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Niagara Falls is one of the most famous historic landmarks in the world. It consists of a group of waterfalls located at the border of the United States and Canada. It is a major tourist attraction site since the time in memorial. It is the second biggest waterfall in the world (Tieck 4). Irwin (3) describes Niagara Falls as an icon in the Canadian tourism sector as many people enter Canada to go and view the Niagara Falls. Therefore, it is considered a major contributor to the Canadian economy. Also, Niagara Falls is centrally located in several major cities both in the United States and in Canada making them easily accessible by tourists. Gromosiak and Christopher (8) assert that the falls are both heart-captivating and memorable to anybody who views it witnessing its endless strength and power even though its creation happened thousands of years ago. There has been a remarkable increase in the number of tourists to Niagara Falls each year since its discovery.
The main reason Niagara Falls stands out internationally is the outstanding gorge and the magnificent waterfalls. Besides, the Niagara River is an outlet to four largest fresh-water lakes in the world, in particular, Lake Erie, and flows into Lake Ontario. Another unique thing about the Niagara River is its short course. On the western side, the course measures 31.6 miles and 35.6 miles on the eastern side. Moreover, there is a large descent within the watercourse elevating at Buffalo and Fort Erie at a height of 575 feet and 250 feet at Fort Niagara (Tesmer and Jerold 1).
Niagara Falls has many unique features that its visitors enjoy. One of those features is the Niagara Whirlpool that is made by the Niagara River, which makes a right turn and the water rotates in a specific way. The Whirlpool measures about 1000 feet in width and 120 feet deep. Tourists who love hiking mostly visit this point and use the hidden path that is along the Niagara Riverbank. This path offers a safe descent to the Niagara gorge like a staircase. Although this place is a natural phenomenon, very few tourists have discovered it yet (Irwin 4).
Tieck (6) describes Niagara Falls as a very wide fall. The Niagara River gets its water from Lake Erie before falling over cliffs of shale and dolomite rocks and divides into three major sections namely Bridal Veil, Canadian Falls, and American Falls. Luna Island separates the American Falls that can be found near the Prospect Point Park and Bridal Veil Falls. These two falls measure nearly 176 feet in height and about 1060 feet wide. On the other hand, Canadian Falls is situated between Goat Island and Victoria Park and is the largest section of the Niagara Falls measuring about 2600 feet in width and 167 feet in height (7).
History of Niagara Falls
According to Gromosiak and Christopher (30), the geographical formation of Niagara Falls started at the Ice Age when the Niagara River appeared after the melting of ice releasing large torrents and then flowing. The water flowed over the Niagara Escarpment at a cliff where the present Lewiston, New York, can be found. As the water flowed, it wore away the rock layers and continuously flowed upstream up to the place where Niagara Falls currently is. This process of erosion is slow and continues up to the present time with a speed of 1 foot per year. The wearing of the rocks happens during the annual freezing in winter and the thawing of Niagara Falls is continuous in summer. However, the rate of wearing the rocks away is very slow presently due to modern influences like hydropower generation.
Many people who toured Niagara Falls desired to have the experience of crossing it. However, this was impossible because there was no means of crossing it. In this regard, two brothers built a bridge to Goat Island. Augustus Porter together with his brother owned the island. They built a wooden bridge in 1856. However, the building process turned out to be both time-consuming and laborious. In 1856, there was the second bridge to replace the first one. This was an iron bridge. It connected Bath Island and Goat Island. Both bridges measured 990 feet above Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls (Gromosiak and Christopher 30).
Documentation of Niagara Falls
The first reliable publication about Niagara Falls took place in France in 1683. There was a small number of visitors to Niagara Falls between the time of publication and the fall of Quebec in 1759. In the 1800s, the United Empire Loyalists started to settle to the west of Niagara River banks. This was during the American Revolutionary War. Moreover, small communities started to settle on the American side during the War of 1812. After this war, travelers began to come to the Niagara frontier to view the falls and surrounding scenery. The famous people who visited Niagara Falls in the nineteenth century recorded their reactions after viewing the scenery. These famous people included painters, scientists, and even writers. They wrote down their feelings since visiting Niagara Falls was both memorable and important. They wrote about their amusements, reactions, feelings, and observations. Therefore, there are several documents written in the nineteenth century that give a vague and intimate picture of their experience at Niagara Falls (McGreevy 8).
Samuel de Champlain was the first to write an account of Niagara Falls in 1604. However, other people had heard the torrents and the roar of Niagara Falls a hundred years earlier. Samuel was a geographer in France during the reign of Henry IV. He claimed that he was the first man to explore Lake Ontario. He also claimed that he met some Indians who told him tales about the great waterfall of Niagara. Therefore, it is clear that his reports were not personal observations but he based them on hearsay (Tesmer and Jerold 9).
According to Tesmer and Jerold, Gendron wrote about Niagara Falls between 1644 and 1645 (Tesmer and Jerold 9). Gendron was a missionary. He claimed that there was a large lake in the south of the Neuter Nation. The lake called Erie measured between 2.4 to 4.6 statute miles. He also said that Lake Erie formed after the increase of water level of the Fresh Water Sea (Lake Huron) which later fell from a terrible height (Niagara Falls) into yet another lake called Ontario. However, it is not clear whether Gendron saw Niagara Falls or not.
In 1669, another missionary by the name Rene Brehant de Galinee wrote about Niagara Falls. He had accompanied Casson and LaSalle on a visit to the Niagara area. He claimed that they discovered a river measuring an eighth of a league by width and extremely fast. According to him, the river was the outlet of Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. However, there were no indications that he saw the Niagara Falls (Tesmer and Jerold 10)
The first European to see Niagara Falls was Father Louis Hennepin in 1678. His memory, however, looked much exaggerated. He claimed that the height of the falls was about 600 feet and the water came from mountains he could see in a distance (Gromosiak and Christopher 9). Father Louis Hennepin was a recollect missionary accompanying LaSalle for an expedition in 1678. His records seem more trustworthy because he wrote extensively about the Niagara Falls (Tesmer and Jerold 10).
Niagara Falls as a tourist destination
Niagara Falls as a tourist destination receives millions of tourists annually. However, most visitors visit Niagara Falls during the summertime because the Falls look spectacular during the daytime and evening. Moreover, the weather at Niagara Falls is more favorable during the summer. Throughout summer Niagara Falls, one of the most remarkable sites, experiences cool humid weather. In this regard, the Canadian government lights the floodlights from its end for several hours after darkness mostly until midnight (Irwin 2).
When the number of people visiting Niagara Falls increased, there was a big need for social amenities. It was around the beginning of the 1820s when an urgent need to accommodate the visitors occurred. Besides, it was important to build up paths, footbridges, and stairways for easy access to the cataract. For a better view of the Niagara Falls, the Canadian government built a stone tower. Also, the investors decided to invest in hotels, museums, and other social amenities on both banks (McGreevy 7).
Irwin points out that at that particular time, development had to go hand in hand with increased tourism (Irwin 2). In the nineteenth century, there was a rise of the middle class who encouraged diversified tourism. Tourists became interested not only in the Niagara Falls but even in the American countryside. There was a remarkable improvement in the transportation sector in the European style, which in return opened up the American countryside for viewing. Moreover, the improvement of infrastructure and entertainment led to more tourists visiting Niagara Falls. The investors in Niagara also made sure that there was a good relationship between nature and civilization besides an aesthetic environment hence adding up artificial attractions above Niagara’s natural scenery.
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Niagara is popular internationally as a honeymoon destination. Millions of romancing couples visit Niagara Falls every year. Approximately over 50, 000 people go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon annually. Besides, it provides a good ground for team building after its good reputation as an adult playground. It comes in second as an adult playground after Las Vegas (McGreevy, p 8).
Niagara Falls has historical and cultural significance. The city administration seeks to conserve the history and traditions besides showing it off to the tourists. To conserve the culture, there are educational festivals and events, which are also fun-filled. There are several cultural sites and events in Niagara, which include Lundy’s Lane Historical Museum, the Shaw Festival, and the Battle of 1812. It is a memorable experience to visit both the Niagara Falls and Niagara’s cultural sites. Presently, there are events to include modern culture such as cuisine and winemaking (McGreevy, p 9).
There was slow development around the cataract although Niagara Falls was very famous. One of the main reasons for slow development resulted from Britain’s influence. In 1780, the British government declared the land on the Northern side of the Niagara Falls set apart as the Crown’s military reserve. They, therefore, prohibited any form of private development. A few months later, the British soldiers built a shanty tower to enable the full view of Niagara Falls after clearing the land. By the 1790s, there were more towers after lopping off trees and bushes (Irwin 5).
Before the Civil War, the rich mainly toured Niagara Falls. However, after the war, the area was open for people of all social classes. This was after the building of a railroad hence making it easier for the middle class to get into the area. Introduction of the automobile in the twentieth century diversified tourism in Niagara Falls. Presently, the approximate number of tourists visiting Niagara Falls annually stands at 15 million (McGreevy 7).
Another major boost to the development in the Niagara area was aesthetic. It was amusing for the early visitors to enjoy viewing the rapture and terror at Niagara Falls. In the early nineteenth century, the travelers named the experience as “sublime” (McGreevy 10).
Economic benefits of Niagara Falls
The Niagara River has many economic benefits not only for Canada but also for the United States. Approximately 1 million people depend on this river for livelihoods. The water from the Niagara River is used for fishing, industrial and domestic purposes, municipal and industrial effluents. Also, the tourists use water of the Niagara River for recreation purposes including swimming, boating, and fun fishing (Irwin 4). At the Niagara Whirlpool, the visitors can comfortably enjoy white rafting since the use of whirlpool jet boats is still under negotiation.
Tieck ( 5) points out that Niagara Falls is a significant natural resource for Canada and the United States. The water from the Niagara River produces power. Besides, Irwin ( 4) confirms that Hydropower generated from the Niagara River provides electricity to parts of Canada and the United States. The main stations along the Niagara River are New York State Power Authority and Sir Adam Beck Station. The main challenge facing these two stations is the volume of water flowing over the Niagara Falls. The speed of water flow is 100,000 cubic feet per second. The joint board regulates the flow before cutting it back in the evenings and during the low visitors’ season. The stations produce approximately 4.4 gigawatts (4.4 billion watts) of electricity annually. The Niagara River has its water diverted through huge tunnels, and it passes through the turbines hence generating hydropower for the two countries.
Tieck ( 5) asserts that the amount of water used for hydropower generation mainly depends on the time of the year and the time of the day. The flow is the greatest during summer. Coincidentally, the summertime is also the peak season for visitors. The flow is also large during daytime compared to the night. Consequently, during the peak tourists’ season, there is little hydropower generation. In 1950, the United States and Canada decided to conserve Niagara Falls’ natural beauty. They signed a treaty, which stated that during peak tourists’ seasons the hydropower generation diverts to nights when fewer visitors are viewing Niagara Falls. During the winter months, there would be more power generation because it is a low tourist season. All these initiatives’ main purpose is to conserve the amount of water in the Niagara River.
Niagara Falls provides revenues, which greatly contribute to the economy of Canada. Annually, about 15 million people visit Niagara Falls and spend over 2 billion dollars. This money generated contributes to the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 76 percent of the GDP was from the international tourists visiting Niagara Falls (Tieck 6).
Also, the tourist destination employs the locals. The estimates state that Niagara Falls provides 26% of the country’s total workforce. This is about 30, 000 jobs. Some work in resorts and restaurants, however, most locals work as photographers to capture tourists’ memorable moments. Also, some work as guides answering many questions from tourists (Tieck 6).
Niagara Falls as a tourist destination has led to improved infrastructure in Canada. There has been remarkable infrastructure development. An improved road and rail network made the transportation of tourists easy. The towns and cities neighboring Niagara Falls have seen the rise of new restaurants and resorts to cater to increased accommodation needs of visitors.
Niagara Falls is a natural phenomenon located at the border of the United States and Canada. It is the second-largest waterfall in the world. It is a major tourist destination in the world. It has an outstanding gorge and magnificent waterfalls. The Niagara River is an outlet of the Lake Erie and pours into Lake Ontario. It has three sections namely Bride Veil, American Falls, and Canadian Falls. Canadian Falls are the largest. Niagara Falls is about 12,000 years old. It formed during the Ice Age. The Niagara River formed after the melting of ice had released large torrents. The water flowed over the Niagara Escarpment at a cliff where nowadays Lewiston, New York, is situated. As the water flow, it wore away the rock layers.
The first publication about Niagara Falls was in 1683 but from then until the 1800s, minimal tourists were visiting the place hence no more writing about it. In the 1800s, people started settling around the Niagara Frontier. Among the first people to write about the falls were Samuel de Champlain, Gendron, and Rene Brehant de Galilee. However, their reports are not reliable because there are fears that they never saw the Niagara Falls. The first reliable report was by Father Louis Hennepin.
The number of those visiting the Falls rose drastically after the Civil War that saw the rise of a middle class. Besides, there was improved transport means hence many middle class could afford to get to Niagara Falls by road. This also came about with the development of other infrastructures, as there was a need for more facilities to accommodate the rising number of tourists. About 50,000 romancing couples visit the Falls annually for their honeymoon. Approximately 1 million people depend on the Niagara River for their livelihoods.
Also, the United States and Canada generate about 4.4 billion watts of hydropower from the water of the river using two major stations. Niagara Falls provides about 30,000 people with employment, which is 26% of the country’s workforce. Besides, Niagara Falls generates about 2 billion dollars annually.
Gromosiak, Paul, and Christopher Stoianoff. Niagara Falls: 1850-2000: Images of America, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2012. Print.
Irwin, William. The New Niagara: Tourism, Technology, and the Landscape of Niagara Falls, 1776-1917, Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 1996. Print
McGreevy, Patrick. Imagining Niagara: The Meaning and Making of Niagara Falls, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009. Print.
Tesmer, Irving H., and Jerold C. Bastedo. Colossal Cataract: The Geologic History of Niagara Falls, New York: SUNY Press, 1981. Print.
Tieck, Sarah. Niagara Falls: All Aboard America Set 3 Series, Minneapolis: ABDO, 2010. Print.