Niagara Falls and the Downfall of a “Natural Wonder”

16 September 2016

Writing my previous blog posts had been fun: upload a photo here, give some descriptions there, and write about why it was such a good experience. This blog post, however, was one I was debating on whether or not I should even take the time to write. “Why?” you may ask. Well because I really didn’t like Niagara Falls. At. All.

Maybe I would have liked it if it was the first part of Canada I had ever seen. Or maybe if I was one of those American beach goers who get a kick out of souvenir t-shirt shops every ten feet. Neither of those descriptions were me though, and it was obvious before I stepped out of the car that I was not the kind of tourist that Niagara Falls, ON was directed towards.

Driving into Niagara Falls gave me flashbacks of my trips to Atlantic coast, American tourist traps like Ocean City, Atlantic City, and the Jersey Shore. There were souvenir shops on every corner, lit up signs advertising Sunday buffets, and more tourists than I expected for a late September weekend. I had heard people reference Niagara Falls, ON as “fake Canada” before, meaning that because of its proximity to the American border and the many tourists, it was not a true representation of the country of Canada. Those people got it right. “Americanized” is a good word for what the Ontario side of the falls is.

Trying to keep an open mind, we checked into our hotel and promptly headed towards the falls. Walking down the hill to the water it was rather quiet with not too many people out. Little did I realize that the absence of people on our short walk only meant that all of the  tourists were already at the falls snapping pictures with their phones and cameras.

For as massive as the falls were I expected the sound of the water crashing on the rocks below to be louder and greet me before I reached the 4 foot high railing along the top of the falls. Thinking back to my hike to Brandywine Falls in British Columbia, I remember hearing the waterfall minutes before actually seeing it. Niagara Falls was not the case. What I expected was for my breath to be taken away I guess. I thought standing at the edge of the falls was going to be another one of those moments where everything felt right in my life. The more I stood at the top of Niagara Falls though, the more I hated it.


Why were there two massive casinos on the American side built into the once natural landscape of the falls? Why, when I turned my back to the falls to see the Canada side, did I see a TGIFridays and another casino? Standing at the edge of a natural wonder like Niagara Falls, I should want to stay there forever, not say “ok, it’s crossed off of my bucket list” and turn around and leave. It is the largest waterfall I had ever seen, yet it would never make my top ten list for most beautiful.

The boat ride to the edge of the falls looked neat, but we did not have enough time to take part in that tourist trap. My mom said there was no way she would ever get on the Maid of the Mist, but I think that might be the one vantage point I might actually like to see the falls from. I would say “let’s do that next time,” but I’m not so sure there will be a “next time” for us in Niagara Falls. There are too many other places we would rather see…

You know when I might have really liked to see Niagara Falls? Back in 1762 when the first eyewitness painting of the falls was created. That was before any human had made a lasting impact on the area and way before someone thought “waterfall” and “casino” went together like peanut butter and jelly.

We only spent a few minutes by the falls, but that was enough for us. While the waterfall was impressive solely because of its size, the amount of tourists deterred us from wanting to stick around too long. I had heard that at night they lit up the falls with different colored lights, so I was hoping to come back later to see that. However, when we came back after dark, the falls were absent of any sort of light except for the neon-colored signs in the distance advertising their many dinner options and casino games.


The next morning my mom and I got up early to see the sunrise by the falls. This time the area was clear of tourists with only the occasional jogger passing by. The pink sky and the blue water was beautiful and I enjoyed looking at the falls more today than I did the evening before. Even though it was the perfect morning, the casinos, of course, were still there and the neon signs were as bright as ever.

This wasn’t an outdoor adventurers paradise. Sure, there was zip lining and tours into the caves below the falls, but it was all fake. There is nothing “natural” about Niagara Falls left. Even the rocks the the falls sit on have fences and built in walkways. In a few years the governments of both Canada and America will redirect the water from the falls so that they can clear out the rocks from below and make sure that no loose rocks are on the top of the falls. More green spaces will be cut down and cleared out to make way for more restaurants and shops, and the town of Niagara falls will continue to bring in millions of dollars of tourist’s money year after year. Sure its beautiful to some, but it would be more beautiful if we had just left it alone and let nature build up around the falls, at least that’s what I believe.

So I’ve crossed off Niagara Falls on my Canadian bucket list. I’m glad to say I’ve been there, but the only thing Niagara Falls did for me was make me miss the Pacific Northwest  more than I already did before.I think it’s sad that some Americans say, “Yeah, I’ve been to Canada” when in reality they’ve only ever crossed the New York border into Ontario to see the most Americanized place in all of the great white north. Niagara Falls is barely a blip on the radar screen when it comes to things to do and places to see in Canada. Don’t let the distance and your previous thoughts of stereotypical Canada keep you venturing outside of the small section of Niagara Falls, ON; Keep Exploring.


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