Daily Archives: December 27, 2017

Celebrating 35 years at Niagara Falls

 

We arrived in Niagara Falls the evening of day 7 of our Great Lakes Road Trip on our 35th wedding anniversary. Our honeymoon consisted of a visit to my grandmother followed by a camping trip so what better place to spend our 35th than the “honeymoon capital of the world”? I had visited as a child but Jim had never seen the falls and we were eager to see this natural wonder together.

Even without a reservation, we had no trouble getting a room at Comfort Inn The Pointe located directly next to the park on the American side. I looked for a hotel with a view of the falls but in retrospect, our location was perfect with just a short walk to the falls and all the viewing points.

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View from our hotel room toward the Niagara River

After checking in, we set off immediately to see as much as possible on foot before dark. Our first breathtaking view impressed us beyond description. We are so grateful to those early environmentalists who founded the Free Niagara movement in the late 1860s to protect this majestic natural wonder from commercial interests. America’s oldest state park was founded in 1885 as a result of their persistent efforts.

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View of American Falls from Prospect Point

Today, Niagara Falls State Park is open and free to the public 365 days a year. We walked the trails to all the viewing areas and, as darkness fell, we watched in wonder to see the falls illuminated by red, white, and blue lights.

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Map of Niagara Falls with the viewing areas we walked to circled in black

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View of American Falls from Prospect Point

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Raging Niagara River looking toward the American Falls Pedestrian Bridge to Goat Island

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Trail in the state park

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American Rapids

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Above Bridal Veil Falls

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American Falls from Luna Island

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American Falls from Luna Island

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35 years of wedded bliss

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American Falls

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Looking toward Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side

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Looking toward Canadian side from Terrapin Point

The Serbian inventor, Nikola Tesla, designed the first hydroelectric plant in the world which opened at Niagara Falls in 1895. Today over 4 million kilowatts of electricity can be generated here and shared between the U.S. and Canada.

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Monument to honor Nikola Tesla

In our excitement, we neglected to plan for dinner. By the time we finished exploring the park, we couldn’t find a restaurant in the immediate vicinity to sate our hunger. We ended up celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary at a Pakistani buffet near closing time in an open mall. While the restaurant lacked romantic atmosphere, the food was tasty.

The following morning, on day 8 of our Great Lakes Road Trip, after a hasty breakfast we made straight for the Maid of the Mist. We were among the first in line for the drenching must-do boat trip to experience Niagara Falls from below. Tickets were $18.25 but I see they’ll increase to $19.25 in 2018. It was well worth it. Get there early unless you have plenty of time to stand in line and PLAN TO GET WET!

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The observation tower above the river

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Another Maid of the Mist ahead of us at Horseshoe Falls

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American Falls

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Horseshoe Falls

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American Falls

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A totally drenching experience

Following our ride on the Maid of the Mist, we explored the trails and stairways to numerous additional viewing points on the American side before driving to the Canadian side to experience Niagara Falls from those viewpoints.

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View of the trails and steps as you leave Maid of the Mist

I’d always read the views are better from the Canadian side but, in the end, I thought both had their strong points. While the views on the Canadian side are better straight on, the park seems more extensive on the American side with lovely paths and numerous views from various directions.

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Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side

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Trail with landscaping on the Canadian side

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View of American Falls from Canada

I would place Niagara Falls right up there with the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone in terms of grandeur and awe-inspiring beauty. If you haven’t been there, what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

Based on events from September 2017.

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Kingston, Ontario to Niagara Falls

Disappointed to learn Fort Henry, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Kingston, Ontario, closed for the season on September 3, we, nevertheless, walked around a bit and took a few photos on day 7 of our Great Lakes Road Trip. Built in the 1830’s atop Point Henry and overlooking the St. Lawrence River on a military route from Montreal to Ottawa,  the strategic value was readily apparent and the views were outstanding.

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View from Ft. Henry toward Kingston

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The gate at Ft. Henry at the upper fort

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View of the lower fort

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The lower fort

Kingston is the door to the 1000 Islands, a region located in the St. Lawrence River along the U.S./ Canada border. We drove 20 miles east to Ganonoque for a boat tour of the Thousand Islands with Gananoque Boat Line, billed as the largest and oldest of the cruise companies in the islands.  We decided on the 1-hour Beauty of the Islands cruise departing from Gananoque for $24.95 rather than the 5-hour Boldt Castle Stopover for $48.80.

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Beauty of the Islands cruise route

The 1000 Islands are rich with history, beginning with First Nations people who inhabited the area before French explorer Jacques Cartier discovered the area in the 1500s followed by Samuel de Champlain in the 1600s. By the late 1800s, the area became the summer vacation destination for millionaires during the Gilded Age. George Boldt, the wealthy owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, built Boldt Castle for his wife, Louise, who died before its completion without ever seeing it.

Incidentally, Thousand Island salad dressing was created here. One version of the story says George Boldt’s chef created the recipe but another version says it was created by Sophia Lalonde, the wife of a fishing guide. Whichever story you believe, when George Boldt got ahold of the recipe, he put it on the menu at the Waldorf Astoria, and the rest is history.

Today, the archipelago of 1864 islands in the St. Lawrence River remains a vacation paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Only a few islands are reachable by ferry; otherwise private watercraft are required with plenty of boat rentals available throughout the area. Twenty-one islands comprise the 1000 Island National Park of Canada with docks, trails, and camping facilities.

As we embarked our cruise boat, the day was warm and sunny. We enjoyed the ride with commentary to accompany the close-up views of many small islands and cottages.

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I have no idea which ferry we saw in the photo below but if you look carefully, you can see it’s cable-driven. This method is safer on a river with a strong current. We were lucky to have gotten a look at this one in action.

IMG_7257Many of the islands are small enough to accommodate just one cottage. In fact, on our cruise they told us to be considered an island, it must be at least 6 square feet of land with at least 2 trees. I read on various websites, however, that the requirement is one tree and the land must be fully above water 365 days a year. Either way, some of these islands are very small and could easily be submerged by a high wake.

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Note the sign “PLEASE NO WAKE”

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Following our cruise, we crossed the Thousand Islands International Bridge to re-enter the United States.

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Thousand Island International Bridge

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View of the St. Lawrence River from the Thousand Island International Bridge

We had planned to follow the shore of Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls but when I saw Seneca Falls, NY on the map, I was keen to visit the site of the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. and Jim was willing.

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In July 1848, over 300 women and men gathered in the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, NY to discuss the rights of women. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, on the first day only women were allowed to attend and discuss principles. On the second day, 100 women and men discussed and signed the Declaration of Sentiments which expanded on the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence and began with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.”

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Restored Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held

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Interior of Wesleyan Chapel

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Sign outside Wesleyan Chapel

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Outside the Visitor Center at Women’s Rights National Historical Park

For me, the most moving exhibits inside the Visitor Center were the First Wave Statue and an exact replica of the suffrage banner. The First Wave Statues represent the first wave of women’s rights activists including the 5 organizers of the convention, the men who supported their efforts, and others who did not sign the Declaration of Sentiments.

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The suffrage banner celebrated the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 granting women the right to vote. The colors in the banner are purple for justice, white for purity of intent, and gold for courage. The stars represent the 36 states that ratified the amendment.

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In 1980, the Women’s Rights Historical Park was established as part of the National Park Service. It’s easy to forget the struggles of those who led the way to establish the rights of women. It took another 72 years after the convention to secure the right to vote for women. Today, we have enjoyed that right for fewer than 100 years. This national park serves as an important reminder.

We finished day 7 in Niagara Falls to celebrate our wedding anniversary which I’ll share in my next post.

 

Based on events from September 2017.

 

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Categories: Canada, History, National Parks, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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