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Monday, June 3, 2013 : Niagara Falls

 

Today, we get up at 6:30. We have quite a long drive !

 

After an entirely forgettable breakfast (though with a view on the hotel pool), we leave Saratoga Springs. Our next visit is 280 miles away.

 

Saratoga Springs, Victorian house

Victorian house in Saratoga Springs

 

Crossing Saratoga Springs does not take long, just enough to snap this picture of a typical Victorian-era house.

 

We take Interstate 90 at Amsterdam. Some city names seem to have been inspired by something else than imagination. Then it is a long strech of highway, straight to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Marie sleeps almost all the way.

 

We leave Saratoga Springs under a totally cloudy sky. The weather was supposed to get better, but it is only close to Niagara Falls that clouds finally disappear. The wait was worthwhile, we are going to have a really bright day, and it's fortunate. I had no desire to imagine the fabulous show we are going to see under a pouring rain.

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Niagara Falls, the cloud of sprayed water is already visible

Still far from the falls, the cloud of sprayed water is already visible

 

We are still a few miles away from the falls, and their place is already revealed by a huge cloud of sprayed water. As a teenager, I had first discovered the falls the same way and at the same place.

 

There are two large parking lots at Niagara Falls State Park. We choose the closest to the end of the highway. After a few pictures of license plates (no doubt, we begin to enjoy this little game !), we walk into the park.

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Niagara Falls State Park discovery pass

Niagara Falls State Park discovery pass

 

There is more than one way to visit Niagara Falls State Park. We purchase two Discovery Passes, valid all day, which give us access to all attractions in the park and unrestricted usage of the shuttle linking the various sites. We sure enjoy walking, but we will use it once anyway. This park is relatively large.

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Niagara Gorge, American Falls on the left, Horseshoe Falls in the background

Niagara Gorge, American Falls on the left, Horseshoe Falls in the background

 

We take this first picture at the top of the Observation Tower, a high tower that dominates the Niagara Gorge, in which the river flows after the falls. The gorge is about 160 feet deep.

 

The Niagara River separates Canada and United States, between lakes Erie and Ontario, the easternmost two of the five Great Lakes. Further downstream, between Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the Saint Lawrence.

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Skylon Tower and its rotating restaurant, on the Canadian side

Skylon Tower, on the Canadian side

 

From the Observation Tower, on the United States side of the falls, we can see the Skylon Tower on the Canadian bank, right in front of us. The top of this tower is a revolving panoramic restaurant, with an unobstructed view of the falls.

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Niagara Falls, Maid of the Mist and blue ponchos

Maid of the Mist and blue ponchos. We will take the next one

 

We take the lift down to the Maid of the Mist landing. These boats sail the river upward, to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. A boat has left a minute ago, we will be on the next one.

 

The legend of the falls pretends that the dead bodies of the victims of the Big Leap are retrieved next to the Maid of the Mist landing. That is what happened to Jim Honeycutt on July 9, 1960, after the engine of his boat broke down. His young passenger Roger Woodward was incredibly fortunate : thrown over the Horseshoe Falls with the sole protection of his life jacket, he was recovered unharmed by the nearest Maid of the Mist.

 

Did you notice the blue ponchos ? Right at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, to protect the most adventurous tourists, they are far from superfluous !

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Niagara Falls, American Falls, Bridal Veil fall in the back

American Falls, Bridal Veil fall in the back

 

Our boat first sails up the American Falls, shown on the picture. Even by pure chance, there is no way to survive a fall here. The base of the fall is stuffed with big rocks on which water crashes.

 

The narrow fall on the right, at the back of the picture, is Bridal Veil Fall, the smallest of the three Niagara Falls. Behind Bridal Veil Fall is Goat Island, where we will go later. It is the last United States territory. The Canadian border passes close to the shore of the island.

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Niagara Falls, Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

 

We are approaching the Horseshoe Falls. The spray, carried by the wind, gets cooler and harsher. From now on, the blue poncho we were given at boarding is no longer a luxury but an absolute necessity, as much for us as for the camera.

 

This panoramic view of the Horseshoe Falls accurately shows the huge cloud of sprayed water that we first saw from the highway, while still a few miles away from the falls.

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Niagara Falls, at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls

At the foot of the Horseshoe Falls

 

We are now at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, a little on the right to avoid crossing the cloud of spray. Despite the ponchos, spray infiltrates everywhere. Others safely chose to remain inside the boat. For the sake of photography, we stand at the first row, the most exposed.

 

Marie takes another picture, even closer, almost at the heart of the cloud of spray, predictably a little blurred.

 

During that trip, it is our only incursion into Canadian territory.

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Niagara Falls, Canadian side, Skylon Tower, old disused power plant

Canadian side, Skylon Tower, old disused power plant

 

The Maid of the Mist then turns around and begins to sail downstream. We pass quite close to the turbine room of the old power plant, decommissioned long ago.

 

However, the huge energy of Niagara River is not wasted. It is used a few miles downstream by other power plants. The falls themselves, fortunately, are totally protected.

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Niagara Falls, Rainbow Bridge, Observation Tower, American Falls, Bridal Veil Fall

Rainbow Bridge, Observation Tower, American Falls, Bridal Veil Fall

 

This picture shows the American bank of the gorge. From left to right, you can see Rainbow Bridge, linking the United States and Canada, the Observation Tower, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Fall.

 

The calls of gulls almost cover the roar of the falls. We can see thousands of bird on the rocks at the base of Goat Island.

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Niagara Falls, close-up on the Rainbow Bridge and the US-Canada border

Close-up on the Rainbow Bridge and the US-Canada border

 

We are now almost back where we started from. On this close-up of Rainbow Bridge, inaugurated in 1941, we can see the lamppost that marks the precise border, with the flag of each country on each side.

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Niagara Falls, Crows Nest, at the foot of the American Falls

Crows Nest, at the foot of the American Falls

 

After leaving the boat, we keep our ponchos on to climb up to Crows Nest, half-path, half-stairway, along the American Falls. Once again, our ponchos are a welcome protection against the spray carried by the wind.

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Niagara Falls, Crows Nest, Marie and me

Marie and me on the same picture

 

A little further up, we take a picture of a couple of Asian tourists, and they gladly return the favor. For once, Marie is on the picture.

 

According to the wind, the cloud of spray more or less surrounds us. We are very close to the American Falls.

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Niagara Falls, gull watching her eggs

Mummy gull watches her eggs

 

We then go back up in the park and take the shuttle to Goat Island for our next attraction, Cave of the Winds, a footbridge at the base of Bridal Veil Fall.

 

We make a stop at the monument dedicated to Nikola Tesla, the Yugoslavian engineer who designed the very first modern hydroelectric power plant, here at Niagara Falls.

 

Then we stroll in front of the gulls we heard earlier. There are thousands of them. Since they are protected, they can lay their eggs a mere few inches from the fence and the visitors.

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Niagara Falls, newborn gull chicks

Newborn gull chicks

 

Once hatched, gull eggs become these cute chicks. Those are really newborns, probably no more than a few days old.

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Niagara Falls, Cave of the Winds, at the foot of Bridal Veil Fall

Cave of the Winds, at the foot of Bridal Veil Fall

 

We are now at Cave of the Winds, on the footbridge that passes at the foot of Bridal Veil Fall. Seen from afar, this fall is the least spectacular of the three Niagara Falls. Seen from up close, well, that's another matter, and we will soon realize that quite a lot of water passes thru here !

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Niagara Falls, rainbow at Hurricane Deck

Rainbow at Hurricane Deck

 

We are now at Hurricane Deck, the part of the footbridge closest to Bridal Veil Fall, no more than a few feet away. At times, huge buckets of water heartily flood our feet. We now better understand why we were given a yellow poncho and plastic sandals at the entrance of Cave of the Winds.

 

Part of the video on this page has been shot at Hurricane Deck. You can see me get out of the cloud of sprayed water with a big smile, a huge bucket of water on my heels !

 

Seconds later, our camera, probably not as well shielded from spray as our shoes, jams. We will take the few remaining pictures of the day with the iPhones.

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Niagara Falls, Goat Island, the Horseshoe Falls seen from Terrapin Point

Goat Island, the Horseshoe Falls seen from Terrapin Point

 

Back at the top of the falls, we take a walk on Goat Island, toward Terrapin Point, which dominates the Horseshoe Falls, almost as spectacular from the top, though with a slightly less deafening roar, than at the bottom.

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Niagara Falls, the rapids above Bridal Veil Fall, seen from Goat Island

The rapids above Bridal Veil Fall, seen from Goat Island

 

We walk back to the park on the American side. The river between Goat Island and Luna Island becomes, a few feet downstream, Bridal Veil Fall. For now, it is a rapid, and its agitation gives an idea of its huge energy. Of course, it is strictly prohibited to bathe or sail here.

 

We have toured the whole park, our visit is ending.

 

We leave Niagara Falls, where we have spent most of the day, and drive to our hotel in Williamsville, about 30 miles away.

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Salvatore's Garden Place, beautiful hotel, jacuzzi in the room

Salvatore's Garden Place, jacuzzi in the room

 

This hotel is absolutely superb, which makes me wonder how Expedia calculates their rates. All the house exudes luxury. Our room is large, nicely furnished, and we even have a jacuzzi which we are obviously going to use.

 

Unfortunately, we realize that the camera seems out of use. It looks like it did not particularly like the damp and spray at the falls.

 

We are deeply concerned about the remainder of our trip.

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