Wednesday had a special treat for the family, and one that involved a good deal of driving. Our location on the western side of the Finger Lake region was done intentionally, to put us within reasonable range of Niagara Falls. I am the only one in the family who has had the chance to visit this spectacular site, so it was going to be a first for Wendy and the kids. Along the two and a half hour drive to the falls I was quite excited for what was in store as each of these first timers when they laid their eyes on that enormous water fall.
We left very early, as I am convinced that the best way to visit any of these natural wonders that garner huge crowds is to hit it as early as possible in the morning. Shortly after 9:30am we arrived, with plenty of space still left in the closest parking lot. Another benefit of the early arrivals is that it gives me better parking options for the big truck. The walk over to the falls was amazing, though I was surprised at all the construction that was taking place within the park.
Having done a good deal of kayaking and white water rafting I was very much blown away by the severity of the rapids leading up to the falls. The amount of water that was moving was almost beyond belief, and the raw power of the white water was enough to demand respect and a healthy dose of fear.
One interesting fact is that the hydro electric plants near the falls actually adjust the amount of water they divert from the river during the day so as to keep the falls flowing spectacularly. During the overnight hours and outside of the tourist season the water flow going over the falls is actually cut in half, to just a measly 50,000 cubic feet of water PER SECOND.
The falls, as expected, were breathtaking! The ever present rainbows (a number of them were visible in all the mist) were beautiful and the mist rising up from the main part of the falls could be seen for miles. It really must be noted that to fully appreciate the falls you NEED to go to the Canadian side, the views from the American shores pale in comparison. Sadly since we don’t have passports for the kids yet we stayed in the land of the brave.
After leaving the falls we hiked up to the niagara gorge trail info center and took an elevator down to river level to the site of an old power plant that had been destroyed in a land slide. The walls on either side of the gorge were enormous and it was amazing to hear a bit of the history around how much activity actually centered around, and down in the gorge in the late 1800’s.
Next was a car ride to Whirlpool State Park. The water moving down the river from the falls enters a circular section within the gorge where it spins around the outside edge of the opening before crossing it’s own flow to escape out of that section and continue flowing down river. The direction of the flow actually reverses at night when the power plants are diverting water away from the river. The rapids feeding this section where mind boggling. The speed (as much as 25mph) and sheer volume of water that was moving through the narrow gap into the whirlpool was hard to comprehend, at least until we notice a couple sun bathing on some rocks right beside the rapids. It added a sense of scale to what we were witnessing.
From Whirlpool State Park we hiked down the gorge rim trail to Devil’s Hole State Park. Once there we proceeded down an extremely steep and rough staircase to the bottom of the gorge. The rocky and slippery steps were not the hard part, it was the fact that most of the way down into the gorge the staircase actually slanted in toward the gorge, it was like the steps actually wanted you to fall down into the water far below.
Now at the bottom, and somewhat relieved we were walking on level ground, we proceeded along the gorge trail to a cave known as Devil’s Hole. It’s a relatively large cave that lies within the stone gorge walls. The best thing about the cave was that it was well shaded and there was amazingly cold air coming from it. We enjoyed the momentary rest from the warm day before continuing our hike.
By the time we finished the section of the gorge trail we were on, climbed back up the side of the gorge cliff (this time on slightly safer steps), and walked back to the truck we had walked about seven miles total and were quite ready to sit on our butts for the next two and a half hours as we drove home (yes we refer to where ever the cottage is parked as ‘home’). The trip was amazing for all of us despite the long drive, which included numerous toll roads (I don’t think you can go anywhere in NY state without paying for a toll road).
There is so much more to today that I could share, especially after seeing how much sheer power was displayed in the falls and river, how much more power is possessed by the One who created it?