It’s another travel day. I think I’ve developed a routine and might be getting a little faster disconnecting everything and packing up. We drove through some beautiful wine country with rolling vineyards as far as you could see. We’re staying at Four Mile Creek Campground. It’s a State Park about a thirty minute drive north of Niagara Falls, NY. It’s located on the shore of Lake Ontario four miles east of the Niagara River. There are no sites on the lake but it is an easy walk down to the water. The campground doesn’t offer many amenities other than it’s proximity to Niagara and an interesting history.
We arrived early at Niagara Falls Park because we were worried about finding parking. As it turned out, parking was not a problem. We got into the main lot near the visitor center and paid ten dollars for the whole day. Right away, we went into full blown tourist mode. We walked along the top of the falls taking one picture after another. We went up on the observation deck and took more pictures. We went for a ride on Maid of the Mist and took more picture. Are you getting the picture yet? “Pun intended!” We took a ridiculous amount of pictures.
Maid of the Mist was a good time. Everyone was sporting blue ponchos. Grammi and I pulled ours over our rain jacket. We laughed out loud as we got closer and closer to Horseshoe Falls. The “mist” was more like a rainstorm. The wind from the falls swirled around us. It was so loud I had to scream for grammi to hear me. Everyone hunched over to protect their faces as water poured down. When we could look up we saw a beautiful site. It was amazing to be so close. We got wet but loved every minute.
After we got off the boat we went up the steps leading to a platform near the bottom of the American Falls. Not everyone on the boat went up these set of stairs. Only a few of us adventurous ones. Water coming over the falls hits the rocks splashing anyone venturing out on the platform. Grammi and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders, I guess we were thinking we were already wet and this is what a tourist is suppose to do, and ran out on the deck. A torrent of water hit us. Our ponchos whipped around. Then…uh oh…water starts seeping into my boots. Grammi and I wore high top waterproof hiking boots but this was no match for the soaking we just got.
Unfazed, we continued with a boot full of damp sock. In full tourist mode, we walked across the bridge to Goat island. There we looked at going on the Cave of the Winds tour but opted out because we were wet enough.
We ate lunch on the terrace at Top of the Fall restaurant. We had the best table in the house, in the corner overlooking Horseshoe falls. We walked to Three Sisters Island to see the swift turbulent water before it dropped over the falls, and of course we took more pictures. I stood gazing at the rapids and wondered how anyone could think it was a good idea to get inside a barrel and ride over the falls. That’s just insane.
Wisely we returned to our truck where we dried off, reclined the seats back, turned on the air condition and took a forty-five minute nap. Grammi and I both had sandals in the truck that we gladly exchanged for our damp boots before heading on. It was like we had an unseen tourist guide keeping us moving along announcing “come on, get moving, there is more to see, more photo opportunities to enjoy.”
We walked over the Rainbow Bridge toward Canada. It was easy passing through the border. They scanned our passports and asked a couple of question. “Do you have any drugs or weapons?” and “How long do you plan to stay?” I have always heard that the view of the falls is better on the Canadian side. I can now confirm that. The viewing angle is much better, but of course nothing beats the view you get from the Maid of the Mist. Another round of pictures ensued.
Hand in hand, grammi and I leisurely walked to Horseshoe Falls stopping occasionally to admire the views. A sidewalk with railing extends along the top of the rim. There was a boat tour similar to Maid of the Mist, but everyone wore Canadian red ponchos. A incline rail car took people down to the boat. If you really wanted to get to the bottom in a hurry you could ride the zip-line. That looked like a lot of fun.
It was striking to see how commercialized the area was, like Gatlinburg on steroids. There’s a ferris-wheel, a 360 degree observation sky-tower, lots of hotels, restaurants and shopping. We went through a few shops finding a souvenir Niagara Canada coffee mug. We went to Hard Rock Cafe to listen to the live music and get a bite to eat. Then finally after the sun set and darkness came, we walked back across the Rainbow Bridge. The falls were illuminated with colored lights slowly changing from blue to red and then bright white. It’s why we hung around. We were told we had to see the falls at night. It was worth it. The most spectacular sight of the day but I couldn’t take a picture. My phone had died. Lucky for me, grammi still had battery life and took a couple photos.
This morning we are going for a historic boat ride. Not far from our campsite is the town of Lockport, New York. The Erie Canal passes through this town that was once the location of five locks. A museum is located at the locks showing the history of the canal and the town. Two locks, lock 34 and 35, have now replaced the original five.
We boarded the boat and found seats on the upper deck. There was room to move freely around the boat as it was maybe a quarter full. As we approached the locks the gates slowly opened. Once inside the lock the gates closed behind us. Then the water began to rise lifting us up until the next set of gates open. We entered the next lock to repeat the process. The forty-nine foot lift once accomplished with five locks is now done with two.
We proceeded up the forty foot wide canal away from town as the boat captain spoke over the intercom pointing out historic landmarks. He pointed out the path cut along the bank where the mules would walk while pulling boats through the canal. He said a team of mules would tow a boat fifteen miles in a day. Then the song “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal” started playing over the intercom.
We came to a wide spot in the canal where the captain made a six point turn and we headed back down the canal and through the locks again. We cruised through town while the captain talked about the houses and people that once live there. We paused while a lift bridge rose before we could pass under. We came to a much wider spot to turn the boat and the captain said this was an area boats would stop over night. A variety of shops once stood for boatsmen to get provisions.
It was great to see the Erie Canal and learn about its history. It’s just mind-boggling for me to imagine how people that long ago accomplished such complicated engineering projects. It’s worth a visit if you are in the area.
Back near our campground is Fort Niagara. We ended our days adventure with a tour of the fort. The fort was built from stone in 1726 by the French to protect the navigation route up the Niagara River. During the French and Indian War, the British laid siege on the fort resulting in the French surrender. The newly formed United States didn’t take the fort from the British until years after the revolution in 1796. Anyway, there was just a lot of history to take in for one day so I hope I have the facts right.
We stood on the wall near an old cannon overlooking both the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. In the distance we could see the skyline of Toronto. On the river were sailboats heading out for a sunset cruise. We have come a long way from the era of forts. It’s fascinating, and honestly, it has sparked a interest for me to learn more.
There are a couple of small New York State Parks along the Niagara River that we checked out this morning. The first was Devil’s Hole State Park and the second one was Whirlpool State Park. We walked along the ridge in each of these parks and admired the views of the river. We saw the big power plants on both side of the river that generate electricity for millions of people. We saw the speed boats making their way to the whirlpool and we saw a cable car cross over the whirlpool. These are adventure rides you can take from Canada.
We went to the small town of Lewiston to visit a micro brewery and have lunch. Afterward, we walked the main boulevard stopping at an antique shop and a bakery. It was a cute little town with large baskets of flowers hanging from the lamp post. American Flags were displayed everywhere.There were some cafes offering sidewalk tables. We enjoy exploring little towns like this and saying hello to the people we see.
As grammi and I prepared to make our way toward our next adventure we reflected on what we did. We only scratched the surface of things to do here. Certainly we could of stayed longer. Niagara Falls is absolutely spectacular. However the surrounding area much too commercialized. The crowds a bit too overwhelming. The beauty lost years ago. The wine country, however, was beautiful with rolling vineyards as was the countrysides with its many farms. Would we ever return? Well…it won’t be on the top of the list for return trips. But I guess you never know. Maybe for the wine.