Facts On Niagara Falls American side
When most people visit Niagara Falls, they often head straight for the Canadian Side of the falls. Just across the Niagara River, in the United States, are some too-often-overlooked attractions and views of these majestic wonders. In the USA, one would be hard-pressed to differentiate Niagara Falls, New York from any other small upstate town. Aside from a small collection of hotels and attractions around the falls, and the towering Seneca Niagara Casino, the American side of the falls has little to distinguish itself as one of the most-visited vacation destinations in the country. It is only until visitors approach almost the brink of the falls themselves where they see that the American side has many wonders to behold.
Niagara Falls State Park
The United States’ part of Niagara Falls is in the Niagara Falls State Park (sometimes called “New York State Park” or “Niagara Reservation State Park”). Started in 1885, the park is the oldest state park in the United States. It was landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who was one of the initiators and designers of the Niagara Falls State Park – but he is better known for another creation: New York City’s Central Park.
The Niagara Falls State Park manages and operates many of the attractions on this side of the falls. The park encompasses all of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Goat Island (and surrounding islands), and about one third of Horseshoe Falls. Although the park itself is open year-round, including the Visitors Center, most of the attractions are seasonal and thus off-season adventures offer less direct activity with the falls.
The Visitors Center features general information about the falls, including a snack bar and gift shop. The large garden outside is maintained seasonally. Also in the Visitors Center is the Festival Theater, a year-round attraction which features the 1999 History Channel movie, “Niagara Falls: A History of the Falls.”
While most Niagara Falls visitors will agree that the Canadian side of the falls is superior, with better views of all that great water, a distinct advantage to the American side is – interestingly enough – much closer access to the falls themselves, by actually standing “on top” of them (plus, visitors get a great view of Canada!).
Goat Island is the piece of land that separates Bridal Veil Falls from Horseshoe Falls. Accessible by car and part of the Niagara Falls State Park, Goat Island has an interesting location. From here, visitors can see rapids up close, which lead to the American / Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. It is additionally the location of several of the park’s best attractions. Though the island is big, because of its location and the surrounding hostile waters, it is slowly eroding and will eventually disappear as the three Niagara Falls move upstream over many years. Goat Island is where several of the Niagara Falls State Park attractions are located, including Cave of the Winds. Shuttles take visitors around Goat Island and throughout the park, but there are additionally many walking paths, benches, and scenic vistas on which to stroll around endlessly.
Luna Island is the tiny island that separates the Bridal Veil Falls from the American Falls. It is accessible on foot, but no cars are allowed (the island is so small, more than a few cars wouldn’t fit, anyway). The walkway to Luna Island is on Goat Island. The walk to Luna Island is worth it, as it situates you in between two waterfalls, which is an unusual place to be.
The rapids approaching the American Falls – visible only on the American side, roar through the middle of the park and around the several small islands before toppling over the brink of the American Falls. The rapids reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. At night, they may be illuminated with bright spotlights for a more unusual view.
Horseshoe Falls is bordered on the Canadian side by Table Rock Point, and on the American side by Terrapin Point. Here, visi-tors can feel the mist of Horseshoe Falls as they look across the gorge at Canada. More remote than Table Rock Point, Terrapin Point has great views of the Canadian Fallsview resort sections, and the mist here can be just as powerful as Table Rock, if the conditions are right.
Cave of the Winds
The curious name of this quintessential attraction is misleading. Cave of the Winds is not a cave, but rather a walkway that leads visitors over to the base of Bridal Veil Falls – the smallest of the three Niagara Falls. The attraction, however, used to be a cave. Named after the Aeolus, Greek God of Wind, it stood behind Bridal Veil Falls and was a popular tourist spot as early as the 1800s. The earliest tourists had to climb down a rope, and eventually a staircase, to reach the cave. However, there were occasionally cave-ins, which killed or injured tourist. It was intentionally destroyed in 1955 because it was in danger of collapsing.
Visitors are given a poncho and special footwear prior to commencing the hour-long adventure. In groups, they are led with a tour guide down an elevator to near the base of Bridal Veil Falls. From there, they walk on a wooden walkway to what has been dubbed the “Hurricane Deck” – the closest accessible point to the falls. It is at this point where visitors get positively soaked, sometimes even more than on Maid of the Mist. Ice makes the attraction largely inaccessible in the winter, and also requires the decks to be completely re-built each year – a process which can take weeks.
Located just beyond the Visitors Center in the Niagara Falls State Park, the Observation Tower is the best place in the United States to view the American and Horseshoe Falls. The tower extends out a little bit from the mainland, but still does not come close to the spectacular views from the Canadian side of the falls. Still, the tower offers a very different point of view than the one most visitors are used to. Also, there is a Maid of the Mist dock at the Observation Tower. When boarding here, the tour encompasses basically the same experience. However, near the dock, there is (when weather permits) a path where visitors can walk up next to the American Falls – kind of like the Cave of the Winds, but free, and you don’t get as wet.
Whirlpool State Park
Located on the American side of the Whirlp 1ff8 ool Rapids area, the Whirlpool State Park is a hearty adventurer’s place. Here, a crude cement staircase makes a long descent into the Great Gorge, down to nearly the water level of the rapids. For those who don’t wish to make the difficult descent, there is still the perfect place for picnics and play on the upper level, with great views of the whirlpool and rapids.
Author: Dirk Vanderwilt
Dirk Vanderwilt is the author of several travel guidebooks for the Tourist Town Guides series. Tourist Town Guides offer independent, honest advice about America’s top tourist hotspots.For more information, visit http://www.touristtown.com
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