In Defence of Niagara Falls

I grew up close to Niagara Falls, Canada.  To be honest, the place never impressed me much.  After all, there are literally more than 500 waterfalls around the world that are taller than Niagara Falls.  So what’s all the fuss about?  What makes it one of the top tourist attractions in the world?

When a friend is coming to Toronto, it’s expected that I will take them to Niagara Falls. Today, it was Carmen’s turn.  Carmen lives in Los Angeles, and this was her first ever visit to Canada.   I was curious to see the Falls through her eyes.

We  left Toronto at 8:30 a.m.  Ninety minutes later, we parked and began to walk toward the Niagara Parkway.   We rounded the bend, and there they were up ahead.  I looked at Carmen, expecting to see her dropped jaw  (the normal reaction, although I don’t know why), but she seemed a little disappointed.  “I thought they’d be much bigger” she said.  I suddenly felt the need to defend Niagara Falls.   Just because I wasn’t impressed by the Falls, I still wanted her to be.  “Well it’s all perspective” I argued.  Determined to prove my point,  I suggested a tour on The Maid of the Mist.

We paid our $19.75 each, and proceeded down the ramp to get our blue plastic poncho.  Within minutes, our boat was packed with tourists.  Everyone was excited.  You could hear the chattering in as many as five different languages, all at once.  Dozens of arms outstretched with various ipads, Nikons, and cell phones, ready for action, and oblivious of the impending water assault.

The boat churned on, and we were headed for the base of the Horseshoe Falls.  Our  guide provided us with some fun facts over the loud speaker as we got closer and closer.  This was when Carmen started to get excited too.  She had no idea how thunderous this experience would be.  Like being in a monsoon, the water sprayed us while the mist rose above, and the currents swirled below.  Our fellow riders had huge smiles, running back and forth with their expensive cameras, getting every possible angle of the monster crashing down above us.  We couldn’t hear each other talk.  We had to yell.  And then we laughed.  It was awesome!

As it turns out, it isn’t the height of Niagara Falls that amazes its onlookers, but rather the sheer energy and volume of the water that crashes down to the gorge.  From miles away, you can see a mist cloud rising over the escarpment.  That’s the power of Niagara Falls.

Twenty minutes after the tour began, we disembarked. Peeling off our soaked ponchos, and walking back up the ramp, I asked Carmen “Well, do you still think they are small?”.   Carmen was well impressed by now.  “Oh my gosh!  I had no idea how enormous and powerful they are!”

I felt vindicated.  After all, Niagara Falls is one of the top tourist attractions in the world.carmen at the falls

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