As one of Canada’s most iconic natural attractions, Niagara Falls is a true wonder to witness. Located between Canada and the USA, Niagara Falls is one of the most visited places in the country, attracting millions of people each year. However, it’s not just about the views. There are also lots of fun facts about Niagara Falls, Ontario.
From people going over the falls in barrels to the war of 1812, enjoy these 73 fun facts about Niagara Falls!
(Disclaimer: While all the “facts” presented in this article have been noted on many prominent websites, we have no way of personally ensuring their accuracy. We will list the sites where we found these facts at the bottom of this article.)
Interesting Facts about Niagara Falls
- First off, Niagara Falls is actually the collective name of the three waterfalls in the area, including American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The Canadian Horseshow Falls is the largest and is the one that most people associate with Niagara Falls.
- Straddling the Canadian and United States International Border and located both in the Province of Ontario and the State of New York, Niagara Falls attracts approximately 12 Million tourists each year.
- Niagara Falls is the second-largest waterfall on Earth. Victoria Falls in southern Africa is the largest.
- Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate.
- 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 freshwater supply.
- All of this water that flows over the Falls at Niagara ultimately ends up in Lake Ontario. From there, it continues on by way of the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.
- The word “Niagara” is derived from the Iroquois Indian word “Onguiaahra” meaning “the strait”. The name appears on maps as early as 1641.
- The Falls at Niagara are about 12,000 years old.
- The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old female schoolteacher who was known as the “Queen of the Mist”. She did this in a homemade barrel on October 24, 1901, and surprisingly, had very few injuries. She is now buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls in an area called Stunters Rest, along with other Niagara Falls daredevils.
- In the past fifteen years, two daredevils have lost their lives trying to conquer Niagara. One had attempted to survive the plunge on a kayak while another attempted the fall on a jet ski.
- Fish, on the other hand, travel over Niagara Falls and survive (for the most part) because of their ability to flow with the water.
- In 1960, a young boy named Roger Woodward also survived a descent over the Falls after a boating accident above the Falls.
- Also, not all the daredevils actually go in the water. Charles Blondin, a famous funambulist (tight-rope walker) performed numerous crossings of the gorge in Niagara Falls during the mid-1800s. This included crossing the gorge on a high wire while blindfolded, carrying a cooking stove and preparing an omelette on the high wire, and even carrying his 148-pound manager Harry Colcord on his back on August 19, 1859.
- The Bridal Veil Falls is named for its appearance. It is located next to the American Falls and separated by a small piece of land called Luna Island.
- The length of the brink for the Canadian Horseshoe Falls is 2600 feet / 792.4 metres.
- The Canadian Horseshoe Falls are approximately 180 feet (57 metres) high and allow 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic metres) of water over the crest line every minute during peak daytime tourist hours (that is about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!).
- For another unit of measurement, the volume of water flowing over the crest is approximately 2,271,247 litres (3,160 tons) per second. This accounts for 75,750 gallons of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls.
- The Niagara River flows at approximately 35 miles/hour (56.3 kilometres/hour).
- The water drops over the crest at a rate of 32 feet per second, 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. This is not the type of waterfall you’d want to stand under.
- Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the United States and Canada.
- However, under an international treaty, the flow of water over Niagara Falls is reduced during the night to allow more of the water to flow into intakes used for power generation. This plan ensures that the Falls’ natural beauty remains unaffected during prime viewing hours.
- Humans have not been able to completely control the flow of the water over the falls and even modern engineers have tried. Much of the water today is fed through underground channels and pipes to nearby hydroelectric power stations.
- The current erosion rate for Niagara Falls is approximately one foot per year and could possibly be reduced to one foot per ten years due to flow control and diversion for hydropower generation.
- Although Niagara Falls is also beautiful in the winter, it does not freeze over. However, the flow of water was reduced to a mere trickle for a few hours on March 29, 1848, because of an ice jam upstream in the Niagara River. This is the only known time to have occurred. The Falls did not actually freeze over, but the flow was stopped to the point where people actually walked out and recovered artifacts from the riverbed!
- However, depending on how cold the winter gets, ice bridges do form below the Falls when ice floes travel over the edge and collect at the base of the Falls. These mounds of ice can be as thick as fifty feet. This ice bridge can extend for several miles down the river until it reaches the area known as the lower rapids.
- Up until 1912, visitors were allowed to walk out on the ice bridge and view the Falls from below! In a local newspaper on February 24th, 1888, it was reported that at least 20,000 people watched or tobogganed on the ice. There were little shanties selling liquor, photographs and all types of goods. Then, on February 4th, 1912, the ice bridge broke up and three tourists died.
- Aside from Ice Bridges, there can also be “mini-icebergs”, which flow down the Niagara River from frozen Lake Erie. The flow of ice has been reduced considerably by the yearly installation of the “ice boom” on Lake Erie, which is a long floating chain of steel floats strung across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York to Fort Erie, Ontario. It is set in place to help prevent the ice from clogging the river and most importantly the hydroelectric companies’ water intakes.
- An “Old Scow” (a steel barge) remains stranded a few hundred metres above the Falls and has been marooned there since August 6, 1918, when a near tragedy was averted by three men who opened the dumping hatches of the barge to let water in and around the out-of-control boat.
- The Niagara River Gorge is home to 14 species of rare plants, some threatened and endangered.
(READ MORE: Don’t miss our fun guide that features more than 200 facts about Canada)
Facts about Niagara Falls’ History and Geology
Below are more facts about Niagara Falls that are focused on the history and geology of the area.
- The Niagara Peninsula became free of ice about 12,500 years ago. As the ice retreated northward, its meltwaters began to flow down through what became Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario down to the St. Lawrence River and finally, out to the Atlantic Ocean. There were originally five spillways from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. These were eventually reduced to one, the original Niagara Falls, at Queenston-Lewiston. From here, the Falls began their steady erosion through the bedrock.
- However, about 10,500 years ago, through an interplay of geological effects including alternating retreats and re-advances of the ice and rebounding of the land when released from the intense pressure of the ice (isostatic rebound), this process was interrupted. The glacial meltwaters were rerouted through northern Ontario, bypassing the southern route. For the next 5,000 years, Lake Erie remained only half the size it is today. The Niagara River was reduced to about 10% of its current flow and the much-reduced Falls stalled in the area of the Niagara Glen. The water here is “fossil water”, and less than one percent of it is renewable on an annual basis and the rest is leftover from the ice sheets.
- Then, approximately 5,500 years ago, the meltwaters were once again routed through southern Ontario, restoring the river and Falls to their full power. This also led to what we now know as the Niagara Whirlpool.
- It was likely a brief and violent encounter and an incredible geological moment lasting only days or weeks, but at this moment the Falls of the youthful Niagara River intersected an old riverbed, which had been buried and sealed during the last Ice Age. The Falls turned into this buried gorge and tore out the glacial debris that filled it, scouring the old river bottom clean. It was probably not a falls at all now but a huge churning rapid. When it was all over, it left behind a 90-degree turn in the river, which we know today as the Niagara Whirlpool and North America’s largest series of standing waves, which we know today as the Whirlpool Rapids.
- The Falls then re-established near what is now the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and resumed carving their way through solid rock to its present location.
- The Niagara River is fairly young at only 12,000 years old, a “microsecond” in geological time. The Niagara Escarpment, which was created by erosion, is much older. The glaciers pressed down on the land during the last ice age and laid down layers of sediment before the slow process of erosion of ice and water ate at the surface of the escarpment.
- Niagara Falls continues to erode, sometimes as much as six feet per year, to its present site. More commonly, it wears away at 1 foot per year.
- Niagara Falls has quite the human history as well. One of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 took place on July 25, 1814, at Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ontario. A total of 7500 Americans and Canadians fought for six hours, resulting in 1,000 soldiers dead or wounded.
- 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.
- 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.
Niagara Falls Facts and Tourism
Below are more facts about Niagara Falls that are focused on tourism.
- Niagara Falls is known as the Honeymoon Capital of the world.
- Niagara Falls is one of the most iconic natural attractions in Canada.
- Before the invention of film and cameras, tourists would sketch pictures of the Falls. Water painting artists embraced this City’s natural wonders as a source of their artistic inspiration and hundreds of these early impressions still exist.
- In 1959, the face of Niagara changed when Louis Tussaud’s English Wax Museum was opened.
- Since then, the city of Niagara Falls has become a massive attraction in and of itself. We often compare it to Las Vegas. Some of the man-made attractions include Table Rock Scenic Tunnels, the Spanish Aero Car, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, Casino Niagara, IMAX Theatre, the new Butterfly Conservatory, and the Skylon Tower.
- Skylon Tower rises 775 feet above the Falls and offers great views of Niagara Falls from the observation deck and restaurant.
- The Minolta Tower, which is now the Tower Hotel, rises 325 feet above the Horseshoe Falls.
- The Spanish Aero car ride provides a spectacular trip across the famed Whirlpool Rapids, which are a few kilometres down from the actual waterfalls.
- One of the largest Butterfly Conservatories in North America can be found at Niagara Falls.
- “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, a famous novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe was partly inspired by the writer’s trip to Niagara Falls and her subsequent interest in Reverend Josiah Henson who smuggled runaway slaves across the Niagara River into Canada.
- Every evening beginning at dusk, Niagara Falls is transformed into an incredible, multi-coloured water and light masterpiece. Special lights are housed in the Illumination Tower, next to Queen Victoria Place; on the roof of Table Rock Centre, at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls; and deep in the Niagara Gorge, across from the American Falls. Together, these lights work to create a breathtaking view not to be missed.
- The 20th Century Fox Movie, “Niagara” starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed in Niagara Falls, in addition to parts of Superman.
Fun Niagara Falls Facts about the American Side
These fun Niagara Falls facts below are dedicated to the American portion of the falls.
- Until 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was erected, the Falls at Niagara was the symbol of America and the New World. Visitors from all over the world targeted Niagara as a must-see during a visit to North America.
- Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in America, established in 1885 as the Niagara Reservation.
- Over 8 million visitors explore Niagara Falls State Park annually. This does not include the Canadian side.
- Niagara Falls State Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted; he also designed Central Park in New York City. Frederick Law Olmsted was a visionary for Niagara Falls State Park. He also designed Central Park in New York City.
- Three Sisters Islands were named after the daughters of Parkhurst Whitney, a hotelman and prominent local citizen. The daughters’ names were Asenath, Angeline and Celinda Eliza.
- The American and Bridal Veil Falls were “shut off” in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers to study the effects of erosion. 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. There are plans to “turn off” the Falls again to rebuild two, 115-year-old bridges.
- The Length of the brink for Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls is 1060 feet /323.08 metres.
- The height of Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls is approximately 176 feet / 53.6 metres (due to rocks at the base actual fall is 70 feet/ 21.3 meters)
- The volume of water that flows over Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls is approximately 150,000 U.S. Gallons / 567,811 Litres per second. The actual amount varies as there are two hydroelectric plants which draw water into their reservoirs prior to the Falls. Their intake greatly affects the volume of water flowing over the falls.
- Cave of the Winds, which is located at Niagara Falls State Park, is torn down and rebuilt every year.
- The historic Village of Lewiston was the site of the first battle of the War of 1812 and the last stop for slaves escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
- The original Flight of Five locks that were built in 1840 still exist along the Erie Canal in Lockport.
- Also in Lockport, New York is the “Big Bridge”, which is one of the widest bridges in the USA, measuring 399 feet wide.
- The Niagara River ecosystems support many of New York State’s protected animal species, such as the Lake Sturgeon, Peregrine Falcon and American Bald Eagle.
- Niagara Falls State Park stretches over 400 acres, with close to 140 acres of that underwater.
- Green Island, situated between Goat Island and the mainland, was named after Andrew Green, the first president of the commission at the State Reservation at Niagara. He was a very prominent professional in New York City and was critical to the construction of Central Park, as well as the planning of northern Manhattan and today’s Bronx. Green helped establish great cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Natural History®, Metropolitan Museum of Art®, and the Bronx Zoo®, and most importantly, led the Greater New York movement that joined the municipalities around Manhattan Island into today’s 5-borough city.
- In 1901, 140 of the 170 trees native to western New York were found growing on Goat Island.
The total number of flora species documented on Goat Island over the last two centuries is just over 600.
- The National Audubon Society designated the Niagara River Corridor as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 1996, the first internationally-recognized area in the world. The river supports thousands of wintering gull and waterfowl species.
- Power generation facilities along the Niagara River supply more than one-quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario.
- A statue of Chief Clinton Rickard, who was the founder of the Indian Defense League in 1926, can be found in the Welcome Plaza at Prospect Park.
- One of the oldest surviving United States flags is permanently displayed at Old Fort Niagara. It was captured by the British during the War of 1812.
- 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.
Want More Interesting Facts about Canada?
While there are lots of fun facts about Niagara Falls, there’s so much more to the big and beautiful country of Canada. To learn more, check out these cool fact guides below:
- Alberta Facts
- Calgary Facts
- Ontario Facts
- Quebec Facts
- Nova Scotia Facts
- Vancouver Facts
- Toronto Facts
- British Columbia Facts
Check out our travel video to see the best places to get the best views of Niagara Falls.
*Websites utilized for finding the facts in this article: www.niagarafallslive.com, www.niagarafallsusa.com, www.niagarafallsstatepark.com, www.niagarafalls.ca, and www.niagarafallstourism.com.
Marika Beaumont says
While I enjoy reading this newsletter this comment is incredibly inaccurate and inappropriate. Perhaps the first white man to document in writing but by far not the first person to see the falls.
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.
Matthew G. Bailey says
I think that’s what they meant by “describe Niagara Falls in-depth”. But perhaps I can add “European”?