So, inevitably, if you’re in the area, you really have to go and see Niagara Falls. We’d seen the great plume of spray which rises high above the falls the day before – it’s unmissable even from quite a distance away.
We’d had some good advice, from our local guides, about free parking by the river. This meant that we had an opportunity to walk by the river, and the rapids, which were pretty awe inspiring in their own right.
I can’t remember, unfortunately, where I got this map from. I took a screenshot, so still have it on my phone. We parked in the lay-by on the bottom right of the map, followed the riverside paths to the pedestrian bridge then circled the island, anti-clockwise, visiting the Three Sisters Islands, eventually returning to the car for a picnic lunch. After lunch we walked back towards the falls and the Observation Tower in the top right-hand corner of the map, for our final treat of the day.
The tall buildings are on the Canadian side of the river, which I’m told is ‘tacky’. The US side was, at one time, heavily industrialised, due to all of the free power available, but after a public campaign and subscription, was purchased and turned into a park.
The boats here are Maids of the Mist which offer an excursion right into the cauldron of Horseshoe Falls. On the American boats everybody wears a blue coat – I say coat, but really polythene bag is closer to the truth – whereas the Canadian boats offer their customers red bags. I’m not sure why the colour-coding is deemed necessary.
Because we were relatively early, TBH was convinced that we could avoid having to queue for the Cave of the Winds and she was absolutely right. A lift takes you down to the bottom of the Falls…
For this experience, the ponchos are yellow. Here we are before we got thoroughly drenched…
The noise and the wind are phenomenal.
In places the platforms were awash. The Hurricane Deck was particularly wet. As the name suggests, a powerful blast of wind was driving across the deck, carrying a great deal of water with it. I was happy to watch the others take a cold shower.
Here they are afterwards. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but they were drenched. B was having a wail of a time and almost broke into a smirk.
The penny-pinching side of my nature asserted itself and I declared myself satisfied with what I’d seen. Somewhat to my surprise, the DBs agreed. Thankfully, TBH told us we’d wouldn’t be coming back this way any time soon, and that she was going on the Maid of the Mist, with us or without us. We rapidly changed our minds and were soon queueing for a trip. Thank goodness we did.
We weren’t very close to the front of the group going on to the boat. Lots of people were rushing to try to get a spot near to the front on the top deck, but hardly anyone was stopping on the lower deck, so I suggested we try that. It was a great choice, there were hardly any people there, we were able to stand right at the front, but also had space to wander about and to find other vantage points.
As we approached the maelstrom of Horseshoe Falls, the the falls themselves disappeared into the drenching mist. The roar of the falls was deafening, the boat swayed on the surging waters. It was chaotic, and my attempts to take photos were doomed to failure, but the immense power of the falls has left a lasting impression.
I was amazed to see gulls and diving ducks swimming on the surface of the river – it seemed incredible that anything could survive on or in the river – or that there could be any food there for the birds to find.
When you get off the Maid of the Mist, you have the option to climb a set of stairs at the side of American Falls – you can see them in the photo below. On a fine sunny day, full of very wet and windy experiences, this may well have been the wettest and windiest. Near the top, there was a bit of a queue to climb the last few steps – we decided that we really had now had enough and beat a hasty retreat back down the waiting lift.