After spending 4 hours of my Saturday waiting to exchange my Australian driver’s license for an Ontario driver’s license (plus another 90 minutes commuting to and from the DriveTest location), I felt the need to get out of town! What better way to do that than to drive to Niagara Falls, which is only a 1.5 hour from downtown Toronto and well worth the drive!
I was fortunate with the weather on the day I travelled to the falls – the sun was shining and the falls looked magnificent! It was still cold at about -5 degrees Celsius and there were some snow showers on occasions. It was a very pretty day!
Interesting facts about Niagara Falls:
- 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second. This accounts for 75,750 gallons (286,745 litres) of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 681,750 gallons (2,580,705 litres) per second over the Horseshoe Falls.
- The water falls at 32 feet (9.8 metres) per second over the Falls, hitting the base of the Falls with 280 tons of force at the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 2,509 tons of force at the Horseshoe Falls.
- Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the United States and Canada.
- Four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) drain into the Niagara River before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
- In November 1896, electrical power was transmitted from the Adams Power Plant in Niagara Falls, New York to Buffalo, New York. This was the first time in the world that alternating current was transmitted over a long distance.
- In 1969, an earthen dam was built across the head of the American Rapids, de-watering the American Falls. For six months, geologists and engineers studied the rock face and the effects of erosion. It was determined that it would be too costly to remove rock at the base of the American Falls, and that nature should take its course.
- Over 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls extended seven miles (11.3 kilometres) down river to what is now Lewiston, New York and Queenston, Ontario. Over the years, the brink has eroded, sometimes as much as six feet per year, to its present site.
- During the last Ice Age, starting about 1.7 million years ago, continental glaciers up to two miles thick covered the Niagara Frontier region.
- The first person to see and describe Niagara Falls in depth was Father Louis Hennepin, a French priest who accompanied LaSalle on his expedition to the Niagara region in 1678.
- At one time, before Goat Island became part of Niagara Falls State Park, there were suggestions on what the island could be used for. Mr. Vanderbilt planned to use the island as a pleasure ground for people riding his trains to the falls. P.T. Barnum wanted to turn Goat Island into circus grounds!
- In 1885, a horse-drawn carriage ride around the falls cost $1 per hour.
- On January 27, 1938, the Upper Steel Arch Bridge, known locally as the Honeymoon Bridge, collapsed under pressure from the buildup of ice in the gorge below the falls. The bridge had been closed days before in anticipation of the collapse.
After visiting the falls, my day-trip buddy and I decided to venture to Niagara-on-the-Lake which I had heard was a very quaint town. It is a 25km drive from the falls The falls are at Niagara and they are the main attraction. The others are casinos and big hotels, which don’t really appeal to me!
Regarding Niagara-on-the-Lake – my informants were right! The town was incredible and I can’t wait to visit again! It had some gorgeous little shops with lots of knick knacks. I managed to refrain from buying too much, other than some delicious maple fudge! It is definitely a town full of interesting history, which I’m looking forward to discovering some other time. It is also a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list – especially those after a romantic weekend away!
Some interesting facts about Niagara-on-the-Lake:
- Originally a Native Indian village named Onghiara, the land on which today’s Niagara-on-the-Lake stands was bought from the Mississaugas (The ‘Mississauga’ are a subtribe of the Anishinaabe-speaking First Nations people located in southern Ontario, Canada) by the British in 1781;
- The British established Butlersburg, which later became West Niagara;
- Governor Simcoe named the site Newark, which was to be capital of Upper Canada for a time, although its proximity with the American border made it an unlikely bearer of the title;
- American forces invaded Canada during the War of 1812, capturing and subsequently destroying the town, with one of the most famous battles of the war fought at Queenston. Many African-Americans and Loyalists, some of which were Butler’s Rangers formerly based at Fort Niagara, settled here at this time;
- Niagara-on-the-Lake retains many Regency and Classical Revival buildings, evidenced by the town’s presence on the National Historic Site of Canada list. The town’s old buildings of interest include the Court House building, the Clock Tower and the Apothecary. Queen Street is the main thoroughfare and has the best examples, many of which have today been converted into wine bars, cafés and charming bed and breakfasts.
Driving in Canada doesn’t feel very different to Australia – other than being on the opposite side of the car and road of course!