Hydro Power

In 1759 Daniel Joncairs was the first to harness the power of the Falls when he built a canal above the Falls to power his sawmill. It was obvious that the Falls would be an incredible source of energy. In 1805, 2 brothers,Augustus and Peter Porter bought this area and all of American Falls from New York state government They then enlarged the original canal to provide hydraulic power for their tannery and gristmill. The Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Mining Company was chartered in 1853, they eventually constructed the canals which would be used to generate electricity. In 1881, Jacob Schoellkopf led the quest and enough power was produced to send direct current to illuminate both the Falls themselves and the Niagara Falls village.

Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse built the first hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls and started the electrification of the world. The Niagara Falls Power Plant was the first hydro-electric power plant in the world. This was the final victory of Tesla’s Alternating Current over Edison’s Direct Current.  In 1883, George Westinghouse was hired by the Niagara Falls Power Company, a descendant of Schoellkopf’s company, to design a system to generate alternating current. With backing from some of the wealthiest men in the area, like J.P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor IV, and the Vanderbilts, they had built huge underground conduits leading to turbines generating upwards of 100,000 horsepower (75 MW), and were sending power as far as Buffalo, twenty miles (32 km) away.


Private companies on the Canadian side also began to harness the energy of the Falls, they employed both Canadian and American firms in their efforts. in 1906 the Government of Ontario eventually brought power transmission operations under public control, distributing Niagara’s energy to various parts of that province. Currently between 50% and 75% of the Niagara River’s flow is diverted by four large tunnels that arise far upstream from the waterfalls. The water then passes through hydroelectric turbines that supply power to nearby areas of Canada and the United States before being returned to the river some distance past the Falls.

There are three powerful hydroelectric stations on the Niagara River nowadays are Sir Adam Beck 1 and 2 on the Canadian side, and the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant and the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant on the American side. The three, together, can produce about 4.4 GW of power.

The Ontario Power Generation is currently building a new 10.4 km tunnel to get water from further up the Niagara River. It is scheduled to be completed in 2009, and will increase Sir Adam Beck’s yearly output by about 1.6 TW_h.

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Niagara’s Underground Railroad

Slaves in the early 1800s understood that the North was synonymous with freedom. While many escaped slavery and journeyed to the New England states, still others sought out safety across the Canadian border. Though many wealthy European immigrants brought their slaves with them to Upper Canada, slavery was abolished much sooner there than in the United States. The Niagara border connecting the United States to Canada was an opportunity for freedom. However, this freedom was not easily obtained, and the risky journey from the plantations of the Deep South could not be accomplished without assistance. The Underground Railroad developed as a result of kind-hearted and daring residents in the Niagara region.

Most of the early participants in the Underground Railroad were Quakers. They set up a network of safe houses and transportation routes which former slaves could use to make their journey northward less perilous. These depots could be any type of dwelling or business and included farms, hotels, warehouses and churches. Murphy Orchards, a stately brick home in eastern Niagara County, New York, served as a safe house for tens of thousands of escaped slaves. A secret tunnel under the barn still stands as an example of the lengths compassionate people would go to in order to protect and assist escapees.

On the border between the United States and Canada, the town of Lewiston, New York played a key role in the Underground Railroad movement. Many escaped slaves saw this as their goal of their journey, though it often served as just a stopping point before they continued on to Canada. With the help of local participants and such noted Underground Railroad personas as Harriet Tubman, over one hundred thousand former slaves traveled into Canada in the 1800s.

Built in 1848, the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge was one route which escapees used to cross over the Canadian border. As well, they relied on the nearby Whirlpool Bridge and the ferry services which crossed the Niagara River regularly. Steamboats on the river and Lake Ontario regularly stopped at Lewiston and many sympathetic captains gladly brought escaped slaves into Canada.

Due to its natural beauty, Niagara Falls attracted a large number of visitors from across the United States. Escaped slaves would find employment as waiters, dishwashers and bellhops in tourist hotels such as the Cataract House and later, the Eagle Hotel. These brave individuals assisted other escaping slaves in their journey, even helping to ferry them across the river at night.

In the 1800s the Underground Railroad secretly flourished across the eastern side of the United States, helping slaves on their way to freedom. Because of its proximity, the Niagara region of upstate New York provided escaping slaves with the opportunity to cross the border into Canada.

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Niagara Falls Freeze – Polar Vortex

Niagara Falls WinterThe water in the Niagara River moves very fast, moving an average of 212,000 cubic feet of water per second. It’s moving far too fast and pushing way too much water to ever freeze.

In late December an ice bridge forms at the base of the falls and over portions of the lower Niagara River. The Niagara River is fed by Lake Erie which is a huge lake, but not very deep. The ice goes over the Falls and freezes to the edges and keeps building on itself until the river is covered in ice anywhere from 40 to 80 feet thick. This ice rises on a layer of air, as the water keeps flowing beneath it.

Since records have been kept, American Falls has frozen a total of six times. The flow of water over this Fall is rather small, 10,000 cubic feet per second and in the winter that is reduced to around 8,000. This amount of water is barely able to cover the rock face and during harsh winters, allows the American Falls to freeze over.

In the 1960’s an ice boom was placed at the mouth of the River and since then it has basically eliminated the possibility of the Falls freezing over.

The longest American Falls was ever frozen was 15 days, beginning on February 7th 1936. American Falls now receives about 10% of the flow of water to the Falls.

Due to the possibility of the ice bridge collapsing or moving, the public is not allowed to walk across the ice bridge. The mist formed as the water flows over the Falls freezes on contact and creates a winter wonderland of shining crystals along the shoreline.

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Haunted Niagara

To many, the city of Niagara Falls is like Canada’s mini-version of Las Vegas. Bright lights, top-notch casinos, fine dining restaurants, five-star hotels and a plethora of concerts and events. Add in the city’s main spectacle, one of the largest waterfalls on the planet, and it is easy to see how Niagara is one of the premier tourists destinations in Canada.

All that a visiting thrill seeker needs are some directions and a quick history lesson. Through reports and other documented proof, one can learn that Niagara’s historic landmarks pack much more of a haunted punch than a dark house featuring scary music and skeletons popping out of closets.

Historic Landmarks such as Fort Erie, the Keefer Mansion, the Mahoney Dollhouse Gallery, Fort George and the Lighthouse Restaurant and Pub are true havens for apparitions and ghost like activity.

Niagara Favorite Haunts

While Niagara’s spooky “Haunted Houses” are successful animated frightfests, an online video series producer is determined to show the real thing does exist in Niagara Falls.

“History of a Haunting,” Canada’s latest paranormal series, has just wrapped its first season in Niagara Falls. With its battle sites, many buildings and homes over two centuries old, the show’s producer, Jerry Potter, believes Niagara Falls is an ideal site to explore manifestations of lingering spirits. Two executive producers, Nathan Chamberland and Todd Brown, are also natives of the Niagara Region. The trailer for the series is online.

Among the sites they will visit is Drummond Cemetery, near the site of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane during the War of 1812. Sightings of soldiers who died from their wounds have been reported by many visitors at all times of day.

Another well-documented haunted spot in Niagara Falls is “The Screaming Tunnel”, on Warner Road, near where it intersects Garner Road. If one goes into the tunnel at any time and lights a match, a whoosh of air extinguishes the match instantly while a piercing shriek echoes off the high stone walls. In the early 1900s a farmhouse caught fire at the south entrace to the tunnel. The legend tells of a young girl, garments aflame, who escaped and ran into the tunnel where she perished. A visit to the Screaming Tunnel has convinced many skeptics that someone is still there in spirit.

Cavendish Manor, a girls’ school long ago, is the site of many encounters with ghostly little girls, both laughing and screaming fearfully. The legend goes that, soon after the screams sound, someone will die.

The Angel Inn, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, is reputed to house a British soldier, Captain Swayze, murdered by American soldiers in 1812. Captain Swayze reportedly likes to tamper with kegs and mugs of American beer.

Come to the Niagara region, and see if the ghosts will appear to you.

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Niagara Daredevils

Many daredevils have made crossing the Falls their goal. It began with with the successful crossing by Jean Fran¨∞ois Blondin” Gravelet in 1859 Tightrope walkers have drawn large crowds to their exploits. Matthew Webb, from England who the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 after attempting to swim across the whirlpools and rapids beneath the Falls. He was not successful.

The first person to go over the falls was, Sam Patch, who called himself The Yankee Leaper, jumped over the Horseshoe Falls in October 1829 and became the first person known to survive the plunge. This was the beginning of a number of daredevils trying to go over the Falls and survive. The first person to go over the falls in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Taylor in 1901, she survived the fall unharmed.

Since Ms. Taylor’s 1901 ride, 14 other people have attempted to go over the Falls in or on a device. Some have survived and come out just fine, but others have been severely injured or died in the attempt. Those that survive the attempt face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the Falls. David Copperfield, a renowned magician recently added his name to the list of these daredevils, successfully going over, or appearing to go over the Falls in 1990.

On October 20th 2003, Kirk Jones became the first person to go over the Horseshoe Falls without a any type of flotation device The question remains whether Jones was determined to commit suicide or not, he lived through the 16-story fall with only battered ribs, scrapes, and bruises.

In July of 1960 Roger Woodward, a nine-year-old American boy, was swept over the Falls wearing only a life preserver He was picked up from the plunge pool beneath the Horseshoe Falls by tourists riding the Maid of the Mist boat. No one thought this child would survive the plunge and when he did, it became know worldwide as the Miracle at Niagara.

Turning off the Niagara Falls

From April through October, during tourist season, the water flows at a rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second. Canadian and American governments made an agreement that the flow would stay at this rate throughout the tourist season. The Falls have an estimated 12 million visitors each year, and the agreement between the Ontario Hydro and the New York Power Authority allows the flow to remain at that rate while allowing them to draw a reduced amount of water so that it does not interfere with the amount of water going over the Falls.

In order to satisfy the needs of all parties, at dusk each night, during the tourist season, the flow rate is reduced to 50,000 cubic feet per second. This allows the Hydro Authority and New York State Power Authority to fill up their massive reservoirs. During the daytime when the flow is increased over the Falls, the Power Authorities draw water from their reservoirs to make up for any deficit.

From November to April the rate of flow is reduced to 50,000 cubic feet per second, 24 hours a day. The Hydro plants draw the remainder for hydro generation. This reduction in water flow is why the Maid of the Mist has to be out of the water by October 31st of each year.

The control dam is owned jointly by Canada and the USA. By agreement, it is operated by Ontario Hydro. It was located on the Canadian side due to the fact that the river bed slants toward the Canadian side. Each side has specific water drawing times, these are strictly regulated. When the American side is drawing water, the gates on the dam are closed causing the water to be forced to the water intakes on the American side. The dam also assists in drawing the water to the intakes on the Canadian side when they are drawing water.

The Niagara River flows at a rate of 212,000 cubic feet per second. Even on the hottest summer day, an estimated 100,000 cubic feet of water per second is being drawn for hydro generation.

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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.”

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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

Do the fish go over the falls?

Photo By: Edward Townend

Yes, they do. Most survive the hard journey over the falls, sometimes laying stunned for a few minutes at the bottom before continuing their journey down the river.

Since water is the natural habitat for fish and they are much more buoyant than we are, going over the falls isn’t much different for them as an elevator is for us. Most of the time the fish stays in the water as it heads over the falls, and the foam at the bottom acts as a cushion for them. They can withstand a large amount of pressure before it will cause any injury to them. The pool at the bottom of the Falls is about 150 feet deep so most of the time they aren’t forced to the river bed. Their biggest threat when going over the Falls isn’t the fall itself but the seagulls waiting at the bottom to pluck the stunned fish out of the water before they get the chance to recover.

More fish are injured going over American and Bridal Veil falls due being crushed against the rocks at the bottom of the Falls.

Interestinly enough, a number of years back a tourist was hit by a salmon while taking a stroll on the Cave of the Winds boardwalk. He wasn’t hurt, but he did catch the fish and was allowed to keep it.

You won’t see fish jumping out of the water at the bottom due to the volume of water falling, and it’s very rare to see dead fish at the bottom.

What kind of fish are found?

The Niagara River contains around 94 species of fish including the Chinook and Coho Salmon, Smallmouth Bass, Rainbow and Lake Trout, Catfish Muskellunge, Northern Pike and Yellow Perch. The biggest fish found in the Niagara is the Lake Sturgeon that can reach 7 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. It’s not unheard of to catch a salmon weighing 20 to 30 pounds during the fall months

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Falls Erosion

How much does Niagara Falls erode each year?

Studies to determine how much erosion was taking place were started in 1842. Between that year and 1905 erosion took place at the rate of 1.16 meters, or 3.8 feet per year, at Horseshoe Falls. Between 1906 and 1927 the erosion rate declined to .70 meters, or 2.3 feet per year. The decline was due to water being diverted for hydro electric generation.

Currently remedial efforts are underway to reduce the erosion even more. It is estimated that erosion is reduced to less than 1 foot per year due to those efforts. At American Falls the flow rate of 10,000 cubic feet per second is insufficient to cause any major erosion.

As it stands today, American Falls has an erosion rate of about 3 to 4 inches per year. The biggest factor for the American falls is the fact that it has cracks at the Crestline in the top cap rock layer. Underneath that is a softer shale layer. The lifting action of water coming through these cracks cause them to become larger and along with the freezing and thawing each year, the rock structure continues to weaken until that part finally cracks and falls off. The flow at American Falls isn’t strong enough to erode the rocks at the bottom of the Fall.

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Falls Boundry

The current boundary line is determined by the Treaty of Ghent made December 24th 1814. The international boundary is set right down the middle of the river between lakes Erie and Ontario. With this division, the U.S. ended up with most of the islands, however Canada has Navy Island.

In 1909 the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 came into being to resolve any future boundary disputes. During the shaping of Terrapin Point, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers expanded the land area outward from Terrapin Point since the water was flowing to the center and the flanks were dry. This put all of Horseshoe Falls in Canada.

Other older treaties having to do with the boundaries were the Paris Peace Treaty made September 3rd, 1783 and the Jay Treaty made November 19th, 1794. The boundaries have remained the same since before the War of 1812.

Falls No Flow

There have only been 3 times that we know of where the Falls have either completely ran dry or were reduced to a trickle.

Accounts of the time the Falls ran dry are incomplete at best. According to newspapers of the time, sometime on March 29th or early on March 30th 1848 the water over the falls stopped for almost 2 days.

For several days the wind had been blowing across Lake Erie at gale force causing ice to jam up at the mouth of the Niagara River and effectively blocking the flow of water. Residents woke to an eerie silence on the morning of March 30th. Mills that had depended on the water flow had to shut down.

Over 5000 people came to see the dry falls. The dry river bed gave up its treasures that had been there for years, things like muskets, bayonets, tomahawks and other things that had lay under the water since the battle of 1812.

People made a show of walking across the river. If they had tried to cross while water was flowing it would have been a certain death. Soldiers form the U.S. Cavalry rode their horses down the river bed putting on an exhibition. It was a historical event, nothing like it had ever been known and had never happened again.

The owners of the Maid of the Mist boat were able to blast away boulders that had endangered the boat. But there was a downside. Many of the people believed the silencing of the Falls was a doomsday event, churches on both sides were filled and special services were held. As the Falls remained silent, fear escalated among the people. On the evening of March 31st, the wind shifted, residents heard a loud groan from upstream, followed by the normal flow of water over the Falls. The return of the water eased the fear of the residents.

The wind had a lot to do with the Falls running dry. A strong wind can raise the water level in one end of Lake Erie by up to 6 feet. It would be the same thing that happens with storm surges during a hurricane but on a smaller scale. Normally the river can only hold about 2% of the ice flow from Lake Erie, with the gale force winds they had at that time, it didn’t take long for the ice to cause a jam.

The second time the Falls were reduced to a trickle was in 1953 when remedial work was done on the Falls. They had built coffer dams over a portion of Horseshoe Falls to do the work that would allow a more even flow of water and lessen the erosion over the Falls.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built a series of coffer dams over American Falls in 1969 to study the rock formations at the crest of the falls and see how difficult it would be to remove some of the rocks at the base. They finally decided to let nature take its course and restored the flow of water over the falls.

Haunted Niagara

“Haunted tales of Trails of blood streaming down the driveway of the Victorian style mansion known as the Pink Palace in Silvertown, Niagara Falls. Also local accounts of innjured uniformed 1812 soldiers limpimg their way up the hill of the Drummond Hill Cemetery. With dishes that often rattle from within the cupboards of the Angel Inn.”

Reported apparitions and encounters such as these have allowed many to believe that Niagara is just as much dead, as it is alive.

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First Visitors

A number of historical reports say that the first European to visit the Falls was a Jesuit Priest by the name of Father Louis Hennepin in 1678, however many believe the first European visitor appeared at the Falls a number of years prior to that.

Etienne Brule arrived in Niagara in 1626. He was one of many missionaries that came to visit the Neutral Indians along the Niagara. While he was that close, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have at least seen the Falls.

Rene-Robert Chevalier and Sieur de La Salle, french explorers were known to have briefly visited the Falls in 1666. In 1678, La Salle and his party established an outpost on the Chippawa Creek where it joined the Niagara River. They spent a whole afternoon at the Falls in December of 1678. At that time Father Hennepin, drew a picture of the Falls. That same picture appears in a book published in 1699.

So, although some may believe Hennepin was the first to visit, because of the picture he drew, he was actually just the first European that had visited it, drew a picture and wrote a story about the Falls. More than likely the first to visit would have been Brule.

Angel Inn

Angel Inn Niagara-on-the-Lake

Located at 224 Regent Street, the Angel Inn ironically has a not so angelic history that goes back to the 18th century.

Built in 1789, the Harmonious Coach House once stood in the Inn’s place. The Inn saw many names during the 1800s, going under the titles of the Mansion House and Fraser’s Hotel before settling back to its original name, the Angel Inn.

Reports of the many haunting stories within the Inn began to surface in the 1820s, including a newspaper clipping that speaks of table settings being rearranged, footsteps heard from the dining room as well as conversation and laughter, and glasses clinking together in the cupboards.

A more recent report tells us of an owner awaking to the sound of an immense banging from outside the bedroom. After stepping out of bed, the owner had noticed that the horseshoe he had nailed to a post had been removed and thrown 20 feet onto the floor. Apparently the laughter and footsteps coming from the dining room are still heard regularly, and the sounds of a fife, a small flute formerly used in the military can be heard coming from the upstairs bedroom, along with heavy drumming.

The ghosts of eloquently dressed men and women have been seen mingling within the Inn. Reports if dishes rattling in the cupboards, and chairs literally thrown into the walls and kegs of beer, American beer, have been known to malfunction, if you will.

by: Chase Kell

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Niagara River

In the 1960s the Welland Canal was improved and incorporated into the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Ships can now bypass Niagara Falls.
Up until the 1970’s with the help of the electric power produced by the river, industries in the Niagara River valley flourished, however after the water was diverted from the Buffalo area it caused the steel and grain mills in that area to shut down. Since then the region has declined economically.

Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York are joined by three bridges, including the the Whirlpool Bridge, and the newest bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston located near the escarpment and the Rainbow bridge located downriver from the Falls, the Rainbow Bridge offers the closest view of the falls.

Niagara Falls Wedding

Getting Married in Niagara Falls

No longer just the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” many Niagara Falls hotels and private companies now offer the whole wedding experience to brides and grooms. All major hotels in the Niagara Falls area can arrange your wedding, reception and honeymoon accommodation at a package rate.


In Niagara Falls, you can arrange through the Niagara Wedding Company to marry aboard the “Maid of the Mist”; at the Botanical Gardens or Oakes Garden Theatre; or you can relax at a beach wedding on the north shore of Lake Erie.

The Peninsula Inn and Spa has a White Wedding Chapel on its grounds. The dainty, New England-style church holds a wedding party and up to 40 guests. The bride and groom can enter and leave the church by crossing over the Kissing Bridge.

Choose a historic-themed Medieval wedding with Medieval Buffet at The Buttery, a Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurant built in 1812.


Attend carefully to the legalities of getting married. Marriage licenses must be obtained in person at the Municipal Clerk’s Office, City Hall, at 4310 Queen Street. A fee of $100 is payable in Canadian dollars (cash), and the office is open from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

The Province of Ontario does not require premarital blood tests or residency in the province to issue a marriage license. Bring proof of identity, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or passport to obtain your marriage license.

Both bride and groom must be at least 18 years old to wed. People aged 16 or 17 need written consent from their legal guardians to marry. Previously married people need to show an original or notarized copy of their final decree to get a marriage license.

A Justice of the Peace, a judge, or any minister or clergy member registered by the Marriage Act may legally perform a marriage ceremony. If applicable, check that your chosen minister is authorized to perform same-sex marriages, which are legal throughout Canada.

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