Incredible river, falls, and bridges – this is Niagara Falls!

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Niagara River

We could never get tired of gawking at the three massive waterfalls collectively known as Niagara Falls, as we experienced them several times – on foot, bicycle and via a guided  tour.  How could we?  The three falls – American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horsehoe Falls – are spectacular, breathtaking and awe inspiring.  They are a required destination that we attempted to view from different angles and viewpoints.  So, for those of you who have been there, bear with me.  I can barely contain my excitement!

Below is an aerial view of the Niagara River, of which 10% flows to the American and Bridal Falls on the left, and 90% flows to the Horsehoe Falls on the right.

Goat Island

After chilling out at Lake Erie for a couple of days, we had our priorities set – walk and bike around the waterfalls.  On the first day, our plan was to just stroll around Goat Island, but we got so excited with the waterfalls and surrounding beauty that we decided to turn it into a major walk.  Our adventure started by walking around Goat Island and crossing the pedestrian bridge to Prospect Point, where we had an awesome view of the American Falls.  Then we walked up to the observation tower and continued on to the Niagara Gorge Trailhead where we followed various trails, ending at the Whirlpool Gorge overlook.

Our  walk began with a glowing rainbow at Terrapin Point – the top of Horseshoe Falls on the American side – a great omen for the awesome scenery ahead.  The waterfalls can be viewed from the American side at Niagara Falls, New York or on the Canadian side at Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Horsehoe Falls

At the brink of Horseshoe Falls the thick mist obscures the view.  Ontario, Canada is in the background.

Goat Island was so called because just a single goat survived out of many other animals during a severe winter in the 18th century.  It is a small island in the Niagara River, located in the middle of Niagara Falls between the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.  At this point we walked to Three Sisters Island, where along the river we saw a unique view of the upper rapids as it raced down to the Horseshoe Falls.  We should point out that many major improvements have been completed during the spring of 2013 at several viewing points along the falls on the American side.  They have done a fantastic job.

Horseshoe Rapids

Viewing the Horseshoe Rapids

Three sisters Island

View of the thick mist created by the Horsehoe Falls at Three Sisters Island

We continued our walk across one of the two bridges connecting Goat Island, and here is where we got a prime view of the American Falls, the rapids and Bridal Veil Falls from Prospect Point near the observation tower.

American Falls

American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (the last small falls in the distance), viewed from the observation tower – US side

Continuing on our trek, we ambled on to the Niagra Gorge trailhead where a series of trails parallels the Niagara River Gorge.  We passed under the Rainbow Bridge, where pedestrians can walk across and get spectacular views of the falls on the Canadian side.

Rainbow Bridge

Vehicles and pedestrians move between nations here

On our way to the Whirlpool Gorge we took the more rugged and scenic trails, the Great Gorge Railway Trail and Whirlpool Rapids Trail.  Returning, we took the easier Niagara Gorge Rim Trail and the Robert Moses Recreation Trail.  At the Whirlpool Overlook we learned how Niagara first formed many thousand of years ago, when the falls carved through the rocks and receded, forming the 7.1 mile gorge that we saw today.

Whirlpool Bridges

Beneath the Whirlpool Bridges

The whirlpool rapids run at 22 mph, 35 feet deep and at a Class VI rating are considered among the most dangerous in the world.  Fortunately we had no desire to challenge them!

The Whirlpool Gorge is so named because of the water which circulates through this section counter-clockwise and must dive under the incoming stream to continue down the river.  In 1913, the aero car you see in the picture below was built by a Spanish engineer and is suspended on 6 interlocking steel cables.  It travels between two cliffs on the Canadian side of the gorge.

Aero Car

These tourist inside the Aero Car has a good birds eye view of the whirlpool

Not content with our 11-mile walk in 90 degree temperatures on that day, we woke up early the following morning to bike back to the falls.  The trailhead was at the foot of the North Grand Island bridge.

North Grand Island Bridges

North Grand Island bridge

As we biked along the Niagara River Trail we saw two water intake gates for the power plants, the mist of the falls on the horizon and finally Luna Island, where 10% of the river flows into the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

American Falls

Can you tell how excited I am to be at the falls!

North Grand Island Bridges

Under the North Grand Island bridges

And then we did what most toursist would do – got wet under the falls, heard the thunderous waters cascading down, felt its intensity  and got inspired by the spectacular views at the foot of the waterfalls!

Strolling into Ontario, Canada across the Rainbow Bridge offered another stunning view of the falls, especially during the evening.  This is the best way to get between the US and Canadian sides of the falls if you can, we walked across just to take some pictures and get dinner.

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls viewed near Table Rock Visitor Center in Ontario, CA

Horseshoe Falls

Full view of the Horseshoe Falls that spans and connects the US and Canada

Niagara River

Sunset at Niagara Falls, viewed at the International Border Line at  Rainbow Bridge

Ontario, CN

Sunset at Ontario, Canada

Rainbow Bridge

Posing at the Rainbow Bridge, Steve’s in Canada and I’m in the USA.  He seemed unusually happy about that.

Sunset at American Falls

Sunset view of the American Falls from the Rainbow Bridge

Illuminated American Falls

Nighttime view of the American Falls, illuminated by powerful lights every night

Up next:  Many more things to do around Niagara Falls!

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Waterfalls Heaven – Columbia River Gorge Part 1

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Steve is smiling for he can now check one off from his bucket list, the Columbia River Gorge.  The Columbia River Gorge is an impressive river canyon carved by the Columbia river as it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It stretches over 80 miles and is shared by the states of Washington and Oregon.  Mt Adams to the north and Mt Hood to the south flank the gorge and the mighty Columbia River runs through its middle.  The bridges that connects the states are:  The Dalles to the east, the Hood River in the middle and the Bridge of the Gods to the west.  The Gorge is recognized as a destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest.  Geologists must love this place with all its cliffs, rock formations and rugged terrain.

Columbia Gorge

The only wildlife seen on the highway on our way to the Gorge.

We spent a whole week exploring and enjoying the gorgeousness while staying at White Salmon on the WA side as our base camp.  During our stay, we weaved in and out of Washington and Oregon through their $1.00 toll bridges and drove from east to west by taking highway 14 on the Washington shore and 84 on the Oregon side.  We had an action-packed week and we loved it despite some hazy and smoky days.

What did we learn and enjoy? Plenty ! and so we will have more than one post  to talk about the gorgeous gorge.

Lets start with the waterfalls.  Oregon has 77 waterfalls and the Gorge contains the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  These spectacular waterfalls are all within approximately a 15-mile stretch!  Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway 30 on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we were able to view five different waterfalls cascading over the walls of the Gorge.

Our trek began at the Latourell Falls which is usually the first waterfall seen along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway if coming from the west.  The falls plunge 224 feet over a massive wall of columnar basalt – some of the best formations in the Pacific Northwest – before cascading hastily towards the Columbia River.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

What was distinctive to this fall is the large patch of bright yellow lichen adorning the cliff face to the right of the falls, and maybe because of this we saw several photographers in the area.

Close up of yellow lichen , Latourell Falls

Close up of yellow lichen

Close up of Columnar Basalt,Latourell Falls

Close up of Columnar Basalt

Next stop was the Shepperds’ Dell Falls.  Though looking straight down from the bridge will allow one to see the two final drops, only the 45 foot tier and a pair of the small cascades above it are clearly visible.

 Sheppards Dell Falls

Sheppards Dell Falls

3.5 miles later we park our car and hiked for about 2.2 miles roundtrip to get to the base of the Bridal Veil falls, considered as the most pristine among the waterfalls in the area. This two tiered falls are the only in the area which occurs below the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway – the base of the falls standing probably no more than 20 vertical feet above the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Continuing on the drive the next stop was Wahkeena falls.  At 242 feet, it can be seen from the Wahkeena picnic area across the Historic Highway and is the most scenic waterfall along the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.  It is unique among the major waterfalls in this section of the Gorge in that it possesses a significant alluvial fan in both size and elevation.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Then about half a mile later  is where  the most visited natural attraction in Oregon is located, the Multnomah Falls.  It is the highest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge with a total drop of 620 feet.  We did a 2.5 mile hike up to the top of the falls with 11 switchbacks and a 650 foot elevation gain.  Although the top was not as spectacular as we expected, the hike was a good workout.

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls

Top of Multnomah Falls, spot the tourists looking up, can you see them?

Our final viewing of waterfalls along the historic highway was the Horsetail Falls.  This one is considered  pretty much the epitome of the Horsetail form with views from 180 degrees around the falls.

HorseTail Falls

HorseTail Falls

The above beauties were all accessible from the highway, two other waterfalls that we located and viewed required quite a hike.  Both Metlako Falls and Punchbowl are located along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area.  Metlako Falls drop out of a narrow, calm pool, and thunder into an impressive gorge.

Metlako Falls

Metlako Falls

The Punch Bowl falls occur where Eagle Creek cuts through a narrow channel flanked by cliffs, and shoots powerfully into a large bowl.  The falls’ name is a very descriptive one, as it’s easy to see it’s resemblance to an actual bowl you’d pour punch into.

Punchbowl Falls

Punchbowl Falls

And we viewed what we can in one long day, but did we see them all ? Nope, we missed two along the historic highway Oneonta and Elowah Falls (not sure why we overlooked them). Are they not all beautiful?