March 07, 2018

What's the deal with Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls. In February. "Kind of cold don't ya think?" said G.G. Blynn as they refused to leave the hotel room for the group's nightly walkabout. "It's minus twenty-five out there!" as they wheeled themselves away from the window.

In the daytime, things are only moderately warmer. The wind feels like Portage and Main, and it's damn hard to find a good coffee shop. Oh, there is a Starbucks in every hotel lobby along the tourist cluster that has attached itself to the actual falls, but that hardly a good cup of coffee.

Niagara Falls, the city, was incorporated in 1903, about 35 years after the work on the falls began. It's known as the "honeymoon capital of the world" though it's much too cold for any of that in February.

We stayed in the tourist district, near the falls, but a world away from it's natural beauty. Neon billboards, high-rise hotels, casinos, museums of dubious intent,  souvenir shops of the everything-seems-to-be-made-in-a-prison-in-China sort, and all-the-steak-you-can-eat kind of restaurants are everywhere in this small stretch of high-rises and parking lots.

Like all great cities, Niagara Falls has a lock bridge too, a small unattractive thing, with locks being available for sale from the nearby hotel. Or was it The Keg?

Niagara Falls is actually the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the border between Canada and the Excited States. Horseshoe Falls is claimed by both nations, while American Falls  and Bridal Veil Falls, fall on the American side of things, though the view if always much better from Canada.

Constructed at the same time as the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the falls are an engineering marvel. The vertical drop is more than 50 metres and the flow rate, during peak daytime hours is about 168,000 cubic metres per minute, generating hydro power for both nations since the latter part of the 19th century.

Interestingly, the water flow is controlled by a bilateral commission and there's more water going over the falls in the peak tourist times, and far less during the night and the winter.

And all in all, the whole thing is underwhelming. Maybe February isn't the right time of year to visit Niagara Falls, and if we hadn't been here for the Blynn's wheelchair conference thing....

"What's the deal with Niagara Falls anyway?" wheezed B.T. Mendlebaum as she opened the hotel room window to blow out the smoke from her cigarette. "It was a hell of a lot warmer when we went to Iguazu."

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2018 by Jim Murray.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments!