The 3 waterfalls that straddle the international border between the United States and Canada are collectively known as Niagara Falls. These falls are located between the state of New York and the province of Ontario. The falls form the southern portion of the Niagara Gorge.
The largest of the 3 waterfalls is called Horseshoe Falls. The middle sized one is known as American Falls. Lastly, the smallest is Bridal Veil Falls. Horseshoe Falls is situated mainly on the Canadian side and American Falls is aptly named due to its entire location being on the American side. These two falls are separated by Goat Island. The smallest waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls are also found on American soil. This one is separated by Luna Island from the other falls. Originally, in 1819, the international boundary line was drawn through Horseshoe Falls. The boundary has been in dispute for ages due to construction and natural erosion.
The combined falls make up the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. Situated on the Niagara River, which in turn drains into Lake Ontario, the falls form a vertical drop of more than 50 meters or 165 feet. Within North America, Horseshoe Falls is considered to be the most powerful waterfall. These measurements are derived by flow rate and vertical height. The falls are located 121 kilometers or 75 miles south-southeast of Toronto and 27 kilometers or 17 miles north-northwest of Buffalo, New York, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
When glaciers receded during the end of the last ice age, known as the Wisconsin glaciation, Niagara Falls were formed. Water from the newly formed Great Lakes derived a path through the Niagara Escarpment on route to the Atlantic. Even though they are not particularly high, the Niagara falls are extremely wide. Every minute in high flow, more than 6 million cubic feet or 168,000 m3 of water flows over the crest line. On average, approximately 4 million cubic feet or 110,000m3 flows.
The Niagara Falls are not only an amazing feat of nature, they also provide a valuable source of hydroelectricity. Since the 19th century, the stewards of the falls have faced challenges managing the balance between commercial, recreational and industrial uses.
The height of visitor traffic happens during the best weather in the summertime. Niagara Falls offers both an evening and daytime attraction for tourists at this time of year. For example, from the Canadian side, floodlights illuminate both sides of the falls until midnight. In 2007, the annual number of visitors was approximately 20 million. In 2009, the annual rate was up to 28 million tourists. It is a great place for romantic couples, individuals and families alike.
The Maid of the Mist boat cruise is the best known and oldest tourist attraction at Niagara Falls. This boat was named for an ancient Ongiara Indian mythical character. Since 1846, it has carried numerous passengers into the rapids directly under the falls. There are a variety of cruise boats that operate from boat docks on either side of the falls.
Queen Victoria Park, situated on the Canadian side, offers extravagant manicured gardens. There are many platforms which provide excellent views of both Horseshoe Falls and American Falls. Additionally, there are underground walkways leading into observation rooms that yield the illusion of being within and among the falling waters. Skylon Tower is a nearby observation deck that gives the highest overhead view of the falls. From this place, looking in the opposite direction, one can see as far as Toronto. In Canada, the Minolta Tower, which was formerly the Konica Minolta Tower and the Seagrams Tower and are now known as the Tower Hotel, one can also enjoy a view of the falls.