Take your dog to Niagara Falls

Of all the crown jewels in America’s natural tiara, Yellowstone, the Great

Canyon, Yosemite: None is quite as dog-friendly as Niagara Falls. Save for

Special guided tours, your dog can walk anywhere you walk to see the

world famous falls in both New York and Ontario Niagara Falls State Park

Queen Victoria Park.

It’s hard to imagine these days, but Niagara Falls, one of the most

visited tourist destinations, was originally regarded as a key military

post and industrial site. One of the first Europeans to see the falls was

The 51-year-old French priest, Father Louis Hennepin, in 1678. Hennepin is

reported that he fell to his knees in prayer and murmured, “the universe

does not offer its parallel.” The French army, though perhaps

appreciating the romantic sentiment, he was more interested in building a strong

to defend the natural trade route between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Travelers did not begin arriving in large numbers in western New York

until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the arrival of the railroads

in the 1830s. Many enjoyed the same reaction as Father Hennepin. Tea

tradition of honeymooners coming to Niagara where “the love of those who

honeymoon here will last as long as the falls themselves” dates from the early

1800 when members of the French ruling Bonapart family married

excursions. By mid-century, the area around the Falls was a

confusing hodgepodge of water-powered mills and private resorts.

After the Civil War, a small group of visionaries began searching for a

way to heal the scars of Niagara’s natural beauty. The “Free Niagara”

crusade led to the creation of the Niagara Reservation, the first in America

state park in 1885. Frederick Law Olmsted, New York City designer

Central Park and one of the leaders of the movement, presented the park

network of wooded trails along the banks of the Niagara River. Olmsted

belief in conserving natural beauty while providing public access – for humans

and dog – endures in Niagara Falls to this day.

Niagara Falls reigns as one of the world’s top tourist destinations

and your dog is welcome. Due to the congestion of visitors around the edge

of the Falls it is best to begin your explorations of the Niagara Falls State

Parking with the dog in the early hours of the morning when it is easier to maneuver

around different points of view. Even at the busiest times there are

grassy fields and shady walks for the dog to play.

Start your tour on the paved trails of Goat Island in the middle of the

Niagara River, flanked by fierce rapids on all sides. pedestrian bridges

drive to Three Sisters Islands and Green Island to get a closer look at the

wild river as it approaches the falls. Go down a flight of stairs to Luna

Island, nestled between American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls,

before heading back across Goat Island to Horseshoe Cliff

It falls on the Canadian side. You and the dog can stand on the edge of everything.

three falls and drink in the water spray before the drops fall 18

stories about the ridge in the gorge. Forty million gallons of spilled water

over Niagara Falls every minute.

From these viewpoints you can stop and contemplate the first engravings

person to jump into the falls. That was Sam Patch in October 1829, who

it leaked twice from a 110 foot high platform. She survived both jumps. Tea

The first person to successfully cross the falls in a barrel was a woman,

Annie Taylor, who survived the stunt on October 24, 1901. Of the 16 known

attempts to mount the falls in a barrel or similar capsule – a trick that is

now illegal – 10 survived.

And the dogs touring Niagara Falls? Sadly, there is a registered account of

such event. In December 1874 some local hotel owners bought

an old Great Lakes schooner and planned to send her over the falls to attract

Niagara visitors. To add drama to the show, the organizers uploaded

the boat with a buffalo, three bears, two foxes, a raccoon, a dog, a cat and

four geese and released their “Reverse Noah’s Ark” into the rapids. Tea

Animals were observed scampering about the deck as the schooner slipped

over the edge of the falls and broke into hundreds of pieces on the rocks

below. Only two geese were believed to have survived the trick.

To get panoramic views of all three falls, you’ll need to cross the gorge.

to Canada where you can take the dog for a walk among the flower gardens

from Queen Victoria Park. The park, managed by the Niagara Parks Commission,

it actually predates Niagara Falls State Park. Landscaping of the area with

the sublime views of the rushing falls began in 1837 and became a

park in 1882. Both parks are free to visit, as are the nightly light shows

illuminating the falls

Niagara Falls also has a lot in store for the serious canine hiker.

The thrills of the Niagara River are not completely exhausted when the water

crashes 170 feet over the falls in the gorge. The river, one of

shortest in the world, rumbles another turbulent 7 miles before throwing up

its contents in Lake Ontario. The river rapids are among the

wildest and most ferocious in the world, rated 6 on the navigable scale of 1 to 6.

Historically, the dangerous Niagara River has had such a strong hold on

reckless as the falls themselves. Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the

English Channel, perished attempting to swim across the Niagara River here

in 1883. Today, jet-powered boats ply the Tamer of the rapids.

tourists in search of strong emotions.

The flat, paved Niagara Gorge Rim Trail runs six miles from the American

Falls at Prospect Point along the canyon, joining a New York necklace

state parks along the way. Several series of more than 300 steps descend to the

gorge in the parks to reach the connecting trails along the riverbank. a lot

of the trail below the rim follows the roadbed of the historic Great Gorge

Railway. The railway operated until September 17, 1935 when 5,000 tons of

rocks slide down the gorge and buried the tracks. Part of the trail crosses

these debris and involves considerable boulder jumping for an athletic dog.

These periodic rockfalls, rarely of this magnitude, are more common in

winter and early spring and gorge hiking is recommended only

between mid-May and November 1.

The trail leads to the edge of the surf where the 35 foot deep river can

reach speeds of 22 miles per hour. As the views of the water stir

through Devil’s Hole Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids can be fascinating, no

forget to look up once in a while and maybe spot the occasional bald eagle

hanging around, no doubt looking for an easy meal of the dazed and battered


The northernmost park along the Niagara Gorge is Earl W. Brydges

Artpark in Lewiston, where the cocktail was invented by a local tavern

owner. She mixed gin and herbal wine in a jug and stirred her concoction

with the tail feather of a handy stuffed rooster pheasant. more traditional

Artists and artisans display their creations on the grounds of the

200 acre park. The river has calmed down enough at this point to allow a

cautious swim for the dog.

The cliffs of the Lewiston Gorge are where Niagara Falls began some

12,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. torrents of meltwater

glacial ice spilled over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, as the cliff is

acquaintance. The sheer force of the water has slowly worn away the rock and moved

the falls to its present position seven miles upstream. Today the falls

they are eroding at the rate of one inch per year. You can track the trips of

the falls on the rocks that line the gorge.

The Niagara Gorge Trail System ends at the imposing concrete dam of the

Robert Moses Power Plant, completing a journey from the beauty of Niagara

It falls before the harsh reality of its practicality. Hydroelectricity is the most

important product of the Falls. Power plants in the United States and Canada

The sides of the falls use water diverted from the falls to generate enough

electricity to power 2,500,000 100-watt light bulbs. It is one of the

largest operations of its kind in the world with transmission lines flowing in

both directions from the gorge. As impressive as the falls are today,

they are only a fraction of how powerful our ancestors saw, as much as half of the

The flow of the Niagara River is diverted for hydroelectric production.

Someday in the next 3,000 years, Niagara Falls will completely wear away and

power will run dry as water flows placidly between lake erie and lake

ont. Until that day, however, there is ample opportunity to take the

dog a wonder before the power of Niagara.

copyright 2006

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