Visiting Niagara Falls!
By Rachelle Siegrist
We flew into Buffalo, NY last Wednesday evening, to attend the opening of the Society of Animal Artists 55th Annual Exhibition at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY that weekend. However, I must admit that my top priority was seeing Niagara Falls! A lover of waterfalls, I have wanted to see it since I was a little girl. So early last Thursday, Wes and I drove the short distance to Niagara Falls State Park, where we parked the rental car, and walked across the Rainbow Bridge crossing into Canada for our very first time.
Immediately we were welcomed by beautiful, immaculate gardens lined with neatly trimmed boxwood hedges of all shapes, filled with a variety of flowers, including fuchsia trees! Walking past colorful, blooming hanging baskets, we quickly drew nearer to the falls, and the roar became louder.
Having walked a short distance, we ascended a spiral walkway leading to an observation deck, and there they were in all their glory, absolutely stunning and truly magnificent, just as I had always imagined they would be! The parting clouds allowed a ray of sun to pass through, illuminating the falls, while tremendous clouds of mist rose into the air from the base. Bright white Herring Gulls slowly drifted in and out of the clouds of mist, adding to the sheer majesty of it all, and I stood there completely mesmerized! I was finally seeing Niagara Falls, in all of its splendid grandeur!
We walked along the garden-lined parks, stopping continually to take yet another photo of the falls in the changing light. Soon we found ourselves descending hundreds of feet on the elevator in Journey Behind the Falls, and could hear the roar as soon as the doors opened!
We walked through the long, narrow, cement tunnel leading to the base of Horseshoe Falls, and after peering through the two portals allowing a view of the back of the falls, we went to the platform near the bottom. The thunderous roar was unbelievable, resulting from roughly 600,000 gallons a second thundering over the edge! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, as I stood there in my poncho, admiring this amazing natural wonder!
Leaving there, we enjoyed strolling along, sandwiched between the falls on one side and lovely flower-filled gardens on the other. We ate lunch on the old stone veranda of a restaurant named Secret Garden, offering a lovely view of the falls. Our black bean burgers were yummy, and there was plenty of bread to share with the numerous house sparrows which soon became my friends!
After a quick stroll through Queen Victoria Park, filled with hundreds of beautiful fragrant roses, we headed back towards Rainbow Bridge, and were quite surprised to find we had to pay fifty cents each to leave Canada, especially since we’d just spent our last quarters in Canada! Reaching the American side, we decided to ride the Maid of the Mist. Suited up in our bright blue ponchos, we boarded the boat, anxiously awaiting our view from the bottom of the falls, up close and personal! Soon we were at the base of the American Falls, and it was a truly breathtaking experience, seeing it from that perspective!
We rode the short distance to the base of Horseshoe Falls, and while there we watched a Cormorant fishing at the bottom of these powerful falls! Occasionally it would dive down, popping back to the surface, where it would bob way up and down over the tumultuous waves and white water created by the force of the falls! I decided it, like myself, must certainly be an adrenaline junkie!
The boat slowly turned and I found myself standing on deck in the exact center of Horseshoe Falls, as close as possible, and it was truly amazing, the mist and wind created from it blowing like crazy! All too soon the boat was pulling back up to the dock, where we disembarked. After enjoying one last view of the falls from the observation tower, we headed over to the Cave of the Winds. Having watched the poncho clad people walking about these series of steps leading right along the base of American Falls throughout the day, I was thrilled to be starting my own journey along them!
Wearing our complimentary water shoes and ponchos, we started down the stairs, and within seconds were soaked with mist and spray coming from the falls. I was delighted that we were getting to walk through the water at points as we continued along the wooden stair maze. Then we came to the Hurricane Deck, and that opportunity I wasn’t about to pass up! So I quickly walked to the farthest corner and stood in the torrential downpour of water coming from the falls, water and wind pelting me so hard, it was hard to stand up at times!
I was in my element and It was during that moment, when I gained a full appreciation for the awesome power of this amazing set of falls! I just stood there, thinking how incredible it was that not only had I now seen the falls, but was actually standing in them! I reluctantly left the Hurricane Deck, totally sopping wet, and Wes and I laughed as we watched the faces of passerby’s looking at me and commenting to one another . . . “Oh my, we’re gonna really get wet!”
Leaving the Cave of the Winds, we walked out to the Three Sisters Islands, where an enormous flock of Herring Gulls were gathered on rocks out in the middle of the rapids. By that time I had dried out enough to eat supper out on the open air porch at the Top of the Falls restaurant, where we were afforded a lovely view of the falls once again.
Afterwards we walked out to Luna Island, and saw the falls drenched in the warm, evening light and it was absolutely spectacular! We admired the chosen location of one lone seagull, which was sitting right on the rocky ledge at the top of the American Falls, as we took several more photos. Growing later In the evening, it was time to say goodbye to this majestic setting, and I couldn’t have been more delighted and thrilled with the amazing day and experiences we had been blessed with!
We can hardly wait to start our series of Niagara Falls miniature paintings! We just might have to make one at least a wee bit bigger!
Until next time . . .