Niagara Falls, Ontario, Niagara Falls, New York, Niagara Region & Niagara Frontier Travel In-Town Attractions: About the Niagara Fallsk
There are three falls, collectively are called "Niagara Falls"
- American Falls (between Prospect Point and Luna Island) far left
- Bridal Veil Falls (between Luna Island and Goat Island) mid left
- Canadian/Horseshoe Falls (between Goat Island and Table Rock) right
The Bridal Veil Falls is named for its appearance. It is located next to the American Falls, separated by a small piece of land called Luna Island. The American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls together have a brink of 1060 feet (323m) and have a total height of 176 ft (54m), though the water drops only 70 feet (21 m) to the rockfall below. These falls stream 150,000 U.S. Gallons (590,000litres) per second. The Canadian "Horseshoe" Falls have a brink of 2600 feet (792m) and a height of 167 feet. The Horseshoe falls have a volume of 600,000 U.S. gallons (2,270,000 litres) per second. According to the United States Geological Survey, it appears that almost 1/3 of the Canadian Falls lies within US territory, since Goat Island between the two Falls is also US territory.
Actual amount of flow over the Falls varies, because there are two massive hydroelectric plants which draw water into their reservoirs upstream of the Falls. Their intake greatly affects the volume of water flowing over the falls, depending on time of day and time of year. Spring & Summer give the Niaraga its greatest flow as Spring meltwater from the vast Great Lakes basin makes its way toward the Atlantic ocean. From this flow, some water is diverted to generate up to 4.5 megawatts of power, depending on actual electrical demand, which peaks in the evenings and over the winter. As well, overnight Ontario Hydro and New York State Power Authority suck vast amounts of water to refill their reservoirs for the next day's power generation. This causes the Falls to have maximum flow (on average) during summer days -the peak tourist season-and lowest overnight in the Winter.
The Falls straddle the Canadian-United States Border and attract about 12 Million tourists each year. The Niagara River is only 12,000 years old, a result of shifting meltwater after the last Ice Age trying to reach the Atlantic as the continent-covering glaciers began to recede. The rocks of the Niagara Escarpment, made of much older dolostone and shale, are covered with layers of glacial sediment. Over time, the melting of the glaciers allowed the ground under the escarpment to rise up to the height of a 20 storey building, while the slow process of erosion created the Niagara River cut a channel through it creating the world's second highest falls (after Victoria Falls in southern Africa). It was only 500 years ago that the river split into two channels around Goat Island.
About one fifth of all the world's fresh water lies in the four Upper Great Lakes-Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie, and their waters eventually all flow over the Falls, and after 15 more miles reaches the fifth Great Lake, Ontario.
In the wintertime, the surface water begins to freeze into an "ice bridge," though the vast amounts of fast-flowing water underneath never totally freezes. More surface freezing occurs below the Falls, where broken ice formations can accumulate and freezing of the mist from the Falls speeds ice build-up. In a long cold winter, the Ice Bridge can extend from the Falls right down to the Whirlpool Rapids. Until 1912,visitors were allowed to actually walk out on the ice bridge and view the Falls from below, when the ice bridge suddenly broke up and three tourists died.
There used to be many small "icebergs" from Lake Erie making their way down the Niagara and over the Falls, but for several years, an ice boom has blocked them from December until March or April each winter. A 2 mile (3.2 kilometre) chain connecting steel floats is installed across the Niagara from Buffalo New York to Fort Erie Ontario, to keep ice from clogging the hydroelectric intakes.
The Falls have only stopped twice. In March 1848, an ice jam upriver actually prevented the Falls from flowing for a few hours. In 1969, the American Falls was blocked completely for several months to determine the feasibility of removing the large amount of loose rock ("talus") at the base of the falls to enhance it's appearance, but it was determined that the expense would be too great. Interestingly, the flow of water over the American Falls is insufficient to erode the rock talus at its base.
Niagara Falls is slowly eroding southward. The first accurate surveys of the Falls in 1842, and from then until 1905, the Horseshoe Falls has receded 1.16 meters (3.8 feet) per year. Over the next 20 years, this fell to .70 meters (2.3 feet) per year, coinciding with large quantities of water being diverted for hydro-electric generation. Today it is estimated that erosion of the Horseshoe Falls is less than one foot per year, and erosion of the American Falls is estimated at 3 - 4 inches every 10 years.
Niagara Falls Nightly Illumination
The first large-scale attempt to illuminate the Falls at night was in 1860, before the Age of Electricity, to honour the visit of the Prince for Wales. In 1925, the Falls were lit by twenty four great carbon arc lamps which together produced 1,320,000,000 candlepower. Today, the Falls are lit by 21 Xenon lights, each of which has the brilliance of 250,000,000 candlepower. The year-round, nightly illumination of the Falls, which generally runs from dusk until midnight, is paid for by:
- The City of Niagara Falls, New York
- The City of Niagara Falls, Ontario
- The Niagara Parks Commission
- The Niagara Frontier State Park Authority of New York
- Ontario Hydro.
Be thrilled with the spectacular free fireworks displays over the Horseshoe Falls, across from Queen Victoria Place From May 21st to September 5th, every Friday and Sunday at 10:00 p.m, with additional holiday celebrations for:
- Victoria Day (third Monday in May)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
- July 1st Canada Day
- July 4th Independence Day
More Falls Photos: