Niagara Falls State Park is the destination of over eight million visitors each year. More people visit Niagara Falls a year then Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon combined.
Established in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States. The park itself features far more than just the three Falls that make up Niagara Falls. The architecture of the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead – he also designed Central Park in New York City.
The Park includes the Falls, the rapids, the parkland on the mainland from south of First Street all the way up to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Goat Island, Green Island, Bird Island, Luna Island, the Three Sisters Islands – Asmith, Angelina, and Celinda Eliza, and dozens of tiny Islets that can be found among the rapids of the Niagara River. The Park also features a visitor’s center, an IMAX movie, the Maid of the Mist boat ride, and the Cave of the Winds; along with eating and souvenir establishments.
The park was designed to maintain as much green space as possible allowing indigenous flora, fauna, and animals to thrive in their natural habitat. Today the park is home to hundreds of species of plant and animal life.
The mainland section of the park also features Prospect Point and the Maid of the Mist boat ride where visitors can get a wet but close up view of all three of the Falls – the American, Bridal Veil, and Horseshoe Fall (sometimes also called the Canadian Falls because it is the only one of the Falls that touches Canadian soil).
A pair of pedestrian bridges connects the mainland to Green and Goat Islands. The bridges themselves offer an impressive view of the Rapids as they run to the Falls.
While the water is only three to four feet deep in the rapids, they run some 30 miles per hour and on the scale that rates rapids around the world from one to five; the rapids in the Niagara River are rated a six!
Unlike Greenland, Green Island is a green space with only a few park benches for visitors to sit and admire the view. Goat Island is one half mile long and a quarter mile wide. Along with the the Cave of the Winds attraction, Goat Island has access to Terapin Point
where visitors can get a close look at the Horseshoe Falls, Luna Island, and the Three Sisters Islands.
A view of the Cave of the Winds from the Maid of the Mist.
Luna Island is a small island that can be reached via a path along the river or a stairway on Goat Island. Luna Island lies between the American and Bridal Veil Falls allowing visitors a very close up view as the water tumbles 175 feet down to the river gorge.
The Three Sisters Islands are a daytime visit only since there is no lighting on any of the tiny islets. A favourite spot for wedding party photographs, the Three Sisters are connected by walking bridges and give visitors a view of the Niagara on both the American and Canadian sides from before the rapids begin – called the point of no return. The bridge looking structure in the distance off the third island is the hydroelectric power plant that provides electricity to the area.
Niagara Falls State Park has much more to offer than just a view of the water as it tumbles hundreds of thousands of gallons of water over The Falls every second. The hundreds of views are breathtaking in their own right and offer numerous opportunities for some memorable photographs…even in winter.
All photos by Sherrill Fulghum
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