Niagara Falls, Finally
Somewhat incredibly, this was my first visit to Niagara Falls. I grew up in southern New York and lived in New England before I started traveling, yet I had never been – for no good reason. Happily, we were on our way to the New York/New Jersey area to visit family and friends from Michigan so we didn’t even need to go out of the way to make a stop there.
The falls were amazingly huge, way larger and more powerful than I had imagined based on photos. My first sight of the gorge came as we drove downhill on the Canadian side and the closer we got – and the more viewpoints I could see as we drove parallel to the river – the more excited I became. We parked a little over a mile upriver which gave us the opportunity to walk along the broad, azure Niagara River as we headed towards the falls. I listened to the distant whoosh of the water dropping downstream as we approached the river but other than the fast-moving expanse of blue frothy water, I didn’t have any real conception of the magnitude of what lay ahead despite earlier glances from the passenger seat. After walking about a half hour I began to see the point where the water disappeared and then suddenly I caught a glimpse of the drop off that stretches two thousand feet across the river to the state of New York.
Standing at the apex, I’m pretty sure I just stared. The sheer intensity and volume of the water plummeting 170 feet blew me away, probably just the same as the millions of other visitors. After a bit we continued walking downstream towards the American Falls ogling the cascade, taking photos all the while and just observing – the beautiful pale blue river, the almost-inconceivable dimensions of the falls, the expulsion of mist from it’s base, the constant roar, the persistent rainbow arching over the turbulence below, the hyper green moss and ferns a hundred feet below, the sunlight piercing the water.
After a couple hours I left Tom (who had been to Niagara multiple times) and Abby (who was more interested in walking around on the grass) topside and descended to the Behind the Falls Tour, which gives you access to the two-tiered viewing area near the base of the falls as well as the tunnels and viewing portals behind them. As I emerged from the elevator I instantly felt the pounding vibrations and roar of the powerful Niagara River, which increased the closer I walked to the exterior platforms. Standing next to the sheets of water falling to the base of the falls next to me was incredible; I felt dwarfed by the millions of gallons tumbling past me, crashing into the rocks.
Walking in the tunnels behind the falls the vibrations became muted by the concrete and deepened to a hum until I approached the opening behind the thundering river: There the drone intensified exponentially as I inched closer through the narrow tunnels behind the portals. Finally, I stood within feet of the water roaring past me, feeling the merciless force of the waterfall reverberating through my feet, watching impossible quantities of water gush past the window, and feeling the spray blow back on my face.
Once I returned to the rim of the gorge and rejoined Tom and Abbs we strolled around the town and then up and back down the river while we waited for sunset. Around 9pm it was finally dark enough and red lights appeared on the Canadian Falls, then blue on the American Falls. Having seen a few color changes we headed back upstream to where we parked, but just as we passed the top of Horseshoe Falls the lights changed to yellow, producing an almost ethereal glow as they reflected off the mist hanging just above the apex.