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By: Zdenko Kahlina
The Horseshoe Falls Day Tour from Campbellville
Niagara Falls is one of the best falls in the world, straddling the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York. The falls are amazing and definitely worth the visit.
Vera and I were visiting family in Halton region last October and we reserved one day for a trip to Niagara Falls with the car. I’m glad we did! It was a great experience, much more than just looking at a large waterfall. We also spent time to walk through the Niagara city and visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is a very quaint place, almost like going back in time.
We brought our four year old grandson Luka with us, but I am not sure he enjoyed this trip like we did, especially long walks. He’s simply just too young to shift his interests from toys to touring sites like this, so his ‘dedo’ (Croatian for grandpa) was there to carry him around.
On our way from Campbellville to Niagara Falls we had no issues with traffic on highway (401). We covered the distance in about one hour. Parking around the Falls can be hard to find – we left our car in the town above the river, (on Ellen Avenue, behind the Days Inn hotel) – it was $5 for the whole day and was within a relatively short walk of the Falls. Walking down to Queen Victoria Park and the fall took only about 10 minutes. Little Luka didn’t like the walk, so I had to carry him half of the way.
The City of Niagara Falls itself (that is, up on the hill where all the hotels are located) is, quite frankly, overcrowded, noisy and unattractive. They build a small Vegas type place down the Clifton Hill road. There were many great restaurants and shops to visit. They’ve managed to ruin what could have been a real beautiful spot with bad architecture and bad planning. During the visit I suggest you to stick to the Queen Victoria Park by the river and enjoy the falls. That’s what we did!
On this picture above is an awesome ‘SkyWheel’ visible from the Clifton Hill road, full of huge life-like dinosaurs. Towering 175 feet above the Falls, the Niagara SkyWheel delivers stunning daytime and nighttime views of the Falls. Dinosaur Adventure Golf features two 18-hole courses: “Raptor” and “T-Rex” (a total of 36 Holes); 3 distinct decorative ponds with fast-moving rapids and bubblers and a 50 foot high “active” steam-erupting volcano that lets golfers play directly through a realistically eerie, cavernous volcanic interior on their way to the 18th hole.
I won’t lie: my impression is that city of Niagara Falls is uber-touristy. There are wax museums and a ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ museum, and if it’s a American fast-food chain, you can probably find it here. We had trouble finding decent family restaurants that serve Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese food. But even the most jaded hipster shouldn’t pass up a chance to visit this town, because the Falls themselves are spectacular.
Niagara Falls is composed of two major sections separated by Goat Island: Horseshoe Falls, the majority of which lies on the Canadian side of the border, and American Falls on the American side. The volume of water approaching the falls during peak flow season may sometimes be as much as 202,000 cubic feet per second. The falls are stunning and like nothing you can ever experience anyway else in the world. There is an amazing ambience around the falls, something just draws you in and makes you look in awe at the sight of this magnificent spectacle.
What a great site! I have never seen such a wonder elsewhere! We started from Clifton Hill Road and Table Rock visitors’ center and then we walked along the promenade to the overlook, taking pictures along the way. There is no way to describe the experience of being so close to something so powerful. Niagara Falls has long been a source of inspiration for explorers, travelers, artists, authors, filmmakers, residents and visitors, few of whom realize that the falls were nearly to be solely devoted to industrial and commercial use. It is amazing to think that this attraction has been running since the mid-1800s.
The area around Niagara Falls is beautifully landscaped and maintained, but the crowds can be overwhelming. If you don’t like battling lots of people, try to avoid weekends – maybe try to avoid the entire summer! Although even in October the crowds were huge.
We didn’t go for the amazing ride on the boat under the falls, as we preferred to watch them from afar! I am sure it would be a bit too much for little Luka. But it appears this would be something amazing for the grownups. We watched these small boats getting really close to the falls where they literally get soaked in the spray from the falls and their positioning gives you a spectacular view.
As we were walking on the promenade, following the river, very high up away from Niagara Falls, we could feel the mist coming from the falls. It was a great experience!
See the Rainbow Bridge above? That is the bridge that leads over to the United States from Canada.
How high are the Falls? How fast is the water? Here are some of the numbers…
- The Niagara River is about 58 kilometers (36 mi.) in length and is the natural outlet from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
- The elevation between the two lakes is about 99 metres (326 ft.), half occurring at the Falls themselves.
- The total area drained by the Niagara River is approximately 684,000 square kilometres (264,000 sq. mi.).
- The average fall from Lake Erie to the beginning of the upper Niagara Rapids is only 2.7 metres (9 ft.)
- Below the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool control structure, the river falls 15 metres (50 ft.) to the brink of the Falls.
- The deepest section in the Niagara River is just below the Falls. It is so deep it equals the height of the Falls above, 52 metres (170 ft.).
- The Upper Niagara River extends 35 kilometres (22 mi.) from Lake Erie to the Cascade Rapids, which begin 1 kilometre (0.6 mi.) upstream from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
- At Grand Island, the Niagara River divides into the west channel, known as the Canadian or Chippawa Channel, and the east channel, known as the American or Tonawanda Channel.
- The Chippawa Channel is approximately 17.7 kilometres (11 mi.) in length and varies from 610 to 1220 metres (2,000 to 4,000 ft.) in width. Water speed ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 metres per second (2 to 3 ft. per second). This channel carries approximately 60% of the total river flow.
- The Tonawanda channel is 24 kilometres (15 mi.) long and varies from 460 to 610 metres (1,500 to 2,000 ft.) in width above Tonawanda Island. Downstream, the channel varies from 460 to 1220 metres (1,500 to 4,000 ft.) in width. Speed ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 metres per second (2 to 3 feet per second).
- The Niagara Gorge extends from the Falls for 11 kilometres (7 mi.) downstream to the foot of the escarpment at Queenston.
Niagara’s Parkway – River road
I’ve been to Niagara Falls three times already and I always take the River road or ‘Niagara Parkway’ to drive from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. So I wanted to do it again on this trip to show Vera and Luka beautiful scenery along the way.
If you’ve previously visited the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls, you’ve driven part of this road already? In autumn, the loveliest stretch is the section that runs between the small towns of Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here, the maple trees lining the river create a shifting panorama of red, orange and gold from early to late October.
The historic Niagara Parkway, which locals call simply ‘the river road’, follows the winding curves of the Niagara River that divides Canada and the United States as it journeys from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The route is only 56 km long and many people drive slower than the allowed 60 km/h. On your way you will see many attractions. Stop at the various parking lots and enjoy breathtaking sights.
Landscaped during the Depression of the 1930s by the provincial Niagara Parks Commission, this well-loved route is used today as much for recreation as for transportation. The parkway has lots of places to pull over to stretch your legs and admire the scenery and, north of the Falls, many wineries and restaurants where you can stop for a break, as well as fruit stands and farmer’s markets offering fresh produce in the summer. You can drive the entire 56 km or get off at any point along the way and walk, bike or rollerblade the paved recreational trail that runs parallel to the water.
While still on the Niagara Parkway section between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls we drove by the “Chippawa Battlefield”, a bloody battle against the American invaders took place in 1814. The Americana won for the first time, but lost after that the battle at “Lundy’s Lane”. They had to retract their troops to Fort Erie. If you have time visit the museum and learn more about all that.
As expected we all thoroughly enjoyed the scenery throughout. From the south end at Fort Erie we were treated to an impressive view of the Buffalo skyline and we end the trip about a half hour later in the beautiful and charming town of Niagara on the Lake. The time this trip takes will depend on traffic through Niagara Falls itself, which can be a real zoo – especially on the weekends.
Fort Erie itself is a border town. On the other side of the lake and the Niagara River which starts here is Buffalo. Buffalo belongs to NY State and is still the target of many Canadian shoppers. Both countries are connected through the ‘Peace Bridge’. For many years there were discussions of building a new and wider bridge to allow a better flow of the traffic.
The grass is still green in October and the river, glimpsed between the dark tree trunks, is a pale, silvery blue. The shade you see on antique Norwegian wardrobes or blue cameo brooches. The blur of color is so dazzling that you’ll probably want to stop and stay still for a while to appreciate the full beauty of the area. There are several scenic lookout spots along the way with small parking areas.
From Queenston’s Heights Park, you’ll discover a commanding view of both the river and Lake Ontario. Find a bench where you can sit and contemplate your surroundings, or share a picnic lunch with a companion. The park pavilion offers two restaurants, one casual and one fine dining, both with great panoramic views of the river.
Niagara on the Lake
At the north end of the Parkway, where the river runs into Lake Ontario, you come to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a bustling resort town famous for its theater festival — the Shaw Festival.
Being one of the prettiest towns in Canada and the center of tourism in the region, Niagara-on-the-Lake plays a key role. Beautiful setting, forts, river, arts, historical sites, grand mansions, gardens and parks all that make Niagara-on-the-Lake a wonderful place to visit. The Niagara-on-the-Lake is also one of the most fascinating historical place that even goes back to the history of early Ontario. The town still retains its 19th century charm and the ambiance of the Victorian era. It also boasts winery tours, heritage homes, a historic fort and a flower-filled main street.
While the chichi clothing, gift and home décor boutiques along Queen Street are alluring, take time to explore the side streets here, as well. You won’t be disappointed. Lined with early 19th century houses, this is the kind of leafy, picture-perfect neighborhood you usually see only in the movies. Carved pumpkins, wicker rocking chairs and baskets full of red geraniums decorate white clapboard homes with wrap-around porches.
When you have had enough exercise, stop for refreshments at one of the many restaurants in town. The century-old Oban Inn and the trendy Epicurean, with its leafy backyard patio, are popular favorites. You’ll find restaurants and cafés offering seafood, steaks, Italian and Chinese cuisine, and more along Queen Street.
On an autumn day, you can celebrate another natural, local treasure, the grape harvest, by indulging in a glass of Niagara wine. Since we were driving and had little Luka with us in the car, we skipped this attraction. All in all, we didn’t spend lots of time here. After all we have to keep something interesting for our next visit. Hopefully very soon!
And then finally at around five in the afternoon we realized it was time to get back in the car and head home. This was a short trip, but we felt like we got to do everything we wanted to do in one day. And we didn’t spend all that much money either.
Have a good and healthy season.
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