The Great American History Tour: Niagara Falls

by Derrick G. Jeter

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


In the summer of 1960 a seven year old boy was swept over the 180-foot drop of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara. Wearing only a bathing suit and a small life vest, the churning waters at the bottom of the falls spat him out of the midst into the relative calm of the river below. Seen by one of the Maid of the Mists tour boats, the boy was pulled from the 200-foot deep river alive.


Before leaving on our trip to the Northeast, my friend, John Adair, told me about his trip to Niagara Falls when he was a boy: he saw a man throw himself over the rail and plummet to his death below the falls. I didn’t ask John, but I assume the man jumped on the American side where the two falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, are rock-strewn at their base.


Our visit to Niagara Falls wasn’t nearly as eventful or exciting. But it was exhilarating nonetheless for my family. The Maid of the Mists tour was thrilling and awe-inspiring, especially sitting at the bottom of Horseshoe Falls. Watching and listening to thousands of tons of green-blue water pouring over the edge of the cliff and pounding the river below was . . . how do I say it . . . the most powerful thing I’ve ever witnessed. Looking into the midst of the mist brought to mind the unfathomable power of God. As great as the water tumbling over Niagara Falls may be, it is merely a drop in the hands of God, who can divert the river in any direction He chooses or cause the water to freeze into one massive icefall.


The highlight of our day, certainly for the kids, was the Cave of the Winds tour—which is really an oxymoron, since you don’t actually tour a cave. There once was a cave, but part of it collapsed in 1920 and the tour was suspended. In 1969, when repairs were being made to Luna Island—a small island that divides American Falls from Bridal Veil Falls—the remainder of the cave was destroyed. In place of the cave tour, a series of wooden platforms were built at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, where visitors can experience a little bit of the power of the falls by standing on the Hurricane Deck. Winds of hurricane force blow, and if not for the flimsy poncho, you’d be soaked in a matter of seconds.


Now it’s on to Boston and some history of America’s revolutionary beginnings.