Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bikers Guide: Comparing Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon

Does Niagara Falls Compare to the The Grand Canyon?

There are only two natural wonders I have ever seen that I would call "awe inspiring". First is the Grand Canyon. Not far behind is the "Maid of the Mist" boat tour at Niagara Falls. So if you didn't think much of the Grand Canyon, there's probably not much for you at Niagara Falls, although there is a gift shop, a casino, a Hard Rock Cafe, and a Tim Hortons.

Although there is no clear walking view from the US side, you can view the Falls on the Canadian side, if you just park nearby (If you want free parking you will have to look much further away.) and then cross the road to the sidewalk that follows the edge of the gorge. The sidewalk view is free, and very pretty too. As you look down, you should be able to see the various Maid of the Mist boats approaching the bottom of the waterfall, and admittedly they look kind of silly. I used to think "why are those tourists wasting their money when you can see the falls perfectly well from up here?". But the one time I actually took the boat tour, I finally understood why it is one of the most famous scenic wonder rides in the world. The experience of being surrounded by that massive roaring wall of water is totally unlike what you see standing at the top. If the spectacular view of the Grand canyon is from the top, then the spectacular view of the falls is surely looking up from the bottom. It may have something to do with fear I suppose. At the Grand Canyon, the instinctive fear of death is from the top. That can happen at the falls too, but you feel safe at the top, and besides, it's not a very big drop compared to the Grand Canyon. However, you have probably never seen or heard anything like it when you are at the bottom and all that water coming down at you on three sides.

I have only been on the Maid of the Mist once, so it's possible that there was just the right combination of sunlight, warmth, clear air, wind from the right direction etc etc. Also I have been to the Grand Canyon four times, and two times were awe inspiring, once was more scary than awe inspiring, and once it was a complete dud, where fog completely filled the canyon and you could not see anything. I guess with natural wonders you always take your chances. I was on the Maid of the Mist on a warm, sunny July day at about noon time, and there was no fog other than the usual mist coming off the falls. Also, I suppose for anyone who is afraid of boats and water, this might not be so pleasant, but then I'm afraid of heights, but I was still able to appreciate the Grand Canyon from the top view.

For the rest of the tour, the Niagara Parkway is a very nice road to ride on a motorcycle, following the Niagara River on the Canadian side, from Lake Erie, past the falls to Lake Ontario. Also, a short side trip up Clifton Hill will give you a good view of enough tackiness to rival Las Vegas.

Note: You may want to put away your expensive camera when the boat comes near to the falls, it will not really capture the feeling, and it will get soaked.

Picture: The Maid of the Mist heading for the falls, taken from the Canadian side.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite view of the Falls used to be from what were once called the Scenic Tunnels, 'rebranded' for some marketing reason as Journey Behind the Falls) and which, presumably for insurance reasons, no longer allows visitors to get as close to the actual water.

    That perspective has less to do with the height of the falls, than with the sheer volume of water - as you put it, the 'experience of being surrounded by that massive roaring wall of water.

    Hadn't been down to Niagara Falls in quite some time, so on a recent visit I was shocked and appalled by the raw and unapologetic commercialism of Clifton Hill. And that all parking in the proximity of the Falls now seems to have converted to a revenue generator for the city :-(