Niagara Falls are actually three waterfalls, The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border, The American Falls, strangely enough on the American side of the border and the much smaller Bridal Veil Falls also on the American side.*
Niagara falls have a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls but if you assume that those daredevils are all fool hardy young men think again. The first person to go over the falls in a barrel, in 1901, was Annie Edson Taylor, a 63 year old school teacher. She must have been some woman! Why you would want to throw yourself over those raging rapids in what looked a like a flimsy wooden barrel I have no idea. I have read two accounts of her stunt, one states that she took her cat, Iagara, in the barrel with her and they both survived. The other account was that she sent him over a few days prior to throwing herself off to test the strength of her barrel. I think this qualifies Annie Taylor as a crazy cat lady.
It makes her successful attempt even more heroic when you see the luxurious barrels that others used during attempts in later years. This one from 1949 remains proudly on display at the top of the Falls today. You wouldn’t get me in it (or my cat).
We explored the falls from the Canadian side. Firstly we wandered along Queen Victoria Park where the spectacular view from the falls is free so you can linger there and take in the breathtaking views. We needed to get closer so we did the Journey Behind the Falls tour. We took an escalator down into the wall of the falls, to the hand dug tunnels, 46m behind, and across the face of Horseshoe Falls. You can watch, hear and feel the white wall of water thunder over the falls from the viewing platform.
Next we did the White Water Walk, a boardwalk downstream from the falls, where the river bends adjacent to the Whirlpool rapids, the only grade six rapids in North America (which means they are the toughest, mostly unnavigable though some have tried (some successfully while most have drowned). The waves here are up to 5 metres high, two or three times higher than the waves at Bondi Beach.
Each night as the sun sets and night falls, the vista takes on an eerie glow. The American and the Horseshoe Falls are illuminated with high powered lights from the Canadian shore. Red, green, blue and luminous white highlight the raging torrents of water as it continues its downstream journey.
The highlight of the trip was the Hornblower Cruise which takes you, and a few hundred of your new closest friends, to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. Its great fun getting drenched from the spray of the falls and it’s only from the bottom of the falls looking up that I got a true sense of the power and size of Niagara Falls.