Horseshoe Falls

I’ve always wondered why the Horseshoe Falls aren’t just called Niagra Falls. They’re powered by — like the Niagra Falls on the American side — the Niagra River. And, while they’re shaped somewhat like a horseshoe they are, more importantly, much, much bigger and more impressive than Niagra Falls. My guess is they lost out in the naming contest because more of the commercialization of the Falls was driven by the US.

Whatever you call them, they’re very impressive. But, oddly, not as loud as I expected. Sure, all that water pouring over the cliffs creates a lot of sound. But it’s much more like loud background noise, even close up, than anything thunderous.

It’s hard to appreciate the spectacle the Falls present because they take up so much space. This panoramic shot may give you a sense of what you can see from the Canadian side overlook:

The American side is that relatively small set of falls on the left-hand side of the picture.

When I was a student at the State University of New York at Buffalo1, my housemates and I used to ride our bikes, once a year, up the Canadian side of the Niagra River from Buffalo to the Falls. So I was pretty familiar with what they look like.

Which didn’t prepare me for the experience of going down to the base of the Horseshoe Falls, which you can do via an elevator and a short hike.

The first place we stopped “down below” were a pair of lookouts located behind the falls. There, at last, you can hear the thunder you expected to hear up above. You also get a really good sense of how much water is falling really far down the cliff face.

The route to the lookouts is lined with interesting tidbits of history about the Falls. Including a description of the very first person to deliberately go over the Falls — in a barrel, of course. Accompanied by her cat! She survived, with some minor injuries. Presumably the cat did, too2.

The other end of the route puts you into a viewing area just a bit downriver from the Falls.

With that, we bid a fond adieu to the Horseshoe Falls and got back on the road to Buffalo, following the Niagra River. Which was just as beautiful as I remembered it.

  1. now known as “University at Buffalo”, and still shortened to UB 

  2. I can only imagine what Moose would do if Barbara tried to take him along on such a stunt. He’s very attached to her and always sleeps cuddled up against her…but I suspect that, even for Moose, there are limits 

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