he returned to France. It is this book that brought the attention of the western world and inspired more exploration of the region.

Niagara Falls was opened to several visitors by the rail system development in the 1800s. This made it one of the prime destination for people traveling all over the world. Jerome, Napoleon Bonaparte's younger brother, went for a honeymoon with his American bride at Niagara Falls in 1804.  Jerome is credited for starting a Niagara Falls honeymoon tradition.

The Power of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls potential power attracted people who worked tirelessly to harness its force by using water wheels to help them drive their factories and mills. It was in 1895 when the first hydroelectric station in the world was opened at the Falls.  This station used the direct current system, although it was only able to transmit electricity for 100 yards.

In 1896, Nikola Tesla a popular electrical engineer proved that he was able to transmit electric current to Buffalo New York all the way from Niagara Falls by using his newly developed alternating current induction motor.  This was the first long-distance commercial use of the alternating current that is being used in the world today.

One of the most popular products from Niagara Falls in hydroelectricity. The power plants of both the Canadian and the American sides of Niagara Falls are capable of producing up to 2.4 million kilowatts of power. However, the flow of water is reduced during the night in order to allow more water to flower into intakes which are used in power generation. This ensures that the natural beauty of the Falls is not affected during the prime viewing hours.

9 Interesting Niagara Falls Facts

1. It is Moving

According to scientific research, Niagara Falls has moved back seven miles in the past 12,500 years. This is said to be affected by over 70 gallons of water which have eroded the rock used in determining the position of the waterfall.

Scientists also approximate that 15,000 -50,000 years from now, the rock might completely disappear into the fast running water due to the current erosion rate.

2. The Freezing of Horseshoe Falls and American Falls

The American Falls is known to be susceptible to freezing since it has only a small fraction of water flow that Horseshoe Falls has. The American Falls is said to have frozen over six times; although it is more if we decide to go further back into history. On Horseshoe Falls, winter water flow is reduced to around 8000 cubic feet of water for every second compared to the 681750 per second. Water barely covers the face of the Falls rock and ice dams that pile up on the Goat Island during the harshest winters. This reduces the flow of the Northern channel; that is responsible for producing water for the American Falls.

3. The First Person to Successfully go over Niagara Falls in a Barrel was a Woman

Annie Edson Taylor managed to become the first ever person to survive a trip over the Horseshoe Falls. This was on October 24th, 1901 during her 63rd birthday. It is something which has never been accomplished before. Annie used a custom made barrel made of iron and oak and padded with a mattress.  She didn’t only survive but managed to avoid broken bones. However, she had a slight scalp wound, shock on her nervous system, bruises on her body and a moderate concussion. She was forced to try this daredevil move just to gain financial freedom. Although she managed to make some money, it is not the type of wealth she had hoped for.

4. The Word "Niagara" Originates from the Indian name "Onguiaahra"

“Onguiaahra” is among the earliest settlers around the Niagara Falls region. This name started appearing on maps as early as 1641. The “Onguiaahra” used to be an Iroquois tribe.

Flowers near Niagara Falls
Flowers near Niagara Falls

5. Three Water Falls

Most people think that Niagara Falls is just a single giant waterfall.  Instead, there is the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls. The name Niagara is just a collective name used for all the three waterfalls.

Each of these waterfalls was named due to their traits. For Instance, the American Falls was just at the US border. The Horseshoe Fall is due to its horseshoe shape feature while the Bridal Fall resembles the bridal veil.

6. The Longest and Tallest Waterfall is Horseshoe

The length of the Horseshoe is approximately 2600 ft. The two other Falls have a combined length of 1060ft. The shape of the Horseshoe makes this waterfall appear smaller which is not the case.

There are people who believe the Bridal Veil and American waterfalls are the tallest. In fact, the 176 ft height of these two waterfalls makes them the tallest when compared to the Horseshoe 167 ft height. However, the Bridal Veil and American waterfalls do have several large rocks at the base meaning that the Falls are only 70 ft tall.

7. Niagara is 10,000 Years Old

Southern Ontario was just pure ice some 15,000 years ago. New rivers and landscapes were formed when the last ice age started changing that was approximately 12,000 years ago. The Niagara River was created and thereafter the Niagara Falls.

8. The Waterfall Tightrope Walking

Several people have tried to tightrope over the Niagara Falls with the first person trying it back in 1859. Nick Wallenda became the most recent tightrope walker to successfully manage to walk over it in 2012 although he had to seek for permission from both the American and Canadian governments. Nick had to present his passport for crossing the border despite being on a tightrope.

9. There is the American and Canadian Side

View of the American Side of the Falls from Canada
View of the American Side of the Falls from Canada

Niagara Falls is located between Ontario in Canada and New York in the USA. It means tourists can visit the falls from either US or Canada. There are a wide range of points that visitors can use to view the Niagara Falls while in New York, visitors can access the Fall from Prospect Point Park Observation Tower.

Fun Things to Do at Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist boat tour of Niagara Falls
The Maid of the Mist boat tour of Niagara Falls

Get the authentic Niagara experience by enjoying a morning cruise up to the Falls with the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour. The Niagara Botanical gardens have amazing roses and create a fragrant aesthetic appeal that relaxes the mind or you can enjoy the city’s stunning view from the Skylon Tower.

Young ones can have a fun and entertaining time at the Greg Frewin Theatre or the climate-controlled Butterfly Conservatory. Imagine posing for a photo with a tiger or being covered with butterflies! The Niagara zip line and adventure course will give anyone a much needed-adrenaline rush, especially teenagers.

Adults, especially those on a honeymoon or anniversary trip, have unlimited entertainment and sightseeing options including visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake: an upscale 19th-century village full of charm, character, and shops.  Spend the afternoon to enjoy various wine (including Ice Wine) on a wine tour and then have a candlelit dinner at the posh and luxurious restaurants. There is much to see, or you may choose to relax at the spa. A romantic kiss at Niagara Falls is the perfect way to end any day.

Visit the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center which is the largest state of the art center in Canada. The center protects and promotes the cultural experience and arts of the community. It has over 60 artist studios, public and multiple private galleries, radio station, a theater, and is home to over 75 artist and art groups. Enjoy music, painting, and writing, dance, and videography classes. There are summer programs for students interested in art, music, and dance. The gallery is open to the public at no cost.

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