After a lively and unforgettable evening in Chicago some people had sore heads as we boarded the minibus to travel to our next destination. We had a short stopover in Sandusky, Ohio for some of the trekkers to enjoy the adrenaline-fuelled theme park rides before we arrived in Niagara Falls. The bright, blue sky seemed to enhance the beauty of Niagara Falls. It was another sight that I will never forget. The cascading falls were grand and spectacular.
Niagara Falls is a city set on the Niagara River in New York State. However, Niagara Falls straddles the border with Canada and the falls can be seen from both sides of the border and are separated by the Rainbow Bridge. The trek group gathered at Niagara Falls State Park at the Observation Tower at Prospect Point which juts out over Niagara Gorge where it was possible to view all three waterfalls (which are named the American and Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls) from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Centre trails can be followed to gain access to more spectacular views of Niagara Falls. However, due to the usual time constraints we spent most of our allotted time taking photographs at Prospect Point.
Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885 and is the oldest state park in the USA and it was the first of several reservations that became part of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The park is vast and spreads over an area of 400 acres with over a quarter of the park submerged under water. The water thunders over the falls with over 3,160 tons of water flowing over Niagara Falls every second! Five of the Great Lakes including Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie drain into the Niagara River before emptying into Lake Ontario. The Niagara River is a wildlife haven and was designated as an Important Bird Area in 1996 which was the first such identified area in the world at the time. Endangered fish such as the lake sturgeon can be found in the lower Niagara River. Other protected animals can be found in the area including the peregrine falcon and the American bald eagle.
No visit to Niagara Falls is complete without a voyage on the legendary Maid of the Mist boat ride! Taking tens of millions of visitors into the centre of the swirling mist since America’s most iconic boat ride was established in 1846. Everyone was excited to board the vessel which we knew would take us directly into the whirling mist towards the thunderous roar of the falls. We were only too happy to wear the traditional blue rain poncho to protect us from the spray but to be honest it was a warm and sunny day under beautiful blues skies. It was part of the experience to get a little wet from the refreshing spray of Niagara Falls. The boat ride takes you remarkably close to Niagara Falls where you are engulfed in the fog-like spray but still able to appreciate the beauty of the waterfalls with regular opportunities to take some photographs. I was enjoying myself with the camcorder which was occasionally splashed with spray from the waterfalls! People would occasionally scream with delight when the wind blew the spray towards the boat engulfing the people on board. We were able to take in views of all three of the waterfalls from the Maid of the Mist and it is another one of those activities that are vital to tick off your bucket list when travelling to America.
It was suggested that we make our way across the border into Canada to view Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Even though it was nearly midnight we decided this would be an awesome idea as we were beginning the long trip back to New York City the next day as the tour was coming to an end. As we had to go through customs we needed our passports and within minutes we were sitting in a pub on the Canadian side of the border which provided us with a great view of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. As it was now after midnight the pub was pretty quiet and was due to close. We reluctantly headed back to America. When you cross the border, you have to walk across a little footbridge which had doors on either side. We could see the door labelled ‘To U.S.A’ a few metres in front of us but we decided to pause on the bridge to innocently take some photographs as it was a pretty good view. However, within seconds an angry border official brandishing a gun appeared on the bridge and told us very abruptly to leave the bridge! It was one of them moments when you hold your breath and we feared he was not going to let us back into America! Looking back, it was quite amusing! We were only taking a few photographs and I do not think we posed a national security risk! We did manage to get a couple of sneaky pictures though even though we did not know it was forbidden! With my time in America and with the latest tour group rapidly reaching its conclusion I only had one more stop to go – New York City! I was excited. It was going to be awesome!!