As a youngster growing up in upstate New York I was fortunate enough to take a couple trips to a true geological landmark. Niagara Falls is located between Ontario, Canada and New York on the Niagara River. The falls were formed from receding glaciers from the last ice age. The Great Lakes also played a part in the formation of the falls because of their path through the Niagara River to the Atlantic Ocean.
On average the falls push more than 4 million cubic feet per minute. This amount of water pressure makes Niagara Falls the most powerful waterfall in North America. From personal experience the falls are a beautiful sight for eyes. But the falls also are a tremendous source of hydroelectric power.
The falls separated into two sections one being the Horseshoe Falls and the other American Falls. The Horseshoe Falls has a much more extreme drop averaging 173 feet. The American Falls only has between a 70 and 100-foot drop because of a large boulder at the bottom. Also the Horseshoe falls are about 1500 feet wider than the American Falls.
There are many theories to the naming of the falls. One Irouqouian scholar says they were named after a native people Niagagarega who were only ever spotted on late 17th century maps created by the French. But French settlers have been recorded as to spotting the falls as early 1677. Confusing the origin of the name even further is the belief that 35 years earlier a man named Jean de Brebeuf was working with the Huron first nation of Canada and spotted the falls. He later was said to have named the falls Niagara.
Eventually in the 18th century tourism of the falls became very popular and was the area’s man industry. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother even visited the landmark with his wife. After the civil war Niagara was looked at as a key vacation and honeymoon spot. Once the invention of the automobile spread after the First World War tourism boomed to an all time high. Control over the falls became a large controversy due to its hydroelectric power ability.
Throughout time transportation for tourists has improved for a more enjoyable visit. Ships can now bypass through the Welland Canal. Also three bridges have been implemented to view the falls as close as possible. Then there are tourist packets that include ferry rides with the closest possible view.
A cool but dangerous stunt in October 1829 started a tradition. Sam Patch “the yankee leapster” jumped from a tower and into the gorge and miraculously survived. In 1901 a 63-year-old Michigan teacher went over the falls in a barrel and survived. Since that attempt fourteen others have attempted the feet. Many of them survived, but other either drowned or suffered severe injuries. People who survive the stunt face fines because it is illegal on the side of both borders to jump over.
I hope one day to experience the falls again, but I do not plan on experiencing them in a barrel.