Niagara falls Location Overview Lake Erie

Niagara falls Location Overview Lake Erie

Niagara, meaning ‘thunder water’, was the name the native Americans gave to the mighty waterfall that today forms a spectacular boundary between the USA and Canada. From Lake Erie, the Niagara River flows placidity for almost 35 miles (56km), but near Lake Ontario runs into rapids that surge towards the contract in a mist of spray and rainbows. Then a dramatic drop of about 180ft (55m) sends a torrent of water roaring down into a fury of foam as if into a bottomless chasm.

Goat Island, on the brink of the cascade, separates the river into two. The American Falls on the eastern side form a straight line about 1000ft (300m) long; the Canadian Horseshoe Falls are twice as long and, as their name indicates, form a horseshoe shape.
The falls look magnificent from both sides, but the Canadian shore offers the best overall view of both. For a really close look, the Horseshoe Falls can be braved in a small boat, the Maid of the Mist, which sails into the swirling spray.

Niagara Falls

Niagara falls were born about 12,500 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. With the melting of a massive glacier, water split out of Lake Erie and rushed northwards to form what is now Lake Ontario in a basin about 320ft (100m) lower. Originally, the ridge over which the waterfalls was some 7 miles (11km) farther north – where Queenston now stands – but over the centuries it has been cut back by the action of around 7000 tons of water a second crashing over it. At a rate of retreat of about 4ft (1.2m) a year, it will take 25,000 years for the ridge to be cut back to Lake Erie.

Queenston Heights rang to the roar of battle when Britain and the USA clashed in the war of 1812. Later in the 1800s, voices roaring around the falls were those of onlookers watching one of the many daredevil stunts that became a feature of the falls, such as leaping into the maelstrom below!

Niagara Falls

The first to take this death-defying risk was Sam Patch of Passaic Falls, New Jersey, who jumped from Goat Island in October 1829 and survived. In 1901, 43-year-old Mrs Annie Edson Tylor, a schoolteacher from Bay City, Michigan, and a non-swimmer were the first to go over the falls in a barrel and live. The fall took three seconds. She made a lecture tour as ‘Queen of the mist’, hoping to make her fortune, but died a pauper 20 years later.

Of those who tried to emulate her feat in the next 60 years, three succeeded and three died. They included George Stathakis of Buffalo, New York, in 1930. He survived the plunge but suffocated when the barrel was caught behind the falls for 22 hours – he had only carried enough oxygen for three hours.

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