While it has been 20 years since I last sailed the massive Great Lakes in my threadbare dress whites, It’s been 30 years since I last journeyed to the majestic Niagara Falls.
It was mid-week – I was surprised to find coach-size parking spaces for my truck along the street. The parking machine says “$5 an hour, maximum of 4 hours” Nevertheless, I decided to ignore the fee and take a huge leap of faith.
When visiting the U.S. side, make sure you visit Terrapin Point. It’s a further walk on Luna Island but the panoramic view of Horseshoe Fall and Ontario is just breathtaking.
One glaring observation: While the US side with its pristine state park and businesses on Main Street has grown at a snail’s pace, the Canadian side continues to grow and explode as fast as the raging rapids.
Over four decades ago, Ontario realized the importance of tourism and began to make huge investments to bring infrastructure and retail. The US, on the other hand, was too focused on its hydropower and manufacturing to focus on tourism.
Here Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of Niagara Falls and started the electrification of the world.
Though the Falls reside mostly in the US, it is Canada that provides a commanding view of Horseshoe Falls that has arguably more complete and stunning.
Once you stroll over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, one must continue a mile along the shoreline to the Horseshoe Falls offering a great vantage point of both the U.S. and Canada.
The water is so clear and inviting, the falls so powerful and steady, the mist so magical and refreshing. There are few things in North America that tops the grandeur and mystic of the Falls. You can stand there for hours in utter amazement. Meanwhile you get a kick out of seeing tourists on the all-electric Maid of the Mist getting tossed around soaked by the potent falls like a battered boat been slammed by a Nor’easter.
And even at 200 feet up, you feel the strength of 75,000 gallons per second smashing on the rocks below creating a plume of mist that rises like a hot-air balloon.
Many Canadians and Americans alike prefer to view the Falls from Canada and there is a better selection of restaurants and amenities there. Many pass by shuttered storefronts and struggling stores on their way to Canada where a spinning ferris wheel, glowing arcade lights, festive carnival rides and yes, even a tribal casino beckons. There are clearly two chasms between the two and it’s not just one that is formed by rushing water.
Hyatt recently announced it will build three hotels in downtown Niagara Falls. Meanwhile many business along with a mall has closed on the US side but things will be changing soon. Politics have finally lined up and the US has finally realized that its time to invest in tourism.
The US industries are long gone and the state now has to figure out how to keep tourists this side of the Niagara.
There are many taller falls than Niagara. The Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest and is over 20 times taller. But what makes Niagara Falls so impressive is the amount of water – over 3,000 tons flowing per second.
And it’s the attraction of the rushing water that lures dozens to jump over every year, either to die early or to live in infamy as one of the handful of souls who have survived to tell their story.
Although I didn’t succumb to this same trance, the massive cloud of mist floating up in the air felt refreshing as it evaporated gently on my skin. I longed for the refreshing feeling of jumping into the lake – not for the thrill, but for the feeling.