Niagara Falls is one of the most well-known natural landmarks in North America. Located on the border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the American state of New York, Niagara Falls attracts millions of visitors every year. While you probably know a little about this natural beauty, here are nine things that may surprise you.
The "Hurricane Deck" Is Reconstructed Every Year
One popular activity for visitors is the "Cave of the Winds" tour. During this event, guests drape themselves in ponchos and have the option of borrowing sandals for their 175-foot descent into the Niagara Gorge. When they reach their destination, they find themselves on the "Hurricane Deck." Even on calm days, it can seem like you're standing in the middle of a raging storm. This is because the deck is located just a few feet away from the crashing bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls, one of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.
If you want this full experience, however, you will have to time your visit to avoid the winter months. This is because the deck is completely removed and rebuilt every year. The build-up of ice in the harsh winter conditions would destroy the wooden walkways, so they're taken apart, repainted with waterproof material, and then built again each spring.
The Amount of Water Flowing Is Astonishing
While Niagara Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world, it's not the tallest — that would be Angel Falls in Venezuela. What makes it so impressive is the amount of cascading water. More than 6 million cubic feet of water go over the crest line every minute.
To put that in perspective, there are 88,263 cubic feet of water in an Olympic swimming pool. That means about 68 Olympic swimming pools go crashing to the ground every minute at Niagara Falls.
You Might Get Hit With a Fish
Many fish get swept up in the rushing water of Niagara Falls and are taken over the edge. Those standing at the observation deck below have, on occasion, been hit by flying fish.
But don't worry. Fish are adapted to this thrilling ride, and the vast majority of them survive the plunge. They might be a little less lucky, however, once they reach the bottom. Several birds have figured out that waiting near the bottom results in an easy dinner because the stunned fish are a little sluggish after their ride.
Marilyn Monroe May Be Responsible for the Site's Popularity
When she was 26 years old, Marilyn Monroe filmed Niagara at Niagara Falls. The film premiered at the Seneca Theater in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1953, and the film's subsequent success ensured that Niagara Falls would become a much more popular vacation destination.
Niagara Falls Is Shrinking (Relatively) Quickly
The water surging over the waterfalls is eroding the land. Niagara Falls has moved back an astounding 7.1 miles since its creation, which makes it one of the fastest-eroding waterfalls known to man. While this relatively quick erosion spells disaster for the site's distant future, human intervention in the form of diverting much of the water away from Niagara Falls has slowed down the process.
Humans Benefit From More Than the Site's Beauty
The diversion of water away from Niagara Falls is not just for preservation's sake. All of that water is a tremendous source of power. The waterfalls now host multiple power stations with dams that harness hydroelectric power to power the surroundings areas.
The largest power station is the Robert Moses Power Plant in Lewiston, New York. It produces enough electricity to power 1.92 million homes. Altogether, Niagara Falls produces enough power for 3.8 million homes, split roughly evenly between the United States and Canada.
Nikola Tesla Is Honored at Niagara Falls With Multiple Statues
The power-producing potential of Niagara Falls was realized with the help of famed inventor Nikola Tesla. A visit to Niagara Falls was his alleged inspiration for alternating current. He later helped build the first hydroelectric plant in 1895.
On the American side, a bronze statue of Tesla gifted by Yugoslavian sculptor Frano Krsinic was erected in 1976. Artist Les Drysdale unveiled a statue on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 2006 — on what would have been the scientist's 150th birthday.
P.T. Barnum Had His Sights on Goat Island
Goat Island is the island that sits between the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls. Today, it is a popular tourist destination and part of Niagara Falls State Park. It got its name from an early pioneer's failed attempts at using the island for keeping goats.
Before the fate of the island as a national landmark became clear, there were many entrepreneurial minds drawn to its obvious beneficial placement as a tourist spot. One of these enterprising people was famed carnival man P.T. Barnum. He fought hard for a chance to turn Goat Island into one of the country's biggest circus grounds, but those particular dreams never came true.
Four out of Five Great Lakes Flow Into Niagara River
The source of Niagara Falls is the Niagara River, and the river receives water from four out of five of the Great Lakes. Lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Superior all flow into the river before ultimately emptying into Lake Ontario, which means that all five of these bodies of water are all connected as part of a single water system. Together, they make up more than 80 percent of America's freshwater supply.