Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park and Buffalo, New York

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by Joe Berk
From the U.S. side, looking across to Canada on the right.

Niagara Falls has always been a bucket list destination for me, an itch I finally scratched this past October. Located 17 miles northwest of Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls spans the Niagara River flowing from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls was formed 10,000 years ago by glacial activity. Native Americans knew of Niagara Falls long before the Europeans; the first recorded European reference was in 1604 by Samuel Champlain. The Falls are spectacular, and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice we found Buffalo to be.

Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in the United States with more than 6 million cubic feet of descending water every minute (a rate regulated by an upstream weir that cuts the flow in half in the evening). Niagara Falls consists of three falls: American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are on the U.S. side, and Horseshoe Falls spans the border between the U.S. and Canada. Horseshoe Falls (named because of their horseshoe shape) is the largest at a half-mile wide and with a nearly 200-foot drop. Goat Island lies between Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls (you can walk across a footbridge from the U.S. side to Goat Island). As we approached Niagara Falls State Park from Buffalo, we could see a huge mist rising in the distance (a hint of what was ahead). Folks say the view of Niagara Falls is more spectacular from Canada, but with Covid restrictions in place we didn’t want to bother with medical tests and crossing an international border. Our visit was from the U.S. side and it was wonderful.

The secondary roads in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls area are stellar. On the Canadian side, there’s the Niagara Parkway (also known as River Road), which parallels the Niagara River both before and after the Falls. On the U.S. side, there’s the West River Parkway. You could take the interstates to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, but you’d be missing the best parts of upstate New York. Folks hear New York and think of New York City and traffic. Get out of the city, though, and New York is bucolic, rustic, and all the other adjectives that define marvelous motorcycling.

Even though we visited in mid-October, the weather was comfortably in the mid-70s. Temperatures are milder in the Buffalo area than they are further south, which surprised me. I wouldn’t plan a motorcycle ride through the region in the winter, but Buffalo wasn’t the icebox I anticipated. The challenge is arriving late enough in the year to take in the changing autumn leaves and their reds, oranges, yellows, and browns, but not so late that you run into winter snow and ice.

There’s no admission fee to Niagara Falls State Park, although there is a fee for the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour to the bottom of the falls (and trust me on this, you will get soaked). The boats are interesting (they are electric and fully recharge in 7 minutes between tours). One last bit of advice: Those 6 million gallons per minute going over the edge are eroding the escarpment at a rate of about 1 foot per year and in 50,000 years Niagara Falls will disappear. If you’ve always wanted to visit Niagara Falls, don’t wait like I did.

lake area at the bottom of the niagra falls waterfall with a boat

The Skinny

What: Niagara Falls State Park, 332 Prospect Street, Niagara Falls, New York 14303. (716) 278-1794.

How to Get There: For the quick ticket in, from the east or west take I-90 toward Buffalo and follow the signs to Niagara Falls. For a better ride, meander the two-lane secondary roads in northwestern New York.

Best Kept Secrets: Di Camillo’s Bakery in Niagara Falls (the broccoli pizza is amazing), and Buffalo, New York (the restaurants are superb). For a great place to stay, check out the InnBuffalo off Elmwood (a marvelous bed and breakfast).

Don’t Miss: The Maid of the Mist tour to the base of the Falls.

Avoid: The freeways (there are too many nice roads in this part of the world), and bad-mouthing the Buffalo Bills (these folks take their football seriously).

More Info: niagarafallsstatepark.com

More Photos: bit.ly/niagrafalls

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