Niagara Falls History

The Niagara region’s original inhabitants were the Ongiara, an Iroquois tribe named the Neutrals by French explorers, who found them helpful in mediating disputes with other tribes. The name Niagara” is said to originate from an Iroquois word meaning “thunder of waters”.

Iroquois legend tells of Lelawala, a beautiful maid given by her father to a brave she hated. Rather than marry, Lelawala chose to sacrifice herself to her one and only true love He-No, the Thunder God, who lived in a cave behind the Horseshoe Falls. She paddled her canoe into the swift current of the Niagara River and was swept over the Falls. He-No caught her as she fell, and together their spirits are said to live forever in the Thunder God’s kingdom behind the Falls.

There is some confusion over which European gave the first written, eyewitness account of the Falls. Samuel de Champlain was in the area as early as 1604. Some of his party reported to him on the incredible waterfalls, and he wrote the reports in his journals but probably never actually seen them for himself. Others credit Finnish-Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm with the description, written during an exploration of the area early in the 18th century.

However, it’s generally agreed that Father Louis Hennepin saw and described the Falls in 1677, after exploring the area with explorer Rene Robert Cavelier and Sieur de la Salle, and that he was the one that brought them to the world’s attention. Hennepin was also the first to describe the Saint Anthony Falls in Minnesota. He alse claimed that he traveled the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, however that was discredited and it cast some doubt on the truth of his writings and sketches of Niagara Falls. There is a county in Minnesota named after Father Hennepin.

In the 1800’s tourism became popular, and was the area’s main industry by mid-century. Napoleon’s brother visited with his bride in the early 19th century. There was a large demand for a way over the Niagara River, so in 1848 they built a footbridge and then Charles Ellet’s Niagara Suspension Bridge. In 1855 German-American John Augustus Roebling’s Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge was built then in 1886 Leffert Buck replaced Roebling’s wood and stone bridge with the mostly steel bridge that carries trains over the Niagara River even today.

In 1897 the first steel archway bridge near the Falls was completed. Today it is known as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, it is the bridge that runs between Canada and the U.S. just below the Falls. The Rainbow Bridge was built in 1941 by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, it carries both foot and vehicle traffic.

After World War One, tourism took off again. Automobiles made getting to the Falls a lot easier. In 20th century Niagara Falls the main goal has been to gather the power of the falls to turn it into energy and to control the rapid development on both the Canadian and American sides that threatens the area’s natural beauty.”

Get Directions

Butterfly Conservatory

With over 2,000 free flying tropical butterflies in a lush rain forest setting complete with waterfalls and pools, this is a photographer’s dream come true.

Observe the numerous species as they flutter, soar and feed on nectar and pollen. In summer, step outside the conservatory to experience a native butterfly garden that attracts many of the 120 species of butterflies native to Ontario. Open year-round.

Located 9 km (5 miles) north of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens & School of Horticulture

Get Directions

Old Fort Niagara

By: Jesse Davis

The British occupation of North America has numerous reminders of the past and one of them is the Old Fort Niagara. The Old Fort was built way back in 1726 at the entrance to the Niagara River. The Fort served as a resting area for new troops and also served as a garrison for the wars which took place between the British, Americans and the French. The Fort also served as a base for military campaigns during periods of hostility.

Like most old British monuments, this stone masonry built Fort has a lot of features of old Victoria era Fortresses of the 16 and 17th Century. The Fort had good access to the nearby railroads and the sea.

Today, The Fort is a monument to the historic events that occurred nearly 300 years ago. It symbolizes the courage, valor, sacrifice and heroism of many who fought for Freedom.

The Fort was completely burnt down in the 18th century and has undergone numerous major reconstructions to restore it to its original glamour. In its relatively unspoiled setting on a bend of the Niagara River, the Fort survives as an authentic vestige of the past.

Administered by the New York State Park, the Old Fort has a number of historic structures, furnished rooms, museum exhibits, and even a bookstore. Interpretive programs, educational lectures, guided tours, and special events are offered throughout the year.

Tourists have been coming to this Fort for decades and each year the numbers are increasing, making it a very popular destination. Asides from the Fort, the surrounding scenery and rivers offer some of he best views of the natural landscape in the North.

The Fort is now operated by the New York State Office of Parks and located in Youngstown, NY. For more information one can call 716 745 7611

Get Directions

IMAX Theatre

When you go to Niagara Falls, your visit there wouldn’t be complete without visiting the IMAX Theatre Niagara Falls, Canada. This theatre is the home of one of the most magnificent IMAX movie of all time which is “The Falls Movie: Legends and Daredevils”. This movie lets you travel back to the time when native people worshipped thunder spirits and other spirits of nature. The movie will also let you meet daredevils and legends who challenged and survived Niagara Falls. Some of these people are the Great Blondin who completed a tightrope walk over the Falls, 63-year old Annie Taylor who went over the Falls in a barrel and 7-year old Roger Woodward who survived the Falls with only a lifejacket.

The film is also available in 6 different languages through complimentary headsets and is available for the French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish languages while dedicated French and Japanese shows are available daily.

The IMAX Theatre is composed of a 620-seat auditorium, 60-feet high screen image that is 4500 times larger than a regular TV screen and 12,000 Watts of Digital Surround Sound by Sonics Proportional Point Source™ loudspeaker system that uses 44 laser-focused speaker drivers. The Theatre can be found at Fallsview Boulevard, Niagara Falls and is located next to the Skylon Tower and Niagara Fallsview Casino.

For schedules, the film “Niagara: Legends and Daredevils” is shown every hour on the hour with French and Japanese dedicated shows available only by request during winter. As of 2009, admission prices vary for walk up rates, online rates, and group rates. Walk up rates are $14.75 for Adults (13+) and $10.62 for Children (4-12). Online rates are given 25% off the regular price plus taxes so they are only $11 for Adults and $8 for Children. For groups of more than 20 people, rates are$8.60 for Adults and $5.45 for Children.

Get Directions

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Constructed in 1876 out of limestone blocks, the Great Western Railway was built in order to allow trains to travel underneath the 3rd Western Canal.

This railway, located at GM Glendale- Gate 12, was active until 1915, when the tunnel was abandoned due to frequent use of the 4th Welland Canal. At this point, the GWR Tunnel’s greatest use was providing a shortcut for local farmers.

Acting as reservoir to their respective canals, locals began building man-made ponds near every canal in 1903. However, building the pond for the 3rd Welland Canal became troublesome as the builders were forced to relocate the St. Peters Church Cemetery. It is believed that only 250 graves were removed, leaving behind over 500 dead bodies to rest beneath the brand new reservoir.

Though there are no records of any deaths from within, the tunnel known as the Blue Ghost Tunnel has seen its fair share of violence. Two trainmen lost their lives after their trains had collided just yards beyond the tunnel in 1903. An accident in 1912, at the tunnel’s 22nd lock, forced portions of the tunnel to break, drowning two boys caught gallivanting in the tunnel.

It has been reported that while listening to the tunnel, the sobbing cries of a young boy can be heard along with whistling. Though some reports speak of confusing drops of water from the melting ice with whistling, other reports have mentioned that the whistling hummed a very specific tune. Conversations have been heard coming from the tunnel’s east end, and music, early 20th century music described as coming from an old music box has been heard as well.

One patron who dared to enter took a photograph of the mouth of the tunnel, captioning a strange blue mist surrounded by a cloud of white mist. It is unknown whether or not the photograph had anything to do with the tunnel’s nickname of the Blue Ghost Tunnel.

by Chase Kell

Fallsview Waterpark

While you’re in Niagara Falls look up to catch a glimpse of high-speed water-slides and the all-season, outdoor pool at one of the region’s newest attraction. Niagara Falls is now home to the new Fallsview Indoor Waterpark.

Towering thirteen stories above Niagara Falls, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is North Americas largest Hotel and Waterpark complex. It’s a comprehensive family oriented resort facility on Falls Avenue right next to Niagara Falls, with indoor connections between great hotels, family friendly attractions and great theme restaurants. There’s lots of fun for everyone!

While the kids will definitely be thrilled, we’ve noticed that the grown-ups are too. With hot tubs to soak in, comfortable lounge chairs and great food at the Planet Hollywood Beach Bar, this Niagara attraction makes you feel like you really have escaped. You probably won’t rest all the time – you’ll be tempted to join the kid’s at the giant aqua play area that features a 1000 gallon tipping bucket – blast the kids with water cannons but be prepared to get drenched yourself. With air and water temperature kept at summer levels throughout the year, you’ll be content.

Fallsview Indoor Waterpark offers families safe, exiting water-fun all year round. The entire waterpark floor has been covered with a unique poured in place safety floor system creating the largest installation of its kind. The kid’s won’t slip and fall on this! and you can relax knowing that wherever they are in the park, you’ll be able to see them. Yes, the park is immense but the sight lines are terrific so that you can relax while the kid’s play.

And play they will! The full sized wavepool is tremendously popular – its amazing how long they’ll bob and splash. Of course, everyone enjoys the sixteen water-slides – up to six stories high and for the smallest children, there’s the popular Tiny Tots Splash Park.

Enjoy direct connections from the Skyline Inn, The Sheraton on the Falls or The Brock Plaza Hotel or stay, just across the street, at the Hampton Inn. Your family can enjoy water fun and great accommodations, right next to the Falls.

Check out our web-site for seasonal value packages. We have terrific deals that accompany our hotel accommodations, some include FREE passes to the Waterpark, Marvel Adventure City or MGM Studio Plaza.

Get Directions

Discovery Center

photo by: wonkanerd

There is a lot more to discover in Niagara than the Water Falls itself. Located along Robert Moses Parkway is the Discovery Center.

The Center was created to educate and divulge the history of the area all the way to the present day. The history of the entire landscape and its people are revealed in minute detail.

The Center has audiovisual presentation of the complete history of the Niagara Falls, the waterways nearby and when the Falls evolved and how it has changed today. A giant screen show dramatically portrays how the geological era has changed and evolvement of the Falls to its present day features. Interactive displays and computer graphics are available to learn about the rocks, sediments and the minerals of the Niagara region.

Located just a few minutes away from the Discovery Center is the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Building- which leads directly to the Niagara Gorge Trails. The entrance to the museum is $ 5 for adults and $ 3 for children under 12.

Get Directions

Shaw Theatre

The world renowned theater company, Shaw Festival has built it’s reputation on committed exploration of celebrated produced works by Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, and with the technical skill, fluency and style of it’s acting ensemble and top notch production values.

In 2000, the theatre’s mandate was expanded to include work written about the time period of Shaw’s lifetime which was 1856 to 1950. Jackie Maxwell has committed to explore the mandate
in new ways, including, but not limited to producing international and Canadian plays along with a new rendering of classic texts and new plays for the Festival. Ms. Maxwell is now in her fourth season as artistic director.

Each season, ten productions are presented. They encompass three individual theatres which include; the Festival Theatre, the Court House and the Royal George. All three are located in Niagara on the Lake.

Get Directions

Sheraton Fallsview Hotel

Marriott Gateway on the Falls

Formerly the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, The Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Gateway on the Falls has recently completed an expansive $15-million renovation offering guests a modern travel experience and ideal place to stay for a leisure getaway. Aptly named the hotel serves as a Gateway to all of Niagara, visitors experience the best view of Niagara Falls from any of the fallsview guest rooms and accomodations. The wide-range of amenities at the hotel includes wireless Internet access (WiFi), indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, an expansive fitness centre and the Milestones Grill + Bar, featuring one of the best views of the falls. Our Lobby Lounge features Starbucks, free WiFi, and enough room to plan an amazing day with your family, your group, or your special someone.

Premier among Niagara Falls Hotels in the fallsview area with over 230 first-class Fallsview rooms and suites, complimented by award-winning service. Marriott Gateway on the Falls is the perfect location for your getaway vacation. The 32-storey hotel, is the proud recipient of the 3 Green Key rating and is committed to helping the environment and local community. The fallsview area is a natural treasure with views that amaze guests daily.

Get Directions

Merritt House

Located on Yates Street, the Merritt House was built in the 1820s and owned by Mr. William Hamilton Merritt, the builder of the Welland Canal. Fire destroyed the house in 1858 and the second version of the beautiful white house was built approximately two years following.

From 1918 to 1930, in the midst of the First World War, the house’s main purpose was serving as a recuperating rest stop for those in the military. Shortly after the war, the house briefly served as an Inn and a brewery before transforming into a radio station.

Perhaps the most fascinating detail of this house lies underground, where tunnels were built to connect the main building with the carriage house. As one extension of the tunnel ran north right up to the river, another extension emerged next to the river in the very location that the Burgoyne Bridge stands today. Originally serving a large role in the underground railroad, these tunnels were made very useful to bootleggers during the Prohibition, but for safety reasons were filled in and sealed up in 1967.

Yet underground tunnels and a prominent history are not all that this house is well known for. Several reports of ghost like activity in recent decades have lead many to believe that this house is still someone’s home.

Doors that open and shut by themselves. Trophies, chairs, cups and other random objects have been seen moving from one spot to another by translucent hands. Electrical equipment has been known to malfunction, including radios broadcasting peculiar sounds such as bells, a sighing woman and a man laughing.

Apparitions of a woman standing in the former waiting room, which today is a studio, as well as a man standing before the studio doors until vanishing have also been reported.

Some have even spoken of an aura, a strange feeling as if something was trying to restrict their movements. The sounds of a baby crying hysterically from a room on the second floor have been reported as well, hinting to some that there is some form of life, or lack there of, that refuses to leave this house.

by: Chase Kell

Drummond Hill

At the corner of Drummond Rd and Lundy’s lane, in the heart Niagara, lies one of the most notoriously haunted cemeteries north of the boarder.

The oldest tombstone at the Drummond Hill Cemetery dates as far back as 1797, a time when the small wooden structure that sits nearby stood tall as the Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church.

The church was destroyed in 1814 during the infamous Battle of Lundy’s Lane, a six-hour battle in which Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond and his troops successfully thwarted an attack from the rival Americans.

As the story goes, the ghosts of five injured soldiers have been seen limping their way through the former battlefield, fading off into the distance. The apparition of three gun blazed British soldiers, marching their way up the hill towards the Lundy House has also been reported.

May the faint of heart be forewarned.

by: Chase Kell