Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls by diego3336/flickr

Niagara Falls

United States of America

Arguably the single most famous waterfall on the planet, the Niagara Falls cleaves the twin nations of the U.S.A and Canada in two, located right on the border between Ontario province and New York state. Around 17 miles north of Buffalo, these powerful and voluminous falls are by some measurements the largest waterfalls in existence, with over 64,750 cubic feet per second of water discharged into the Niagara Gorge. Located between the great lakes of Erie and Ontario, these 167 feet high series of falls are one of the most photographed locations on the planet, and large scale tourist centres have been built up around the perimeter of the falls.  Tourists can ascend the Skylon viewing tower on the Canadian side of the gorge for a brilliant bird’s eye vantage point, but to experience Niagara up close you should take a ride on the Maid of the Mist ferry, which floats right up to the turbulent plunge pool. The ride is often violent and rocky, so those who suffer from sea-sickness, or who have a delicate disposition, are better advised to take an alternative route.  Highly recommended is the Cave of the Winds: situated behind the waterfall,  it is a subterranean warren built out of the bedrock by the backwash of the falling water. Here, clad in bright yellow ponchos and sandals, you will experience Niagara from below, feeling the air and the fine particles of mist blast against your face. Some visitors have likened the experience to standing under an outdoor shower, only much more dramatic, while scientists have compared the conditions to being outside during a force 1 hurricane.

Not all visitors to Niagara follow the usual tourist trail, however, and up to 15 historical figures have intentionally plunged over the falls.   The first was Sam Patch in 1829, who leapt into the water and miraculously survived the fall. Annie Edson Taylor, meanwhile, took a slightly safer approach, strapping herself to the inside of a steel barrel, and coming out relatively unscathed. Not all daredevils have been so fortunate, with plenty of unfortunate souls perishing in the white waters of this dangerous cataract.

Not surprisingly, the awesome presence of the Niagara Falls has inspired generations of artists, writers, film-makers and musicians. Marilyn Monroe starred in the 1953 epic Niagara, while illusionist David Copperfield tricked watchers into believing he had levitated over the Horseshoe falls in 1990. H.G. Wells also featured the falls extensively in his novel The War in the Air, using the falls as the base for an invading army.

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