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survey the scene around us. Being on the higher level of the river, we could see from hence, looking downward to the northwest, the immense mass of rising mist, which told us where the foaming cataract descended, and between our own position and this rising cloud was a beautifully varied surface of islands and islets, bridges thrown across the turbulent rapids from rock to rock, thickly foliaged woods, and turbulent and rushing torrents, here and there broken by drifts of wreck, or impeded by forest trees that had got entangled in the rocks, and the whole mass boiling like a caldron. The combination was full of beauty and of grandeur; but this was no more than a faint glimpse of the glories of the scene.
We therefore devoted the whole of the day to a visit to the Falls, and, after seeing them from all the most interesting points of view on both sides the river, as well as from the lower level of the stream below-- from the northern and western extremities of Goat Island, overhanging the cataracts, on the American side; from the tablerock and pavilion heights on the Canada side, and from the ferry across the river just at the foot of the Falls, and between the twowe returned at night more gratified with the beauties and won. ders of the spot than we had ever been before with any work of nature or of art. Our feelings, as we stood on different points of the scene, lost in awe and admiration, were too deep for verbal utterance, and our walk was therefore more than usually silent, my wife, my son, and myself scarcely interchanging any other words than ejaculations of delight or expressions of awe at the splendour and sublimity of the whole.
During one of these silent pauses, as we sat upon a rock, sur
rounded by an almost untrodden grassy sward, and thickly overhung by the wild foliage of the woods, but within full sight of one of the grandest views of the watery mass, I traced with a pencil some lines to Niagara, which, as they may give the reader some idea of the feelings by which I was impressed, I have placed with the other documents assigned to the Appendix, where they will be found.*
We remained, on the whole, five days at Niagara, two of which we passed on the American side, and three on the British ; and during all that period we were almost constantly engaged, from sunrise to sunset, in examining every part of the Falls and their surrounding scenery, crossing the river from side to side in boats at least a dozen times, and being often enveloped in the thick spray occasioned by the descent of the waters, from the nearness of our approach to their falling columns, so that we had an opportunity of seeing all its beauties in every variety of position, light, and shade, and watching its ever-changing hues at each successive hour of the day
Many persons had expressed to us their disappointment at the first sight of the Falls, though they admitted that a longer stay near them had gradually developed all their grandeur and beauty. I know not to what cause or to what kind of temperament to attribute this; but certainly we needed no progressive development to give us the fullest impression of their magnificence and sublimity. It appeared to us from the first as one of the grandest scenes of nature that we had ever visited, and it continued to leave the same
* See Appendix, No. III.
impression on our minds to the last ; nor was there any single moment between these two periods in which our admiration or our wonder abated in the slightest degree.
During our stay on both sides of the Falls, we had personal communication with many who had resided near them all their lives; with others who had visited them almost every year; and with many who might be called the depositaries of all the traditional information that exists respecting them; and with the assistance of these authorities, and such published details as were accessible through other sources, the following history and description of them was prepared :
Niagara is not, strictly speaking, a river, though it is constantly so called, but rather a strait, being merely a channel of about thirty-five miles in length, and from one to five miles in breadth, by which the waters of the upper Lake Erie are discharged into the lower Lake Ontario, and, proceeding onward from thence, forms the River St. Lawrence, which empties itself into the sea. Nearly midway between these two lakes, Erie and Ontario, or at the exact distance of about twenty miles below the former and fifteen miles above the latter, occurs a sudden break in the continuity of the upper level, over which the waters flow; and this break, exhibiting itself in the form of a series of perpendicular cliffs, stretching right across the stream, with curvatures and irregular hollows or recesses
, to the height of 164 feet, the sudden descent of the whole body of water over these perpendicular cliffs, in its passage from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, constitutes the Falls of Niagara. The name is Indian, and is pronounced thus, Nee-agg-arah, and not Nia-ga-rah, as is sometimes erroneously done. It is an Iroquois word, and sig, nifies the thunder of the waters ;” and certainly no name could be more significantly appropriate than this.
The Falls are broken into two separate masses by the intervention of an island called Goat Island, lying nearly midway in the stream, and projecting its northwestern extremity to the very edge of the perpendicular cliff. The body of water between this island and the American shore is called the American Fall, and the body of water between the same island and the Canada shore is called the Canada Fall.
The American Fall is about 900 feet in breadth, and the water descends nearly perpendicularly over a cliff of 164 feet in height. The Canada Fall is about 1800 feet in breadth, including a deep indentation or hollow, called the Horse-shoe Fall, and it descends with a greater projectile curve beyond the perpendicular line over cliffs of 158 feet in depth.
The greatest mass of water rushes over the Canada Fall, and on this is seen to the greatest advantage the rich emerald green of the liquid and moving element. The bright sunlight upon the waters of this Fall produces tints of indescribable beauty, and the mingling
of the foaming jets of snowy white with the clear and transparent aquamarine brilliance that dwells upon the crest of the Fall, produces a constant variety in the aspect of the whole. At the foot of both the Falls, the clouds of mist or spray occasioned by the boiling turbulence of the agitated mass rise up like the smoke of incense before one of the grandest natural altars in the world, and ascend into the air in curling wreaths till it seems to mingle with the clouds of heaven.
The walk around Goat Island, and over the slender and almost rocking bridges that are thrown across the rapids from it to the shore, and from it to the smaller islands near, is full of beauty; while the dark shadows of its forest trees, the dizzy heights of its beetling cliffs, the beautiful green sward of its least frequented walks, the narrow bridge and isolated tower at the edge of the cataract, with the rushing fury of the torrents that pass between some of the narrow straits and the almost adjoining islets near its edge, furnish scenes of beauty and of interest which could never tire.
The descent to the stream below the Falls, on the American side, is by a series of wooden stairs, sufficiently safe, though rude in their construction, and tedious from their number and steepness, the whole height exceeding 200 feet. The ascent from the stream on the Canada side is by a good broad road, sufficiently steep, but practicable in its zigzag angles for horses, or even for a carriage, and cut chiefly out of the rocky cliff
. At either side is a set of slips, from which the ferry-boats are launched, when needed to convey passengers across. The boats are well built and well adapted to the service, each capable of con
taining six or eight persons conveniently; they are rowed across by a single man with a pair of oars; and although the agitation of the water produces what is called a great ripple on the surface, yet there is no real danger in the passage; nor, as far as we could learn, had any boat ever been upset or lost in going across.
On the Canada side, a guard of British troops are stationed, to take the names of all persons going and coming, and the object of their visit, a copy of which is sent each day to the commanding officer of the station. On the American side, all is perfectly free. The British regiment stationed here at the period of our visit was the 43d foot, or “ The Queen's Own;" and such had been the desertions from it to the United States, that the officers themselves admitted their loss of men to be extensive. They usually secrete themselves till night in some adjoining wood, then scramble down the cliff at some point previously explored, and either go across on a rude raft, or supported by single logs of wood, or sometimes attempt to swim without either, in which case they very frequently get drowned.
The depth of water is much greater below the Falls than above. In the distance between Lake Erie and the cataracts, which is 20 miles, the breadth of the Niagara strait is from one mile to eight or nine miles across from the American to the Canada shore, and the depth varies, in different parts, from 15 feet to 250; while the rate of its current varies between two and eight miles an hour, according to the nature and angles of the declivities over which it flows, the entire difference of level between the point where it leaves Lake Erie and the point where it falls into Lake Ontario being 334 feet. In the distance between the cataracts and the outlet of Niagara into the Lake Ontario, the strait winds more in its course, and the cliffs on either side are much higher, exceeding in some places 400 feet. The depth of water immediately below the Falls is considered to be greater than lower down, from the action of the falling mass on the bottom of the bed being calculated to wear it continually away; but at half a mile distant from the Falls, the nearest point at which soundings have been taken, the depth is ascertained to be 260 feet. The scenery of the banks below the Falls, from the cataract to Lake Ontario, is more romantic than above; and the violent rapids called the Whirlpool, which occur within this space, add much to the interest of the scene.
The quantity of water precipitated over the Falls has been thus calculated by different authorities. President Dwight, of New-Haven, estimates it at 11,209,375 tons per hour; and Darby calculates the mass to make 1,672,704,000 cubic feet per hour; while another authority, Picken, makes the quantity to be 113,510,000 gallops, or 18,524,000 cubic feet per minute !
Nor is the vastness of this quantity to be wondered at, considering that this is the great drain of four large inland seas, Lake Supe