Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Boating and Hiking at Niagara Falls

Thursday June 30, 2016                                                                            Most Recent Posts:
Four Mile Creek State Park                                                                       
Niagara Falls at Last
Youngstown, New York                                                                            Exploring Allegany State Park  


Today we head back down to Niagara Falls from our campsite at Four Mile Creek State Park.  It’s a 15 mile trip straight down the Robert Moses Parkway.  It could not possibly be easier.  We’re at the park by 9am and drive right into lot #1 and pick a spot in the shade.  SCORE!

We walk along the fabulous river again and when we get to the falls, a rainbow is there to greet us. Another BONUS for coming early. On the map we walked from about the r in NIagara up to the edge of the American Falls.

I’m really sorry that these pictures have the tall Canadian buildings in them.  I’m a bit miffed at Canada for the ugly view in their direction.  Some height restrictions would have been a good idea in my mind.





Next thing we know, there is a double rainbow.  Double bonus?? 


The major thing we want to do today is take the Maid of the Mist boat ride up to the Horseshoe falls.  We had thought we would wait until later when it’s a bit warmer – 59 right now.  But with that rainbow, I want to go immediately.  David is game.

The Maid of the Mist has been giving tours of the base of the Falls since 1846, when ferry boat captains made more money from tourists wanting to see the Falls up close than from transporting goods.  The current company runs boats from both countries.  The red boats are Canadian and the blue are American.

We take an elevator down and walk through this canvas tunnel to be handed blue raincoats and then on to the boat.



Lots of people head up to the upper deck.  We were advised by our neighbors last night to head for the bow of the boat instead.  But unfortunately for us we aren’t the first people on.  Not too much of a problem for David.  I can only get a spot behind the biggest guy in the front of the boat and I have to keep trying to look around him.  Can you spot me on the left behind massive man?




We pass the American Falls and the spray at water level is fantastic.



Then it’s on to the Horseshoe Falls.  So different being down on the water.



So much spray we can feel it from this far away.



And then it gets really pushy.  Feels like that powerful sideways rain.



I’ve got our underwater Nikon camera but there is so much “rain” from the falls that I can’t see anything.  This is David getting hammered but who would know.




The spray from the falls begins to pelt us and is so powerful it pushes me away from the railing.  I have water in my eyes.  When I turn away from the falls to wipe off my face, I take this shot of the back of our boat.  I wonder if the Canadians have an American flag on the back of theirs or if we have theirs because the Horseshoe are the Canadian Falls.



The captain stays in the spray and turns us every direction so that no one can escape getting the full effect.   Then we’re coming back as another Maid is going out.  Very well timed.



Did we have a good time?
You bet.  
Don’t come to Niagara Falls without doing this. 
You will be “blown away”!!




After you get off the boat you can walk over to the Crow’s Nest behind the base of the observation tower and stand close to the falls. These are great views. If you walk up the stairs, you will get soaked. 

Of course it is optional, they warn you it is slippery yet everyone does it so we get to stand in lines and walk along.  Most folks are smart enough to keep their ponchos on and we do indeed get soaked again.  More fun!

AND although I didn’t see the rainbow from the boat which was a tad disappointing, you sure can see it here.  That’s David pointing.





The power of the falls was too great for pictures of either of us getting pummeled so we’ll just have to keep our memory pictures.

Everyone was very polite about taking turns getting pictures at the best spot on the walk.  I get a double rainbow too.  Lucky me!




From that spot, I turn around and take this picture of the Maid as she passes through the rainbow.  I wonder, could no one see it, or was I not close enough to the railing?




From there we walk back to the elevator and take it to the observation tower whose deck extends out over the Niagara Gorge. It is the only place on the American side to view both the American and the Horseshoe falls at the same time.

Great pictures from here of the boats going back and forth.







We get our last views of the American Falls, take the elevator down and walk over to the Trolley stop.  We’re going to the Discovery Center.  See the map below. On the way we’ll stop to look at the river from the 3 sisters islands.





You can walk to the Discovery Center #2 on the map but we want to do some hiking in the gorge while we are there so we don’t use up our energy getting there.  We visited everything on the map but 3 Sisters yesterday.  They are the 3 islands off the coast of Goat Island which is the body of land that splits the river into the two falls.  



The trolley is really a wonderful way for those with children or walking problems to get around.  It costs $3 a day for adults and runs every 20 minutes.  One day of the trolley comes with our Discovery Pass.  Today is our day to use it.



We get off on Goat Island and walk the three historic walking bridges that link Goat Island to the first sister and then to each of the others.  On the last Sister you get a unique view of the upper rapids as the water races for the Horseshoe Falls.


Looking over every bridge the river is rushing to the edge.






Here we are at the edge of the outer most sister about 500 yards east of Horsehoe Falls.





We walk back over the bridges and take the next Trolley which stops at the Visitor’s Center,  Parking Lot #1 and the Discovery Museum where we disembark.

Here they have nice outdoor tables near the Center so we have lunch before going inside.


The center contains a wealth of information for a building so small and a great film about the Gorge, the railway and the dam.

It is very difficult to know which of the very interseting information to share. So here are a random few things.

These numbers amazed me especially when I thought about the fact that my lifetime is at the very best no longer than 100 years.   12,300 years is 123 life times ago.  Most people can’t trace their families back more than 6 or 7 life times. 

The flow of the Niagara River has been carving out the 7.1 mile gorge for the past 12,300 years (that’s 123 life times)  through rock that is over 400 MILLION (400,000,000) years old (that’s 4 million life times). 

Around 11,000 years ago, the Niagara river became the only drainage connection between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  This began the major cutting of the gorge.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Niagara is a controlled river.  The great power of the Niagara River flowing over the falls in total freedom used to carve the gorge an astounding 3 to 6 feet a year.  Now with half the power, at a minimum, diverted before reaching Niagara Falls this has sharply diminished the carving to 1 to 2 feet a year.

Ice coming down the Niagara River may collect in the Maid of the Mist pool below the Falls and form a solid mass the entire width of the river and over a mile in length.  The ice can vary from 5 feet to more than 50 feet in thickness. 

I love these old pictures from the turn of the century of the frozen Niagara.  If I could teleport up here for a day when it is frozen I’d love to do it.  But live here?  In that weather?  No thanks.

This one shows the snow and mist have covered the rocks below the frozen falls.  People would sled down the ice mountains and build warming huts.  Look at how many people.





We’re planning to walk the Great Gorge Railway Trail which is described as an easy 2.2 mile hike with gradual grade and stairs.   So I want to know about the railway. 

From 1895 until 1935 The Great Gorge Railway ran on both the US and Canada side of the gorge at water level.    It was one of the most expensive and difficult rails ever constructed. 

After five years of operation, the Great Gorge Route was running trolley cars through the gorge every fifteen minutes, from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. The Great Gorge route closed seasonally between March 1st and April 30th during the Spring thaw when most rock falls would occur.    

The Great Gorge Route operated ten months of the year. During each year, the Great Gorge Route was carrying an average of 200,000 passengers.  Remember this is at the turn of the century.

Erosion of walls of the Niagara Gorge became the biggest enemy of the fledgling railroad. The Great Gorge Route was being disrupted by rock fall after rock fall.


The rock falls and landslides were a costly expenditure requiring regular repairs and preventative maintenance.

It wasn't long before these repair expenditures soon began to eliminate any profit.

Amazingly, in forty years of operation and carrying thirteen million passengers, not one car, passenger or employee was ever struck by a falling rock.  But there were many other mishaps in which people were injured and killed.  Those are detailed in the excellent Center exhibit.

On September 6th 1901, United States President, William McKinley with his wife and entourage rode on the Great Gorge Route from Lewiston to Niagara Falls. Hours later, President McKinley was assassinated at the Pan Am Exhibition in Buffalo.

In 1932 the Canadians closed their section of the rail due to fewer riders, It was the great depression after all.  Too many rock falls and too few riders made profits dwindle.



On September 17th 1935 at 2 a.m., five thousand tons of rock fell approximately 150 feet north of the Whirlpool Bridge, destroying more than 200 feet of track and rail bed. This was that largest rock fall to plague the Great Gorge Route. It forced the Great Gorge Route to close for business. The Great Gorge Route line along the base of the Niagara Gorge on the American side was never repaired and was never reopened.

So now you can walk the Great Gorge Trail for 1.1 miles of its remaining route and then walk back .  We decide to do that and then hook up with the American Falls Gorge Trail for another 2 miles.  Total 4.2 miles


Because the trail is described as easy, I don’t get off the trolley back at parking lot #1 to change out of my oofos which I find to be wonderful walking shoes on good surfaces. So comfortable!  This looks like a good surface doesn’t it?




The first part of the hike is along the rim and then down we go.   Wow the walls are tall. 





We make note of the sign noting the cut off for the American Falls Trail.  We’ll catch it on our return.






When we come to the end of the trail, across the river, we can see some sort of a building with a deck right down on the water.  Our side has just a stopping point with a bench.  Still it’s a lovely and very natural spot to watch the river flow.



Back up the trail we go to the sign for the American Falls Gorge Trail.  Turn right.



The American Falls Gorge Trail will also take us back to the Discover Center so we are sort of making a lollipop loop trail.  There is only one difference in where these two trails end up.  More on that later.



Not far down what was a nice wide trail like the Gorge Railway Trail, the one we are on turns to dirt and narrows just at the point where there are these stairs off to the right.  So which is the trail?  Not many trail markers we have noticed on the trails here.  The metal stairs appear to go down down down toward the water – looks like a good thing – but I think I”d better check it out before having David go down and then have to come back up.  Off I go.

I go down down down a total of 80 some steps and find this little building at the end of the stairs.   On the door is a sign which says U.S. Government Property, National Ocean Service, Water Level Gauge Station.

Definitely not the trail but a nice view of the river.




On we go on the narrow dirt trail.  Things are still fine.  This is a hike more than a walk.  Probably should have other shoes on but the oofos are doing fine.



Really beautiful out here above the water.  No one else around.



Well now.  All of a sudden we are in very rocky terrain.  Not so good with oofos on the feet of someone inclined to break ankles.  Certainly don’t want to experience break #3 here at Niagara Falls.   



Well at least I have long pants on.  Neither of us really dressed for a serious hike in the woods thinking that all the trails in Niagara were wide and well groomed.  And they were until this one.   I really like this trail better than the groomed trails but here we are with David walking through poison ivy in shorts and I’m walking in open sandals.


We come to an area I call “Car Parts Canyon”.  How in the world did all these parts get here?  We are more than half way down the gorge.  There are two engine blocks and one frame with its wheels attached.



Further along we come to a car body wedged against a rock.  David says it looks like an early to mid-50’s GM model.  It seems surprising that anything would have fallen down here at that late date.  If that’s what happened I hope there was no one in it when it did.





Later I ask about it and am told “Yea it’s been there a long time. No response to how did they get there.



Certainly a surprise on a rough trail like this one.   David can’t figure it out either.



Pretty narrow trail right on the edge of the gorge.  Amazing what great lengths they usually go to fence you to safety.  Not here.



After going quite a way wondering if we are even on the right trail since it isn’t and hasn’t been marked, we are getting closer to the water at least.  We know that the trail comes out at the site of the former power station buildings on the water near the Discovery Center.  We started out just outside the Discovery Center on top of the rim but are coming back at water level.




Somebody in Canada across the way has a home right on the edge of the gorge.  He doesn’t have to worry about flooding.  Hope he’s far enough back not to have to worry about the rock slides that eliminated the railway.



More really rough going for inappropriate footwear.



Now we’re right down on the water with no rails, fences, signs or trail markers.  Great spot but are we on the right trail?  They don’t have any detailed trail maps either.


This is our only map.  Pretty light on details.  The center is on the left by #2.  We took the trailhead for #4 to its end, came back on it to the trailhead of #3 and hope we are on it headed back to the Center.



After another uphill from the water, at least we are now on flat ground and the trail has widened a bit.


And then in a minute we come around a bend and there it is, what’s left of the power station and the big tower housing the elevator.  I have to say Niagara Falls has more elevators (3) than any state park I’ve ever been in and we’ve been on all of them.  Well this will make #3 and it is the only way to get up to the top of the Gorge from here.  Hope the door isn’t locked.




We head for the far right door which they did leave open for us.  I push the up button and we climb aboard.  At the top we arrive just as the Trolley pulls in so no time to go into the Center and ask why there aren’t better signs on the American Falls Gorge Trail.



Back at home after dinner, we are treated to another sunset over Lake Ontario.  Nice backyard we have I think.


Love the colors on the water and the last beams of light coming across.


The rainbow colors are in the sky as the dark clouds shove the sun below the water.  Orange, yellow, a faint pink and green, not sure about purple but blue.   Great way to end a boating and hiking day.  And no inappropriate shoe mishaps.  I’m thrilled!!



  1. It's interesting to see the falls and the gorge from the American side like this. I really must go over the next time I'm there.

    Being on Goat Island, I imagine there must have been a view of the old scow that's lodged in the riverbed above the Horseshoe Falls.

  2. Beautiful pictures! You were brave to keep going on that trail. I'm glad it came out where you thought it would. I've never been to all those places on the American side, some but not all so I found this very interesting. Are you going to the Canadian side? I've been there many times. The falls are beautiful in the winter but way too cold for me now. Enjoy your time there.

    1. No, we did not make it to the Canadian side as we had hoped. The weather was predicted to be rainy all day so we gave it up. Also, prices being higher over there for everything was not encouraging, no were all the tourist attractions - not our thing.

  3. Niagara Falls is truly one of the most spectacular places I've ever seen. I wouldn't get into a boat to go out and up close though! As I commented in your last past though, I'm glad I visited the Falls when I was young!

  4. Thanks for sharing. There's something about that town that keeps drawing you back. Did you get to do the cave tour?

  5. Oh what fun getting soaked near the falls:o)) I remember it certainly wasn't a good place for people who wear glasses;o)) Great rainbow photos!!! Keep having fun!!!

  6. Another terrific post about the Falls. I don't remember doing that hike, how interesting!

  7. What a wonderful day wrapped in rainbows and sunsets! We really must do the boat ride, although it would feel better with the temps we're having here I think. Great info on the railway, and amazing that the rock slides never happened when people and machines were on the tracks. Can't understand why the trail wouldn't have better markings, although you did end up where you expected. Congrats on doing so without injury :-)))

  8. Lot's of fun things for us on the American side - my first time and I really enjoyed it. I have been to the Canadian side a few times when I was finishing high school in Ontario, but never came over to see the lesser falls until now. Thanks to Sherry for planning to make this possible - a great park to visit and not too crowded even.

  9. Loved riding on the Maid of the Mist! Your huge grin says it all:) A double rainbow...beautiful!!! Great trails! Gorgeous end to a special day:)

  10. I can't imagine hiking that rocky trail in sandals! The Maid of the Mist looks like so much fun—your photos really convey the immense power of the falls. And the double rainbows are gorgeous! That would be quite the sight to see the falls frozen solid! I always thought Niagra Falls would be way too crowded, but it looks wonderful.

  11. I've only seen the falls briefly but now want to return for the boat ride. Love all the different perspectives. Even with the diversion, that's a lot of erosion. Old rail lines do make good trails but looks like the side trail could have been better signed. Interesting elevator shaft. Such a mystery of cars and parts. You do find the most gorgeous places to camp, and watch the sunset.

  12. I've been to the falls twice, in 8th grade on a bus trip from Chicago with the Girl Scouts. In 1990 with my husband and daughter, we did the boat ride and caves. I don't recall doing any hikes, so I may have to go back again.

  13. Thanks for taking me back with your detailed info and great captures. The only spot we did not cover is the trail that led to elevator #3, somehow we missed that one.
    A visit there should be in everybody's list, its beautiful even if there are lots of people enjoying it with you.

  14. So much to do there at Niagara. The power of that water and the beauty of the rainbows! The boat ride sounds like a blast. Well done on that hike in oofos. Very interesting history - if we could all teleport, that would be so interesting!

  15. Ooooooo all that beautiful water! The boat rise looked super fun! Like a water park only natural. That trail did look pretty precarious- I would've been worried if I were wearing anything other than hiking boots. It looked really narrow and steep. Seeing the power in all that water- magnificent! xxxooo


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