Niagara Falls:: then and now

I haven’t given much thought to Niagara Falls, really.  When I had thought of it, I imagined a 19th century honeymoon destination.  A place where Victorian women, imbued in long, dark skirts, leaned precariously over the rocks and peered into the depths of the steaming water, watching as it bubbled up after its rocket down the falls.

But J insisted we go.  If you’re going to be in north-western New York, how can you not?  So we did.  What I saw both confirmed my thoughts and bewildered me.

To start with, the Falls is way more energetic than I imagined.  You just don’t get the sense of how much or how fast this water is flowing from still photos.  It was nuts.

Today, there are barriers that keep people from getting too close to the edge, so there weren’t any ladies on rocks. But there were a LOT of parents letting their children climb on the barriers, which I thought insane, given that the river was only a foot away and once in, there was no way to stop a child (or an adult) from going over the falls.

I was surprised by how many people have gone over–some on purpose, which I knew about–and others accidentally.  What I wasn’t aware of was how many people commit suicide each year by tumbling over the falls.  The very week we were there, a woman had floated down stream, peacefully–bystanders claimed–with her eyes shut, aimed for the Falls and death.  It came, of course, because you can’t see these Falls and imagine anyone surviving them.  But did it come quickly?  Was there a rush at the end?  Did she regret the decision and try to swim out?  It’s certainly a form of suicide that leaves little opportunity for remorse.  Once you’ve committed yourself to going over, you are going over.

We watched a duck in midstream, just floating along.  As it drew closer to the edge of the Falls I worried.  Could it not sense the water picking up speed?  Then suddenly, it went over, still floating along with the raging water.  I was aghast.  That poor duck.  Two seconds later, we watched as it came out of the mist, sailing into air above the Falls.  We looked at each other.  A thrill-seeking duck?  Would he race back to the top and do it again?

Makes you wonder.

And if you plan to go, let me suggest that you go to the Canadian side.  The view is lovely there, plus the whole area is clean, neat, and looking economically prosperous.  I am sorry to say that the U.S. side did not share these traits.  It looks like Niagara, New York has been hit hard by the economic depression–but not just in the last three years.  That city has suffered economic hardship for several decades.  I don’t understand this, given what a tourist trap Niagara could be (and has been).  Certainly the Canadians have it figured out.  Seems like the Americans could be doing better with this.  But here I go city-planning from afar.  But it sure looked like someone needed to do some city-planning.

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