I recently visited Niagara Falls (New York, not Canada) for the umpteenth time in my life, and though I always wore my family’s background as a badge of honor – my grandfather and great grandfather were part of a crew that stopped the Falls in 1969 (awesome picture of that crew standing just steps from the edge of the Falls below) – I don’t know that I ever appreciated the natural wonder of the Falls themselves until this visit.
Niagara Falls used to be a huge tourist attraction that drew people from all over the world to a small city in New York known only for it’s namesake river and Falls. My family traveled to Niagara Falls every summer for the entirety of my youth. Every year, we’d make the time between family visits and talking about how much better the food is there to trek down to the falls and have a peek. Some years we just stood with the others watching and listening to the raw power of the Falls. Other times we’d head to Three Sisters Island and my parents would (and will if given a chance) tell me about how there used to be no railings and brave (or stupid depending on your perspective) kids would “shoot the gap” testing their resolve against nature’s natural course. A few times we decided to be “real tourists” and ride the Maid of the Mist, get soaked in the Cave of the Winds, or be filled instantly with regret upon reaching the bottom of Devil’s Hole and realizing we had to walk back up.
In our new age of constant stimulation and entertainment, looking at a bunch of rocks surrounding a big river that then throws itself off a cliff doesn’t rank very high in most minds as an exciting trip. There was a push at one point to really build up the tourist draw of the area surrounding the Falls. The Seneca Niagara Casino was built and boosted the economy while offering something on the American side that my grandparents used to have to venture to Canada for: gambling. On the heels of that success, the City of Niagara Falls attempted to up the kitsch factor with a simulated winter “snow park” – suffice to say, that is out of business now.
Come look at our angry water is a hard sell…unless you’ve been there. The roar of the Falls can be deafening at the right vantage. The force of the water can be felt in your whole body as you watch it hurtle endlessly over the precipice. The spray on your face and the beat in your blood is a universal human experience. It’s spiritual, even if you aren’t. It’s humbling, even if you aren’t. It’s an ode to mother nature and to you – to where we came from and where we’re going.