When you think Niagara Falls, immediately images of the Horseshoe Falls’ rushing water and Clifton Hill’s busy lights and sounds come to mind. While tourists and even some locals snap away, thinking of creative ways to capture themselves with this natural beauty, another one is just up the river. What many people don’t realize is that along with the rolling plunge, the Niagara River boasts awe-inspiring white water rapids. However this year, they’re in the limelight as Niagara Parks celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Whirlpool Aero Car this August, one of the ways you can admire the beautiful Niagara River.
The Whirlpool Aero Car is suspended between two points on the Canadian shore and travels approximately one kilometre on a round trip. From here you not only get a great view of the Niagara River itself, but of the whirlpool at the end of the rapids where the river suddenly bends, leading the water into the narrowest channel of the Niagara Gorge. Chances are when you visit, the whirlpool will be spinning in a counter-clockwise direction. However, from midnight until 8am, the flow will be clockwise as more water is diverted into the Niagara River from the open hydroelectric dams. Although one thing you may not notice (until the lovely guide tells you) is that you’ll actually be crossing the border into the United States on your trip not once, but twice each way! It’ll probably be your shortest international trip, but don’t worry – you won’t need your passport!
After getting a bird’s eye view of the rapids, I highly suggest getting a little closer to the whitewater rapids by heading down the parkway towards the Horseshoe Falls. You’ll pass the entrance to another Niagara Parks’ attraction – the White Water Walk. Take the elevator down 70 metres and walk through the tunnel to the 305m boardwalk that follows along the edge of the river. Here you can gaze in awe at the pure velocity of the water as it travels through the rapids.
Niagara’s White Water Rapids are rated at class 6, making them some of the wildest in the world! The current reaches speeds of almost 50km per hour. Compounded with the volume of water that is channelled through this narrow part of the gorge create a four kilometre stretch of 3-5m tall waves, it makes the Niagara’s white water rapids one of the largest and finest series of rapids in North America!
Now I have to be straight with you, I have to admit there were times when I was tempted to hop the fence and nestle into a nook right beside the rapids to really get up close and personal with nature’s power contained in the waves. Nevertheless, I resisted temptation as it is actually illegal to tackle the rapids. Up until the early 80s, visitors could go white water rafting along the Niagara River but this has since been outlawed due to how hazardous the rapids can be. However, you can enjoy the last of the rapids from the American side as some of Whirlpool State Park’s trails lead to the shoreline of the Niagara river.
While the Horseshoe Falls steals many hearts and has people travelling from all over the world, I have to say the sheer power and mesmerizing speed of the rapids have stolen my heart. I think I need to take a trip across the border and check out those trails, or hop on one of the whirlpool jet boat tours! My senses are telling me there just might be a part two for this post in the future.
A huge thanks to Niagara Parks for supplying me with the complimentary tickets. All of the opinions and experiences expressed are my own, Niagara Parks just made the trip happen!