Thursday, April 30, 2009
Places: Niagara Falls
(Theme Thursday this week: Water)
I am thinking about Niagara Falls today... have you ever been there?
When I was little, we stopped there several times... it was right on the way to my Grammie's house.
The Falls are so huge. But you knew that. You've seen pictures probably, right? Big, horseshoe-shaped cliff with water crashing, falling so far and so hard that it sends mist all the way to the top, where it feels like a constant light rain on the street above. When the sun is just right, there's even a rainbow. Very cool.
Actually the Niagara Falls include three individual falls: The American falls, the Bridal Veil falls (tiny one in the center above, near the American falls), and the Canadian or Horseshoe falls.
If you are going to the falls, I have a suggestion or two. The best view of the falls, and also the most "touristy" places to visit, if that's what you like, are on the Canadian side. In fact, the hill near the falls is so covered with neon that its kind of a joke. It glows! In the summer, there are thousands of flowers; the grounds are beautifully kept. The floral clock was a highlight for me when I was a child, and I still think it's pretty cool to see a huge working clock planted in the grass with flowers - different colors each year. At Christmas time, holiday lights are scattered all across the lawns.
(The US side has some nice things to see too, like the river before it gets to the falls, and an aquarium, but the most and best views are in Canada.)
Secondly, be aware that they know you're coming, and they want your money! The prices are ridiculously inflated! So... when you get there, travel a few blocks up the hill, AWAY from the falls, for meals and lodging, and you will be surprised how fast those prices go down! There was a great little restaurant there that served beefalo meat and also had great breakfasts. I stopped there several times when I went through on my way to take a son to school. Loved it. Just far enough away from the mist to be affordable. Excellent food, casual atmosphere. You'll find a good place, too, if you look around. Just remember to go up the hill a few blocks.
In January when it gets very cold, the mist freezes, covering all the trees in a thick layer. It is one of the most amazing things to see! So beautiful! I stood on the Canadian side and looked across to where all those white trees stood, ethereal and stunning. Go here to see what I mean. All these photos are copyrighted, but they are worth seeing!!
Winter storms swoop down once in a while and leave deep snow. One of our favorite memories of Niagara is waking up to a huge snow storm, and - since we had to get our son back to school in time for classes - setting out anyway, in spite of the weather. There had to be a good 6 - 8 inches of snow on the steep roads in town! It was quite an adventure trying to go uphill in the deep snow, and hoping we wouldn't have to stop for another driver who'd gotten stuck in front of us. We just went around them if we had to... if we could. It took a long time, spinning and slipping all the way... but eventually we got headed the right direction and made it across the bridge to the US. That's when we discovered that parts of the interstate were closed due to the storm.
Huge white flakes fell hard and fast as we thought about what to do next. If I had known about this, I would have probably wanted to stay in the hotel room until the storm subsided. But I had my two nearly grown sons with me who were convinced we could just take the back roads... the tiny little red lines on the map. They talked me into trying it, though I was really not sure that tiny red lines were a good idea. But they were right!! It was weird to be in the middle of such a big, snow-dumping storm and discover that by heading north we drove right out of it in only ten miles or so!! The lake effect storms there tend to be very localized, and I had not realized that. It turned into a good trip after all.
I wonder what the Falls will look like in a few years. The volume of water rushing over the edge is so great (150,000 US gallons per second!) that the edge is being eroded fast. If you look at pictures of the Horseshoe falls from years ago and compare them to today's falls, you can see that the shape of the horseshoe has changed significantly. There are engineers working on this situation.
By the way, those gallons also rush through a generator that supplies electricity to a lot of homes in the area. At night (this is almost too strange to believe, but it's true) they divert much of the river's flow through this electric plant, and some have said they thought someone turned off the falls at night. Obviously, no one can turn off Niagara falls! In fact, at night, colored lights shine on the water:
Looks pretty, doesn't it? And yet, for a few hours each night, according to Wikipedia, "between 50% and 75% of the Niagara River's flow is diverted via four huge tunnels" into the hydroelectric plant. It's impressive.
Here's another good link if you want to see some more pictures.
Niagara falls is an amazing work of nature.