Niagara Falls is by far the most famous waterfall in North America. It has been the backdrop to many honeymoons, proposals, daredevil stunts, and even key moments in the history of the United States. If you haven't heard of this falls, it's time for you to get out and start exploring the world around you!
To Julie and I, we visited this waterfall with a lot of expectations. But after having seen it, we'd have to say we were quite impressed by its power and size (so much so that it not only topped our Top 10 USA Waterfalls List but also made our Top 10 Waterfalls of the World). In fact, Niagara Falls is said to be the largest waterfall (by volume) in North America. The falls actually consists of three separate components - Horseshoe Falls (see photo above), American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Combined, the falls is said to have an average discharge of a mind boggling over 7000 cubic meters per second. It's said that over 90% of this volume is over the Horseshoe Falls.
The Niagara River marks the border between New York, USA and Ontario, Canada. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls lies on the American side while the Horseshoe Falls is considered Canadian even though my maps seem to indicate that the political boundary in the middle of the Niagara River also splits the falls. We felt the falls was easily experienced from both sides so it didn't really matter which side we were on (though waiting in line at the border control could be a total pain, especially heading into the American side). Click here to read about some of the trip logistics and nuances we had to figure out when visiting both sides.
We visited the falls during the early Summer month of June. Thus, we believe that the water volume we witnessed was probably either at its highest for the year or close to it. The volume and power were so evident that the mist wafting up from the Horseshoe Falls segment rose higher than the 167ft plunge itself (note I've also seen reported heights of 173ft and 176ft). Even though we happened to see the falls in perhaps its most voluminous state, we were aware that it also took on a different look and feel at other times of the year (Click here to read a writeup we did discussing the various seasons and conditions at the falls).
The falls is said to contribute a large amount of hydroelectric power to the power grid in the Eastern US and Canada. Perhaps in recognition of this heritage of hydroelectricity, we noticed a statue of Nikola Tesla at the falls. It was he who was credited with being the first to successfully turn the energy of falling water from Niagara Falls into electricity that was distributed for private and industrial use.
Hydroelectricity has been controversial in terms of the environment, and it is especially a bane for waterfalling due to inundation, interruption of waterflow, and collateral damage to the natural surroundings to support hydroelectric infrastructure. However, there's no denying the critical role it has played in allowing certain cities (and even whole economies) to be built up and thrive. In the case of Niagara Falls, human intervention has also meant that the flow of the Niagara River has been regulated in a way that actually slows down the erosion of the falls (roughly 3ft per year). Moreover, it has been said to play a critical role in the evolution of America into the country it is today.
We've been aware that the falls has been a tourist attraction since America's early years (the mid 1800s). So it wasn't surprising that over the last 200 years or so, the attraction has become heavily commercialized. This meant that we could experience the falls in numerous ways but we did feel that each waterfall "excursion" was like an amusement park or carnival ride where we paid to do a particular experience and then moved on to the next if we were so inclined. Indeed, like the tourists of days past, we got drenched at the Cave of the Winds as well as the Maid of the Mist, and we also got to hear and feel the power of the falls from its backside. You can read more about our experiences with these excursions here.
No doubt about it. The falls can be experienced and seen in countless ways. We're living proof of that as you can see from the pictures and videos on this page. And with that said, I'm willing to bet there are even more ways to see and experience the one and only Niagara Falls than what we've done. So take a virtual tour by scrolling further to see more photos, videos, links, and more! See if this doesn't inspire your own trip to the Granddaddy of waterfalls in the USA!