Thursday, March 26, 2009

Niagara: A Hop, Skip and a Falls Away!

If you’ve got a free weekend and you know someone who likes to drive then gather them up and hit the road to Niagara Falls. Yes, Niagara Falls! This natural wonder is only a four hour drive from Cleveland!

I came across this fun day trip while looking for other things to do in Cleveland. The weekend weather outlook called for sunshine, something we hadn't had in a long time, so I set about finding something fun to do outside. After amassing a long list of things to do in the city, I stumbled upon a site that listed Niagara Falls as a day trip from Cleveland. Excited at the prospect of seeing a natural wonder, a national monument and getting to cross it off my "Things to See In My Lifetime" list I called my fiance and told him I had the best plans ever!

Arriving before noon at the U.S./Canada border we presented our I.D.'s and eagerly looked toward the Falls. But with just our I.D.'s to prove our U.S. citizenship we were disappointed as we were re-directed to the Canadian customs office.

The official Niagara Falls website indicates that state I.D.'s are all you need to get into and back from Canada. Unfortunately this information is not up to date. When looking for travel information be sure to always reference the guidelines listed on the Official U.S. Customs website only. As of June 2009 the U.S. will require all citizens traveling into and back from Canada to have a passport. Until then a state I.D. card along with your birth certificate will suffice. Social security cards are not a valid form of identification.

After answering several inane questions about our intentions and what we did for a living we were given the green light for the Falls!

The view from up above.

Looking up and down the sky terrace walk above the Falls.

View of American Falls from walking bridge over street,
making our way down to Niagara.

Gorgeous Niagara Falls!

Know collectively as Niagara Falls. The Falls are made up of three individual falls: The American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The Horseshoe Falls are the most impressive and most recognizable of the three.

The water is very shallow around the Falls.

The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is 2600 feet long and it's falls are 167 feet high. Water flows at 600,000 U.S. gallons per second over the falls. Straddling the Canadian and U.S. border it is in the Province of Ontario and the State of New York.

Niagara Falls attracts some 12 Million tourists every year and is 12,000 years old! The mighty Niagara river plunges over a cliff of dolostone and shale. It is the second largest falls on earth next to Victoria Falls in southern Africa. At the bottom of the falls, the water travels 15 miles over many gorges until it reaches Lake Ontario.

Some random facts about Niagara Falls:

According to the U.S.G.S. (United States Geological Survey) of Niagara Falls, it appears that almost 1/3 of the Canadian Falls actually lies within US Territory!

One fifth of all the fresh water in the world lies in the four Upper Great Lakes-Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie. All the outflow empties into the Niagara river and eventually cascades over the falls.

The American Falls

The American Falls is 1060 feet long and its falls are 176 feet high. Water flows at 150,000 U.S. Gallons per second over the falls. There are two hydroelectric plants which draw water into their reservoirs prior to the Falls. Their intake greatly affects the volume of water flowing over the falls. Flow is greatest in the daytime during peak tourist season (June, July, and August). In the event of an emergency the flow can be somewhat reduced by the hydroelectric companies increasing their intake.

A beautiful rainbow framing the Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls.
The Rainbow Bridge connects the U.S. and Canada.

The American Falls viewing bridge.

View of the casino and hotels from the Falls.

Icy cold!

There is plenty to do in Niagara other than just seeing the Falls itself. Of course there are your usually tourist trap shops hawking everything you could ever want (and lot's that you don't!) with Niagara Falls printed on the front of it. There's also a full shopping mall and even a gorgeous casino if you feel like testing your luck! We had packed an over night bag just in case we wanted to stay the night but decided against it. We're not big on the typical tourist trap kinda stuff. We lived in Reno, NV for years and have had our fill of that! It was still such a gorgeous day by the time we were through at the Falls so we hit the road back home!

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