/ The Niagara Guide
Niagara — By Andy Hayes on July 26, 2010 at 12:05 am
Filed under: Attractions, outdoors, things to do, top-feature

Can you go over Niagara Falls in a barrel?

The rumors are not true: I did not go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  It isn’t for a want of trying – two people have survived going over the falls, though numerous others didn’t fare so well.  (Surprisingly, there isn’t a cast of thousands who have went over and didn’t make it – just a handful, really.)

Despite my lack of barrel, I did manage to see a good deal of the falls.  Here are a few of the on-the-falls highlights that you can’t miss – I’ve also made a specific mention of which country they are in.  Remember, one side of Niagara is in Canada and the other is in America!

Maid of the Mist – Canadian Side or American Side

This is a classic, and despite images of a totally cheesy experience (who hasn’t seen pictures of poncho-clad and water-soaked tourists), this was a real highlight of my trip to the falls.  The Maid of the Mist is the boat that drives up underneath the falls.  No, not quite literally underneath, but pretty close.  You’re given a poncho, but you’ll still get pretty wet – especially your shoes.

Departing from both sides of the Niagara River, the Maid of the Mist wanders up for a close preview of the American falls.  Below the American falls, which are fairly flat (e.g. straight down), there are lots of rocks and boulders, so the boat doesn’t get too close.  You do get this fine mist, though, which makes for great rainbow sighting.

Then the boat makes its way into Horseshoe Falls, or the Canadian Falls.  As you may have seen in pictures, these falls are often a big bowl of mist, so being down inside of it does feel a bit like being inside a hurricane.  Well, I’ve not been in a hurricane, and it’s slightly less windy so I’m exaggerating, but you definitely get wet here.

Tunnel of the Winds – American Side

Another falls experience that I loved is the Tunnel of the Winds.  This is on Goat Island, an island on the American side which separates the two waterfalls.  Tunnel of the Winds is a series of decks built underneath the Bridal Veil Falls, which is a smaller subset falls just to the right of the American Falls – often confused as the same as the American falls, but its different.

You take an elevator down through the cliff face and emerge with a fantastic view of the casinos and highrise hotels of the Canadian side.  You might wander why you need the poncho considering right here, it’s all calm and quiet.  And even when you enter the decking area, it’s fairly calm, though slightly loud.  But once you walk another 20 feet, the fury of Mother Nature breaks loose.  Water flashes over boulders and jets across your feet, which explains why they give you sturdy sandals to wear.  Mist swarms and swirls around your head like bees.  And this is all before you get to the Hurricane Deck! The Hurricane Deck is a special deck that is, for all intents and purposes, underneath the Bridal Veil.  You cannot see a thing – it isn’t possible to take a picture, let alone point and laugh at your friends in their silly ponchos.

And as quickly as it started, the mist and rain fade away as you head back to the elevators.  It’s hard to believe you’re soaked!

Journey Behind the Falls  - Canadian Side

Table Rock is the closest you can get to any falls on the Canadian side.  Above ground, there is a viewing deck which is fairly close to the Horseshoe falls (but certainly not as close as the American side).  But the interesting part is below ground, where you can take an elevator down and enter a tunnel which is behind the Horseshoe falls – hence its name, Journey Behind the Falls.  A couple of portals are open to the falls, but you can only get about 10 feet close to them – partly because there is a barrier stopping you, and partly because it’s scary: lashing winds and water falling so fast one could imagine a limb being ripped off just trying to stick your hand out.

There is also an outdoor deck just a few feet from the falls.  It’s funny to think that this is the second tunnel they’ve built here – the first one, built in the 1900s, was exposed as Niagara worked its way backwards, washing away the cliff face in its path.  The deck, similar to Maid in the Mist, is filled with spray and its difficult to see anything, but you’ll definitely get wet.

Prospect Point & Terrapin Point – American Side

Last but not least is Terrapin Point, the closest you can get to the Horseshoe Falls on the American side, and Prospect Point, on top of American falls and the Bridal Veil.  They’re both on Goat Island, and what’s so incredible is to see the water in such massive volumes rushing over the falls, and realise that you could easily hop over the railing and jump in. If you have long legs, you could just reach through and dip your toes in.

On many parts of Goat Island, there is unrestricted access to the water, so you could in theory jump in that barrel of yours and go for a ride.  However, I must warn you, if you survive (Maid of the Mist will give you a free ride back – they have for all of the barrel ride survivors), the Canadians will fine you.  But, chances are, your fate will be the same as many of those who have made the attempt.

Photo by anne.oeldorfhirsch, jimcchou

Note: Portions of the author’s itinerary were sponsored by the Province of Ontario, but the opinions are solely of the author.

Tags: Attractions, outdoors, things to do, top-feature

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