Monstrous Water Conduit Niagara Falls, Ontario: Pop. 79,000. Or should that be 18 million plus 79,000? That's approximately the number of visitors the region gets each year, as they come by plane, train, boat, bus, automobile and sometimes by foot to get a glimpse of what has been called one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Known simply as the
Yet, this amazing flow of water (or part of it) has come to a standstill on at least two occasions—once accidentally and once on purpose. On March 30, 1848, an ice jam in the upper river caused the Falls to slow to a trickle for several hours. People actually went out and pulled artifacts from the riverbed. In 1969, the American Falls were deliberately blocked by engineers to see if they could remove some of the rocks at their base but the project was abandoned as too expensive.
More Power to It The Falls aren't just a tourist attraction—it is also the engine for one of the world's greatest generators of hydroelectric power with a combined 4.4 million kilowatts shared by the U.S. and Canada. As an offshoot of this water diversion, the annual erosion rate for the Falls—at one point about one meter a year—has been reduced to three centimeters.
With the late 19th-century Industrial Revolution, this cheap source of electricity brought many industries and manufacturing plants to the region, especially in the Chippawa and Fort Erie areas south of Niagara Falls. It also opened up transportation routes both by land and by sea with the construction of the first Welland Canal in Canada and the Erie Barge Canal in the U.S.
The city of Niagara Falls itself has undergone many changes and facelifts through the years: from being the site of the Seventh Wonder and the Honeymoon Capital to being the present day all-season family vacation destination featuring
Waxing romantic One of the Niagara Falls' traditions is the
But any accusations of tackiness are quickly dispelled once you get out into the surrounding countryside. It's no surprise that the first explorers who saw this region thought they'd discovered a new Eden, what with the relatively warm, rich, lush, verdant landscape anchored by those roaring waters!
Today, you'll find fruit trees and vineyards and sun-dappled winding country roads along the river.
Mist Gets in Their Eyes So, while the Falls serve as the obvious focal point in this city straddling the U.S. border, the real secret to this area's success as a resort destination lies in its ability to be all things to all people. Golfers, sailors, fisher folk, campers, hikers, bikers, park and garden aficionados, business travellers, tourists from across the sea, thrill-seekers, wine lovers, history and art buffs, those who enjoy the quiet and reserved and those who revel in loud and tacky—they all meet here in tolerance, bonhomie and misty-eyed wonder.
Okay, okay. So maybe the mist comes from the Falls! But it only goes to show that you can't escape its influence, no matter what your reason for coming here. Maybe those negative ions from the falling water will rub off on all of us so that we, too, will become more tolerant and full of wonder.