Of all the crown jewels in America’s natural tiara: Yellowstone, the Grand
Canyon, Yosemite – None are as dog friendly as Niagara Falls. Save for
special guided tours, your dog can walk anywhere to see the
World famous falls in both New York’s Niagara Falls State Park and Ontario
Reina Victoria Park.
It’s hard to imagine these days, but Niagara Falls, one of the most
visited tourist destinations, originally regarded as a key military
pole and industrial site. One of the first Europeans to see the falls was
Father Louis Hennepin, 51-year-old French priest in 1678. Hennepin is
reported that he knelt in prayer and murmured, “The universe
has no parallel. “The French army, although perhaps
appreciating the romantic feeling, he was more interested in building a strong
to defend the natural trade route between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Travelers didn’t start arriving in western New York in large numbers.
until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the arrival of the railroads
in the 1830s. Many enjoyed the same reaction as Father Hennepin. Tea
tradition of newlyweds who come to Niagara where “the love of those who
The honeymoon here will last as long as the falls themselves “go back to the beginning of
1800 when members of the French ruling Bonapart family got married
excursions. By the middle of the century, the area around the falls was a
Confusing hodgepodge of watermills and private resorts.
After the Civil War, a small group of visionaries began searching for a
way to heal scars from Niagara’s natural beauty. The “Free Niagara”
crusade led to the creation of the Niagara Reserve, the first
state park in 1885. Frederick Law Olmsted, New York City designer
Central Park and one of the leaders of the movement, designed the park
network of wooded trails along the banks of the Niagara River. By Olmsted
belief in retaining natural beauty while providing public access – for humans
and dog – lingers in Niagara Falls to this day.
Niagara Falls reigns as one of the world’s top tourist destinations
and your dog is welcome. Due to the crowding of visitors on the edge
from the Falls, it’s best to start your explorations of the Niagara Falls state
Park with the dog in the early hours of the morning, when it is easiest to maneuver.
around the different viewpoints. Even in the busiest times there are
grassy fields and shady walks for the dog to play.
Begin your tour on the paved roads of Goat Island in the middle of the
The Niagara River, flanked by fierce rapids on all sides. Pedestrian bridges
drive to the Tres Hermanas Islands and Isla Verde for a closer look at the
wild river as it approaches the falls. Descend a flight of stairs to Luna
Island, nestled between American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls,
before crossing Goat Island to the Horseshoe Cliff
It falls on the Canadian side. You and the dog can be on the edge of everything
three falls and drink the stream of water before the drops fall 18
stories about the ridge in the gorge. Forty million gallons of spilled water
over Niagara Falls every minute.
From these viewpoints you can stop and contemplate the first record
person to jump into the falls. That was Sam Patch in October 1829, who
jumped twice from a 110-foot-high platform. He survived both jumps. Tea
The first person to successfully ride over the falls in a barrel was a woman,
Annie Taylor, who survived the stunt on October 24, 1901. Of the 16 known
try mounting the falls in a barrel or similar capsule, a trick that is
now illegal – 10 survived.
What about the dogs that go over Niagara Falls? Unfortunately, there is a recorded account of
such an event. In December 1874, some local hotel owners bought
an old Great Lakes schooner and planned to send it over the falls to attract
visitors to Niagara. To add drama to the show, the organizers loaded
the boat with a buffalo, three bears, two foxes, a raccoon, a dog, a cat and
four geese and cut their “Reverse Noah’s Ark” loose in the rapids. Tea
Animals were observed scurrying across the deck as the schooner slipped
over the edge of the falls and broke into hundreds of pieces on the rocks
below. Only two geese are believed to have survived the stunt.
For panoramic views of the three falls, you will need to cross the gorge
to Canada, where you can take the dog for a walk among the flower gardens
from Queen Victoria Park. The park, managed by the Niagara Parks Commission,
it actually predates Niagara Falls State Park. Landscaping of the area with
the sublime views of the precipitous falls began in 1837 and became a
park in 1882. Both parks are free to visit, as are the night light shows
lighting up the falls.
Niagara Falls also has plenty for the serious canine hiker.
Niagara River thrills are not completely depleted when the water
crashes 170 feet down the falls into the gorge. The river, one of the
world’s shortest rumbles another 7 turbulent miles before puking
its contents in Lake Ontario. The river rapids are among the
Wildest and fiercest in the world, with a 6 on the navigable scale of 1 to 6.
The dangerous Niagara River has historically held such a strong hold
reckless as the falls themselves. Matthew Webb, the first man to swim
English Channel, perished in an attempt to swim across the Niagara River here
in 1883. Today, hydromassage boats ply the tamer of the rapids from
tourists in search of strong emotions.
The flat, paved trail along the edge of the Niagara Gorge stretches six miles from the American
Falls at Prospect Point along the canyon, joining a New York necklace
state parks along the way. Several sets of more than 300 steps descend to the
gorge in parks to get to connecting trails along the riverfront. Much
the trail below the rim follows the roadbed to the historic Great Gorge
Railway. The railway operated until September 17, 1935 when 5,000 tons of
the rock slid down the gorge and buried the tracks. Part of the trail crosses
these debris and involve considerable rock jumping for an athletic dog.
These periodic rockfalls, rarely of this magnitude, are more common in
only winter and early spring recommended and hiking in the gorge
between mid-May and November 1.
The trail leads to the edge of the waves where the 35-foot-deep river can
reach speeds of 22 miles per hour. As the views of the water churn
through Devil’s Hole Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids can be fascinating, not
Forget looking up every now and then and maybe spotting the occasional bald eagle
hanging around, no doubt looking for an easy meal from the groggy and battered
The northernmost park along the Niagara Gorge is the Earl W. Brydges
Artpark in Lewiston, where the cocktail was invented by a local tavern
owner. He mixed gin and herbal wine in a pitcher and stirred their concoction.
with the tail feather of a hand-stuffed rooster pheasant. More traditional
Artists and artisans display their creations on the grounds of the
200 acre park. The river has calmed enough at this point to allow a
swim cautious for the dog.
The cliffs of Lewiston Gorge are where Niagara Falls began some
12,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. Torrents of water to melt
glacial ice poured over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, while the cliff is
known. The sheer force of the water has slowly worn away the rock and moved
the falls to its present position seven miles upriver. Today the falls
they are eroding at the rate of one inch per year. You can track the trips of
the falls on the rocks that line the gorge.
The Niagara Gorge trail system ends at the imposing concrete dam of the
Robert Moses Power Plant, completing a journey from the beauty of Niagara
Fall before the harsh reality of its practicality. Hydropower is the most
important product of the Falls. Power plants in the United States and Canada
the sides of the falls use water diverted from the falls to generate enough
electricity to power 2,500,000 100-watt bulbs. It is one of the
largest operations of its kind in the world with transmission lines flowing in
both directions from the throat. As impressive as the falls are today,
are only a fraction of the mighty that our ancestors saw, as much as half of the
The flow of the Niagara River is diverted for hydroelectric production.
Someday in the next 3000 years, Niagara Falls will wear out completely and
the power will dry up as the water flows placidly between Lake Erie and the lake
Ontario. Until that day, however, there is ample opportunity to take the
Marvel at the power of Niagara.