Niagara Falls: Jet Boat, Old Fort, Whirlpool State Park


Everyone who visits the USA, goes once to Niagara Falls without knowing what could have shaped today’s Niagara. It was in the 1800s when Niagara became a mecca for the ordinary, and was a magnet for extraordinary daredevil act where Braveheart's would risk all for that one moment of Glory. Imagine what could have been running though the mind of daredevil woman Annie who crossed the Niagara Falls in a Barrell? We also learnt that Niagara Falls may not be there anymore in 10,000 years. 

While 10,000 years is a long time, today at Jet Boat Niagara 2 miles away from the base of the falls, we were screaming with excitement as our boat spinned 360 degrees in class VI rapids just before the red stone painted by the Coast Guard in a region bordering Canada. Our guide told us; this part is indeed Canada. How many of you knew that the massive power of Niagara Falls and the Niagara river is being utilized as a useful source of Hydroelectric Power? Did you know that the Old Fort Niagara was a fortification used as an active center for Beaver Fur Trade across Maritime waters and was also one of the main entrances of Niagara Falls and anyone entering/leaving will have to pay? Did you know we also had the deadliest battle – battle of Lundy’s Lane (also known as the battle of Niagara Falls) in the region?

Tip 1: There are many ways to experience Niagara Falls – the most traditional ways being Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds. Every experience in Niagara is different. While Maid of the Mist lets you feel and touch the mist emanating from the fall and grasp the visual treat Niagara is, Cave of the Winds lets you be under the waterfalls in the tiered series of steps. I have had the opportunity to fly with Niagara Helicopters limited, thanks to Toronto Tourism (Niagara Falls Tourism) that gave me an Ariel view from the helicopter. The helicopter ride gives you an overview of the landscape of the falls and how widespread it is. The Jet Boat ride gives you a very dynamic experience of the waves of the Niagara River and the power of the rapids.

Tip 2: Jet Boat Rides – There are two Jet Boat companies in the region. One is Whirlpool Jet that has completely open Jet boat (I really wished I had tried them – imagine plunging into the Niagara River & those rapids from the front seats). By the time we went to Niagara Falls, this had closed for the season. There is another Jet Boat Company that we tried that was Niagara Jet this runs in all 4-seasons and has a climate-controlled boat. We, however, chose to sit on the outside back deck (strapped) than being inside the boat. You will get wet where we sat. There was no not getting wet. We literally got bathed and each rapid will make us look in wonder on what's going to happen next. The crew was very cordial and entertaining and the music played with the rapids, and that made a huge difference. I will say, a must do!

Previous Posts on Niagara -> Niagara Falls in US vs Niagara Falls in Canada

Where did Niagara Falls come from?

Niagara Falls is the greatest waterfall in the northern hemisphere and a source of life and myth. The water in Niagara Falls is the fossil water from the last great ice age. Humans first came to Niagara Falls around 12000 years ago as the glaciers from the last ice age receded leaving enough water to create the Great Lakes. These people were also known as Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House). To the ancient people of Niagara, the Niagara word is taken from the native word meaning, “Thundering Waters”.

The Daredevils of Niagara

In the 1800’s during the winter, one could cross the frozen Niagara River to what they used to call it as the Ice Bridge and in the Summer one could ride the Steam Boat. Do not forget to watch the Niagara Falls Adventure Movie in the Niagara Falls State Park, where we will view on an impressive 45-foot-wide screen the history of human interaction with the falls, focusing largely on the "daredevils" who have crossed, boated, and even jumped off them. “It was in July 1959, when Jean was ready to make history by stretching a rope some 1100 feet between US and Canada and carrying 40 pounds, he walked on a tightrope just 3 inches in Diameter. In the years that followed, we had Blondin riding a bike on the wire. In the years that followed we had Annie Edison Taylor to go in the Niagara Falls in a Barrel. The latest being in 2012, when Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda defied mist and wind to become the first man to walk across Niagara Falls on a high wire. “

The Legends and Trails of Niagara – The Lelawala & Captain Robinson

The Native Americans who lived here prayed to the spirit of Thundergods. The legend of Lelawala also known as the Maid of the Mist came down to us in time. Legend says it, that Lelawala, a young Seneca girl had lost her husband and lost hope of a happy life. She paddled the boat in the middle of the Niagara River but instead of dying she was saved by the Thunder Gods. One legend says that there was a snake that lived beneath the river that came to poison the village. It was heroic Lelawala who volunteered to sacrifice herself to the Thunder Gods so that they can help people. Another legend says, that she returned to tell the people of the village about the snake so that they can destroy it. Whatever the truth of the legend is, some say, you can still see her on the rainbow of the mist beneath the falls.

There used to be a Steam Ship Lelawala(Maid of the Mist) that ran in the Niagara River in early during. It was just 11 years old when the civil war broke out. During the great depression, the tourism died and the ship was sold. The captain of the ship, captain Robinson faced an extraordinary challenge of a lifetime that claimed to be one of the most dangerous stretch of White Water in the world, and one of the most powerful rapids in North America. Through the great gorge rapids, the whirlpools and devils' hole, their boat sailed, and two of the crews and the captain himself was almost thrown on the deck hanging onto their lives. Although Captain achieved the impossible in the end, the experience left him shaken and ended up never piloting a steam boat again and died in seclusion just 2 years after the experience.

Whirlpool state Park 

We went to Whirlpool State Park and we could see the same whirlpools from up above as we saw from the Jet Boat tour. We could see boats in the whirlpools too. There is a trolley that runs between Canada to Canada that can be seen from Whirlpool State Park as well. The fall colors were beautiful during the 2nd week of October that we went.

Old Fort Niagara

When you come to Old Fort Niagara, you will see the 18th century fortifications, amazing view and artillery firing demonstrations. Do not forget to check their website for more activities. But why was this area so significant that it needed to be fortified?

Between 16-18th century, Beaver Fur was known in the world as the best fur. If you look at the Flag of New York City (the fashion capital) in 1625, you will see Beavers in the flag. The Beaver fur was also important in the area. Here, they used to hunt for Beavers and trade it with economies for weapons, clothes and horses. After they had gathered fur, they would ship it and trade it with Europe 20 times its price. That was their main source of revenue that made them earn a lot of money and turned into a profitable business and trade. But why would Americans want guns in exchange of fur from the colonies?

The locals in the region were Native Americans. The Native Americans during those days used to sing, dance and paint as a way to communicate. The instrument they use to use were the drums where each drum beat equaled their heartbeat. The Americans wanted to defend the villages of native tribes and hence needed the guns.

With more coming off explorers into the region, the Europeans and the Native Americans were aware that water was the way into the west. It was almost inevitable that the conflict will arise.

The Old Fort fortification was built in the 1678 by the French, 8 years before the American revolution. The French occupied it from 1678 till 1759 before being attacked by the native Americans and the Britishers who had united against them. Back in those days, the fortification was very easy to defend. Due to extreme winter conditions, 100+ soldiers were trapped and died of cold, hunger and diseases. The French commander was executed by chopping his head off. The remains of his body still lie inside the fortification.

It is said that during the full moon night each month, the French commander comes out of a well searching for his head and saying “Where is my head?” in French.

After 1759, the fortification was occupied by the British till the year 1796. 1796 was 20 years after America became independent. It took them so long to free it from British was because there was no bus and highway like it is today, instead there were mountains in between.

There hence was a war between Americans and the British Empire. The British had blocked trade between Americans and their Ally France. American soldiers were captured and forced to stay in the British Navy and the British supported native tribes who fought American expansion into new territories. In July, 1814, the Battle of Lundy's Lane(also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls) said to be one of the bloodiest battle of war took place close to the falls. In the battle, it claimed 250 lives and 1100 wounded. The British won the battle but lost the war. The British then pledged to never come back. By 1846, the borders between US and Canada was drawn.

Our tour guide said,” The main reason why British attacked fortification was because they wanted more resource from the shipment transport. That is why humanity is always at war, because they want more resource from another.” 

Our tour guide also told us, that how technology wasn’t as stable as it is today. How guns used to perform inside the fort. He says, “For example, if over here a gentleman is my enemy and his wife is my ally and I am aiming at the gentlemen, the bullet will aim at her because the accuracy wasn’t at par.” Well, that is something I wish I had not heard, because it sounds weird when those bullets were used in wars.

To know more: Old Fort Niagara Visitor Information

/*Thanks to TakeTours for the Amazing tour of Niagara Falls. Although this trip wasn’t sponsored, we had a blast on our tour*/

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