Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. From largest to smallest, the three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls lie on the Canadian side and the American Falls on the American side, separated by Goat Island. The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also located on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island.
Approximately 90% of the Niagara River, after diversions for hydropower generation, flows over Horseshoe Falls. The remaining 10% flows over the American Falls. In October 2007, the Horseshoe Falls was featured in a Disney produced video titled Welcome: Portraits of America, made for the United States Department of State and Department of Homeland Security to promote United States tourism.
The American Falls
The American Falls is one of three waterfalls that together are known as Niagara Falls on the Niagara River along the Canada–U.S. border. Unlike the much larger Horseshoe Falls, of which two-thirds of the falls is located in Ontario, Canada, and one-third in New York State, United States, the American Falls is completely within the U.S. state of New York. The height of the American Falls ranges between 70 to 110 feet (21–34 m). This measurement is taken from the top of the Falls to top of the rock pile (talus). The height of the Falls from the top of the Falls to the river is 188 feet (57 m).
Bridal Veil Falls
The Bridal Veil Falls is the smallest of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls. It is located on the U.S. side (in New York State). Luna Island being very small, the Bridal Veil is similar in appearance to the American Falls, starting with a vertical fall of 78 feet (24 m), followed by the water violently descending the talus boulders to the Maid of the Mist Pool 103 feet (31 m) below. The waterfall has also been known in the past as Luna Falls and Iris Falls.
The Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Winds was another attraction here and it is a natural cave behind Bridal Veil Falls at the Niagara Falls. The cave was some 130 feet (40m) high, 100 feet (30m) wide and 30 feet (9m) in depth. It was discovered in 1834, and originally dubbed Aeolus’ Cave, after the Greek god of winds. Guided tours began officially in 1841, and continued until a rock fall in 1920 made it clear the passage was no longer safe. The tour officially reopened in 1924, now bringing visitors to the front of the Bridal Veil instead of behind it, on a series of decks and walkways. Tropical storm-like conditions can be experienced, as winds can reach up to 68 mph underneath the falls. The cave was obliterated in a massive 1954 rockfall and subsequent dynamiting of a dangerous overhang.
Today, the “Cave of the Winds” is the name of a tourist attraction near the same site. An elevator takes people from the area between the American and Canadian Falls down to the level of the Niagara River at the base of the American Falls. A series of redwood decks and platforms allow sightseers to walk right up to the base of the Bridal Veil Falls with water crashing down right on them and flowing beneath the decking.
The decking is removed each fall due to the potential damage caused by ice buildup at the falls and re-installed each spring by park officials for sightseers to enjoy the experience. The decking is not secured to the rocks below by bolts or other construction materials; the wood beam supports are simply wedged into the rock crevices.
Peak visitor traffic occurs in the summertime, when Niagara Falls are both a daytime and evening attraction. From the Canadian side, floodlights illuminate both sides of the falls for several hours after dark (until midnight). The number of visitors in 2007 was expected to total 20 million and by 2009, the annual rate was expected to top 28 million tourists.
The oldest and best known tourist attraction at Niagara Falls is the Maid of the Mist boat cruise, named for an ancient Ongiara Indian mythical character, which has carried passengers into the rapids immediately below the falls since 1846. Cruise boats operate from boat docks on both sides of the falls.