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Niagara Falls in the eveningNiagara falls and the Niagara river are not too old in geological standards. The river and falls began its development approximately 12,000 years ago after the glaciers began to recede. These same glaciers, as they melted, created all of the Great Lakes which all but Lake Ontario, empty into the Niagara river. At its onset, Niagara Falls was located near the sites of present-day Queenston, Ontario, and Lewiston, New York, at a geological feature called the Niagara Escarpment, but erosion of their crest has caused the waterfalls to retreat several miles southward. Just upstream from the Falls' current location, Goat Island splits the course of the Niagara River, resulting in the separation of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls to the west from the American and Bridal Veil Falls to the east. The present day Canadian Horseshoe Falls is approximately 2,500 feet wide and plunges 52 meters (170 feet) into the Maid of the Mist Pool, and at the American Falls is 1,100 feet long and the water's vertical descent ranges from 21 to 34 meters (70 to 110 feet) to the rock at the base of the Falls. More than 168,000 cubic meters (6 million cubic feet) of water go over the crestline every minute during peak daytime tourist hours. The current Niagara Gorge extends from the Falls for 11 kilometers (7 miles) downstream to the foot of the escarpment at Queenston.

Niagara Falls in the eveningThe name Niagara is derived from the Iroquois name; Onguiaahra, which means "The Strait". Niagara is just a Western simplification of the word. In December 1678, a Recollet priest, Louis Hennepin was one of the first Europeans to view and document Niagara Falls. Nineteen years later, he published the first engravings of the Falls in his book Nouvelle Decouverte. From that time on, the Niagara river and the falls were being fought over, by British, French, native Americans and the United States settlers as a major trade route. Most of the violence occurred between the Europeans and the native Americans, however, the War of 1812 brought with it, the only military actions between Europeans. Most of these actions were taken at the sites of Fort Niagara and Fort George on lake Ontario and between Buffalo and Fort Erie on lake Erie. Traveling to Niagara falls as a tourist to experience the falls began in the 1820's.

One notable visitor in the early years was Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome, who visited Niagara falls with his new bride and soon after, Niagara Falls became the place to visit for newlyweds. During that time tourist traps, stunt performers and such began to spring up and battle for the visitors attention and money, and tourism was born in Niagara Falls. During the mid to late 1800's, bridges were build across the river and railroads were constructed to increase access to both sides of the falls and along with the Erie Canal, brought tourists to the vicinity in droves from all over the world.

Governor David B. Hill signed legislation creating the Niagara Reservation April 30, 1885,which created New York's and the United State's very first state park. New York state began to purchase land from developers, under the charter of the Niagara Reservation State Park. Also, in 1885, the province of Ontario established the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park for the same purpose. Then after World War One, the introduction of the automobile allowed tourism to blossom into the area's number one industry. By the end of the 19th century, the city was a heavy industrial area, due in no small part to the huge power potential offered by the swiftly-flowing Niagara River. There were many chemical industries in Niagara Falls that used the power of the mighty Niagara River and on March 17, 1892, New York State Governor Roswell P. Flower signed a bill into law the incorporation of City of Niagara Falls.

The 20th Century brought cheap hydro-electric power and a massive industrial base to Niagara Falls. Thousands of immigrants from Europe came to the area to work the chemical, steel, and manufacturing plants. While Niagara Falls State Park continued to draw tourists to the park and the immediate surrounding area. The city's importance declined in the later half of the 20th century for several reasons, perhaps the most devastating being corrupt government, high wages for blue collar workers in comparison to other areas of the country, strength of unions, and high taxes. Since the 1960's, there has been a public outcry to develop Niagara Falls into a world class tourist destination, however, political corruption and infighting along with greed driven private developer land hoarding along side stagnant development policies have left the city in complete disarray. However, On the other side of the river, Niagara falls Ontario recognized the jewel in their midst's and began massively building up its tourism industry in the 1990s, allowing for casinos and tall tower hotels, essentially becoming the "Las Vegas of Canada" while the New York side stood idly by and watched in amazement. Neither the history, nor the current situations on either side of the border can compare the magnificence and the power of the Falls itself. When viewing the falls from any vantage point, everything around you disappears and you are absorbed into the hypnotic flow of the rapids, the soft mist spraying into your face and the thunderous sound of the falling water. The Niagara Falls State Park network offers the most complete falls experience on the US side of the river. You can spend a few hours in combination by taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist past the American Falls and to the base of the Horseshoe falls, explore the base of Bridal Veil Falls at the cave of the winds and experience first hand the raw energy the falls releases on the Hurricane Deck, learn about the history and development of the falls at the Niagara Adventure Theater and even spend some time at the Aquarium of Niagara.

 


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