Straddling the US-Canadian border, Niagara Falls draws around 12 million visitors per year, who might not realize that Niagara Falls is actually composed of three falls: American, Bridal and Horseshoe. They converge and crest over a 170-foot dolomite and shale cliff to plummet to the raging river below. All three waterfalls form the area that is collectively referred to as Niagara Falls, which reaches into the province of Ontario and New York state.
Four Great Lakes — Superior, Erie, Huron and Michigan — supply the water to the Niagara River that creates the three falls that combine to form Niagara Falls. Once over the falls, the water flows for 15 miles until it empties into Lake Ontario. Within the Great Lakes and the Niagara River flows 20 percent of the world's freshwater, according to Niagara Falls Live.The second largest falls in the world, Niagara is surpassed in size only by Victoria Falls in southern Africa.
Niagara Falls was formed 12,000 years ago, making it fairly young in geographic terms. In 1615, a Jesuit priest named Gabriel Lalemant officially recorded the Iroquois Indians name for the river, “Onguiaahra,” which means “the strait,” and when spoken sounds like “Niagara.” It was later be simplified to its current spelling by English-speaking people.
In the 1820s, the first tourists began to visit the area to view the stunning scenery, and a stairway was constructed to lead down to Table Rock for easier tourist access to the falls, but it is now closed.Tourism grew after 1820 to such an extent that it became the area's leading industry. Hotels sprang up around the falls to meet the ever-increasing tourist demand for lodging. John August Roebling, the famous designer of New York's Brooklyn Bridge, designed the world's first suspension bridge for the Niagara Railway across the river so that tourists would be able to more easily travel to the area.
During winter, the mist from the falls freezes to form huge mounds of ice that measure up to 50 feet thick. The ice often stretches all the way across the falls and spans several miles to form an ice bridge. Prior to 1912, tourists walked across the ice bridge, but the practice was outlawed after three tourists died when the ice broke away on Feb. 4, 1912.
Niagara Falls Facts:
Niagara Falls is an amazing sight to behold and have a history just as incredible. Some facts about the Falls:
- Niagara Falls is the second largest falls in the world based on the width
- More than 6 million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow. (Doing some GCAT math means that 10,053,120 pints of beer flow over the falls every minute!)
- The waters in the river are owned partly by Canada and partly by the USA. The international border runs through the middle of the river.
- The Frenchman Samuel de Champlain visited the area as early as 1604 during his exploration of Canada
- Over 50,000 weddings are performed in Niagara Falls every year, The falls became a honeymoon destination in 1801 when the daughter of Aaron Burr (a Vice President of the United States) got married here. Millions have since followed suit.
- In March 1848, ice blockage caused the falls to stop; no water (or at best a trickle) fell for as much as 40 hours.
- The verdant green colour of the water flowing over the Niagara Falls is a byproduct of the estimated 60 tonnes/minute of dissolved salts and rock flour (very finely ground rock) generated by the erosive force of the Niagara River itself.
- The cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and Niagra Falls, New York, USA are connected by two international bridges, the rainbow Bridge and the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge
- In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself “the Yankee Leapster”, jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived;