To really appreciate the majesty and raw power of Niagara Falls, walk several hundred yards upstream from the falls.

Upstream, the broad rushing rapids give an indication just how muscular the Niagara River is. The water, traveling over 30 miles per hour, swells upward over massive boulders as it rumbles recklessly toward the falls.

The immense power of the river is most evident standing at the peak of the falls, just before the water hurtles downward. The length of the American Falls is 1,060 feet. The height is 176 feet, but due to rocks at the base of the falls the water drops just 70 feet.

About 150,000 gallons of water tumble over the American Falls each second.

Horseshoe Falls, which straddles the American-Canadian border, is 2,600 feet in length. Here, 600,000 gallons of water cascade 167 feet every second.

The Niagara River provides drainage for the Great Lakes, which contain one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.

On the American side, Niagara Falls State Park offers spectacular views of both falls. It is the oldest state park in the United States. You can walk to the edge of both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls State Park.

There is no admission to the state park.

The 435-acre park has a tram system carrying tourists to various hot spots within the park. Daily passes are available. Tourists may also purchase a Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass, which includes a ride on the Maid of the Mist, access to Cave of the Winds, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Adventure Theater and unlimited rides on the trolley.

The Maid of the Mist is a ferry boat that takes tourists to the base of Horseshoe Falls. The boat languishes several minutes in the choppy waters as the boat is enveloped by mist created by water tumbling down on three sides. It is a worthwhile trip.

A similar attraction, the Hornblower, is available on the Canadian side.

The Cave of the Winds allows tourists a view from behind Bridal Veil Falls, a small portion of the American Falls.

As most tourists will tell you, the view of the falls is best from the Canadian side. It has nothing to do with international boundaries or politics, it has to do with geometry. The Canadian vantage point gives tourists a better angle to view the breadth and width of both falls, particularly the American Falls.

The trip to Canada is but a couple minute walk across the Peace Bridge. Pedestrians can walk all the way across the bridge to view the falls, but a passport is required to gain access to Canadian soil. A park borders the Niagara River in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Perhaps the best opportunity to catch both falls in one photograph is from the midpoint of the bridge.

Persons crossing the border by automobile or truck may experience significant delays. It took us more than three hours, but we visited during the Fourth of July weekend.

A zipline running parallel to the falls is available on the Canadian side of the border.

Although Niagara Falls is one of the great wonders of nature, both the American and Canadian sides are highly developed economically. Since the American side is a state park, the amount of commercialism is somewhat less apparent.

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On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​


Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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