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Mother Earth's Powerhouse: Niagara Falls


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    Published  9-1-2018

    There is nothing more beautiful than Mother Nature's most powerful places. Niagara Falls is one of those special places. I just returned from a visit there and was literally blown away. At the top of Cave of the Winds as I stood on Hurricane Deck I felt as if I was experiencing the most powerful storm ever.

    Cave of the Winds is part of Niagara Falls State Park. The park is free and open 365 days a year. Many of the attractions located in the park are paid ones but worth it. Niagara Falls State Park, created in 1885, is the oldest state park in the U.S. It's composed of the mainland section and several islands.

    Cave of the Winds

    Cave of the Winds is on Goat Island. You begin your trek to the top of Bridal Veil Falls at the World Changed Here Pavilion. Here you learn about the history of Niagara Falls. The natural wonder was formed during the Ice Age around 12,300 years ago. It wasn't always the scenic wonder it is today.

    At the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th Century, money and power overcame love of Mother Earth and her beauty for a time. Greedy capitalists realized they could harness that power to make millions. They built the first power plant in 1895. Since the plant used direct current (DC) it could only transmit electricity 100 yards. So the industrialists built ugly mills and factories on the banks of the river. Cheap hucksters began to turn the natural beauty of the falls into what we would call a "Tourist Trap" today.

    By the end of the 1860s, a small group of environmentalists founded the Free Niagara movement. They wanted to return the river and the falls area to its natural state with sensible use of the power to create electricity. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was one of the leading proponents of Free Niagara. Finally in 1895 the state signed a bill creating the Niagara Reservation. The park we see today began. Olmstead designed it as a place of natural beauty with foot paths wending through it where “the masses could be renewed.”

    In 1896, Nikola Tesla, a renowned electrical engineer, developed a different way to use the power that allowed long distance transmission. The AC system that we use today was born. In ended the need for the factories and mills to pollute the river both literally and figuratively. Tesla proved his method of transmission of electricity worked by sending electric power to Buffalo.

    After you see how the world was changed here, you are outfitted in souvenir sandals and ponchos and take an elevator descending 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge.

    Cave of the Winds is a misnomer because there no longer is a cave. It collapsed years ago. Instead you follow wooden walkways that wind and turn giving you a unique view of the falls. The further you go, the more water pours on to you. The roar of the falls increases. The last stretch will bring you to unbelievable “Hurricane Deck.” Imagine standing in a pouring rain while hurricane winds over 80 or 90 miles per hour swirl around you. You are standing directly alongside and almost at the top of this powerful falls. It's an unbelievable experience!

    Terrapin Point

    After Cave of the Winds, we headed up to Terrapin Point. Paths lead down to viewing areas offering views of the Bridal Veil, American, and Horseshoe falls. We could look down and see Maid of the Mist and the Canadian equivalent, the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. Remember at this point you are just across the Niagara River from Canada. You will probably see a rainbow formed by the water in the air.

    There are picnic area, a snack bar, rest rooms and a stature of Tesla. The Top of the Falls Restaurant is located here.

    Three Sisters Island

    As we departed Goat Island, we made a stop at Three Sisters Island. These are really a tiny trio of islands. It's a beautiful walk with several bridges.

    I noticed a huge amount of seagulls just out a few hundred feet on spits of land in the rapids. Small falls are on all sides. At the end of the path, you have a great view of Canadian Rapids and Horseshoe Falls.

    Maid of the Mist

    This is a whole new prospective of the falls from Cave of the Winds. While there you are up high as the falls first begins its journey to earth, On Maid of the Mist, you're experiencing it from the bottom up. Maid of the Mist has been operating for more than 150 years.

    You begin at the Niagara Falls USA Prospect Point Observation Tower. At the base is where you board the boat. When you go to the top it offers the wonderful views of all three of Niagara Falls. It's also a great bird watching spot.


    Once again you are outfitted; this time with a rain poncho. It will help keep your torso dry just about as well the one at Cave of the Winds did. Which is to say your face, arms, and legs will once more be drenched. The boat cruises out past the base of the American Falls and onto the basin of Horseshoe Falls. Imagine standing out in a thunderstorm where the sound is a dull roar and the rain is a mist. Never mind that it pours down and drenches everything around, it is a mist. Yes, you will be cooled off. You will be cruising in that rainbow you saw atop Terrapin Point.

    As you approach the falls, you are so close to one of the most powerful hydro energy sources in the world. The volume of water pouring down at incredible speed is amazing. As it strikes the river, the massive rock formations are constantly pounded until you feel they must splinter into pebbles. Yet they withstand the torrents bouncing some of the water away and create a powerful beauty of their own.

    Other Attractions

    There are several other attractions at Niagara Falls State Park that I didn't get to experience. There's a trolley that runs around the park. Niagara Adventure Theater is located at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center. Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins are what is left of the original hydroelectric power plant.  Aquarium of Niagara is home to more than 1,500 aquatic animals. On the side of the building there is a life-sized painting of a whale by marine life artist Wyland. It's known as the Whaling Wall. The Discovery Center tells the natural and local history of Niagara Gorge.

    This is one trip you will never forget.

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