One of the Seven Wonders of the World and the second largest waterfall in the world (after Victoria Falls in South Africa), sitting astride between Canada and America Niagara Falls is the combined name of three falls Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.Niagara Falls marks the international (disputed) boundary between Ontario and New York. The largest of them, Horseshoe Falls lies on the Canadian side and American Falls on the American side.
Horseshoe and American Falls are separated by Goat Island. The Bridal Veil is smallest and located on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island. Horseshoe fall has a drop of Approx 167 feet (50 m).
Niagara Falls is believed to be prehistoric in its origin, existing even in the time of ice ages, and is assumed to be carved out of rocks due to erosion some 18,000 years ago. Current rate of erosion is 1 foot per year, and it reduced from 3 foot per year as it was in the past. However with the current reduced rate, it is still estimated that the falls will cease to exist after 50,000 years.
Besides being a ardent touristic attraction, it has commercial value due to hydroelectric power generation. Apart from that the waterfalls have been the hot spot for people looking for extreme adventure. Some have fallen in barrels, and some tip toed over tight ropes; artists have painted the falls on the canvas. Starting with the 18th century and to date, tourism is the biggest industry of Niagara. The falls have been a source of inspiration for filmmakers, writers, tourists, authors, and visitors. A lot of travelers wrote about it in their travel-logs. During his expeditions to Canada, Samuel de Champlain is reported to have visited the spectacular falls in 1604. In early 18th century Pehr Kalm, a naturalist from Sweden wrote a scientific description of the falls. Louis Hennepin a Belgian national described the falls in 1677 while French Jesuit Reverend Paul Ragueneau visited it 35 years before Hennepin.
The water from the falls stopped twice when it converted into a little stream. An ice jam in 1848 stopped the flow of water from both falls completely for over 40 hours. People actually walked all over to collect artifacts from the riverbed. The flow over American falls was stopped in 1969 in an attempt to remove large rocks but was later abandoned due to enormous costs.
Niagara Falls known as the honeymoon capital of the world is also famous for its hydroelectric power generation. In 1961, when Niagara’s first power project kicked off it became the largest power facility in the West. Still the largest power producer of New York State, generating 2.4 million Kilowatts, about 70% of the water from Niagara is diverted to pass through turbines that convert mechanical energy into electrical, supplying power to Canada and USA. The most powerful stations on American side are the Sir Adam Beck 1 and 2 and Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant on the Canadian side. The combined power generated is 4.4 million Kilowatts of power.
In 1885 to stop over commercialization of the falls legislation to build first state park (called Niagara Reservation) was passed in an attempt to preserve its natural beauty. There have been many encroachments on the Park mainly in the form of tall hotel buildings. This urbanization and commercialization has compromised its beauty, and it is tempering with its weather.
Nonetheless, Niagara Falls is still a beauty to behold and a prime tourist attraction of the world.