Sheraton Blog
Niagara Falls Hotel Blog

The Origin Story of Niagara Falls

August 30th, 2014

sotfblog52.jpegNiagara Falls certainly earns its place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World. The sheer size of Horseshoe Falls — 2,200 feet in length and 177 feet in height — and the amount of water —6 million cubic feet per minute over the falls — alone can inspire great awe in any observer. While many are keen on experiencing some mysticism along with the beauty of the falls, others are too curious to let the history of the falls slide on by. If you are a scientist at heart and yearn to know more about the story behind Niagara Falls, read on for a brief exploration of the creation of the falls.

In the Beginning

At the end of the most recent Ice Age, the world was a very different place. Glaciers covered most of North America, rendering it almost completely unrecognizable from the topography we are familiar with today. As the Earth warmed and the mountains of ice receded, huge amounts of cold water from the glaciers were left behind and collected into unfathomably large, land-locked lakes. However, the glaciers of the area did not simply retreat and leave the land barren; instead, several centuries of advancing and withdrawing carved the landscape to encourage certain paths for the melted water to take.

In eastern North America, some of the water channeled itself into the 36-mile-long Niagara River which emptied out over the edge of a cliff, what we now call the Niagara Escarpment. More than 12,000 years ago, when the water first rushed over that cliff, the falls were much farther south in what is now Lewiston, New York.

As Years Passed

While the falls are still in relatively the same area of the globe, they look dramatically different from when the water first started falling. First, the falls are no longer located in Lewiston, New York, as you may astutely notice. Due to the process of erosion, or the gradual wearing away of sediment due to constant friction like that of wind or water, the falls of the Niagara River have worn the Niagara Escarpment all the way back north to where you can find it today.

In the Present

sotfblog53.jpegNiagara Falls is still very effective by the same processes that shaped it thousands of years ago. Erosion of the landscape by the river and the falls continues every minute, and the falls continue to recede into the surrounding landscape. Additionally, the freezing and thawing of the Niagara River moves and shifts the sediment even during the seeming calm of winter.

Modern technology is helping people slow the erosion of Niagara Falls to preserve its current status as one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Some of the water from the Niagara River has been diverted through dams and hydroelectric power stations to help fuel the energy consumption of the surrounding area.

If you’re still fascinated by the processes that continue to shape the falls, the rivers and the surrounding land, you can learn more during your trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Niagara Falls History Museum presents information for all ages on the science and history of the falls, and it includes predictions of what will happen to the falls if the current rate of erosion continues unimpeded.

Bookmark and Share

Onguiraaha Is A Short Walk from Sheraton on the Falls

August 26th, 2014

onguiaahra“Onguiraaha – Thunder of Waters, ” a new outdoor sound and light show opened to rave reviews over the weekend.

Niagara Falls started with “single drop of water” 12,000 years ago and it will end the same way 50,000 years from now, according to a new “sound and light show” being staged until December in Queen Victoria Park.

Standing within throwing distance of the Niagara River is the perfect setting to learn about water – “one of the most powerful forces in nature” – and how it shapes the geography that surrounds us.

All the while, a narrator talks you through how Niagara Falls was created 12,000 years ago when a single drop of water decided to run downhill toward Lake Ontario and started carving out the Niagara gorge.

As the show ends, the narrator forecasts a day 50,000 years from now when a single drop of water “will push the falls into oblivion, leaving just a river.” This kind of sound and light show is a natural for Niagara Falls.

Onguiraaha – Thunder of Waters opened on Friday Aug. 22 and is on until Monday Sept. 1., 2014. It runs three times every night – at 7:15 p.m., 8:15 and 9:15. On Friday and Sunday night, the show was a warm-up for the thousands of people hanging out in Queen Victoria Park waiting for the 10 p.m. fireworks display.

Bookmark and Share

The Surprisingly Useful Side of Niagara Falls

August 26th, 2014

sotfblog42.jpegWe certainly could talk to death about the beauty and awesomeness of Niagara Falls. Not only is the general environment simply perfect — we love the temperatures in every season — and the city full of activities for any group, but the waters themselves are so powerful and thrilling as to stop visitors in their tracks.

However, not many travelers to the region realize that the rushing water they’re watching is also being used to generate power as well! People have been using Niagara Falls for resources and energy for thousands of years, but in the past centuries we’ve been able to harness its power to fuel our modern lifestyle. Here’s a brief look at how we get energy from the falls, so you can stand in ever-more wonder of this amazing natural feature.

A Brief History of Energy in Niagara

Around the end of the 19th century, Canadians and Americans began looking for energy sources to enhance their quality of life. Power from steam and coal was rapidly increasing in importance as technology was developed that required more muscle than a horse or ox could provide. Humanity had long known about the usefulness of rivers and streams in efforts like grinding grain, and the intense waterworks of the Niagara region seemed a choice place to experiment with hydro power.

In 1893, Canadians installed the first hydroelectricity plant in Niagara Falls to provide energy to a small radius of the surrounding region. The plant pumped only 2,200 kilowatts of energy to the local population and was meant primarily to supply power to an electric railway joining nearby Queenston and Chippawa.

The capacity of hydroelectric plants has since grown and changed, and today both Canada and America boast a sizable amount of energy provided to local communities by the falls. When the current Niagara plant first began pumping in 1961, it was the largest facility of its kind in the Western world, churning out 2.4 million kilowatts of energy every day. For reference, this is enough to power to light 24 million standard light bulbs all at once!

How Hydroelectricity Works

sotfblog44.jpegTo obtain energy from the rushing water, engineers have devised a brilliant system of channeling the already moving water through energy-catching turbines. To best preserve the ecosystem, water is diverted from the main channel of the river and pushed through channels under the city of Niagara Falls. There, the water (at a speed of about 375,000 gallons per second) forces its way through a series of turbines, somewhat like familiar old-fashioned water wheels, that power generators. That is how we turn the mechanical energy of the falls’ water into electrical energy which we can use and store more efficiently.

What You Can Do During Your Visit

While you’re staying in the more lavish Niagara Falls, Ontario and seeing the sights on the Canadian side, you can easily pop over to the New York side to pay a visit to the Niagara Power Project Visitor’s Center for more information on how hydroelectricity was developed and what the energy is used for today.

Bookmark and Share

Phil Esposito in Niagara Falls for Charity Event

August 19th, 2014

phil-espositoLegendary Hockey Hall of Fame great Phil Esposito was in Niagara this past weekend to lend a hand for charity.  Esposito was in Niagara for an event at the ScotiaBank Centre and was the guest of honour for the ceremonial puck drop at the Hockey Night in St.Catharines charity game.  He also found time during his stay to visit the Sheraton on the Falls to take in the spectacular view.

Esposito played 18 seasons in the NHL  the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He is considered one of the best to have ever played in the NHL, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender. In 1969 he became the first NHL player to score 100 points in a season, far eclipsing the “century” mark with a record 126.  Before turning pro, Esposito played for the St. Catharines Teepees during the 1961-62 hockey season.

Esposito also helped lead Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series as leading scorer in the series. He also scored the first goal of the Summit Series and he scored two and assisted on two goals in the eighth and deciding game.  Esposito won the 1972 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s outstanding male athlete of the year and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Bookmark and Share

Native Niagara: A History of Niagara’s Peoples

August 18th, 2014

sotfblog32.jpegWe can recognize Niagara today as a haven for all peoples looking for a fantastic vacation. The attractions and festivities are fun for all creeds and colors, all sizes and shapes. Even the splendor of the falls themselves is appealing to all sorts — it’s basically undeniable that the falls are wondrous to behold no matter where you come from.

However, before Niagara became a vacationer’s wonderland — even before Europeans “discovered” the new world — Niagara was populated and revered by America’s very first travelers: American Indians. If you like to read up on the history of a place when you plan your vacation, here’s a brief exploration of Niagara’s native population.

Hunting and Gathering

Nomadic peoples first discovered the Niagara region around 12,000 years ago, right when the falls first started to form. These primary inhabitants were members of the Clovis culture of nomads in North America. These people are recognizable in archaeological digs throughout North America by their unique and revolutionary method of chipping stones for weapons and tools. Most likely, these first inhabitants settled seasonally along the shores of Lake Eerie to hunt the migrating caribou, moose, elk and mastodons. One of these earliest groups called themselves the Onguiaahra, which is suspected as being the inspiration for the modern name Niagara.

Hunter-gatherers roamed the area for a little less than nine thousand years, through both the Archaic and Woodland periods. During this time, small groups would stay in the area year around, including the harsh winters, but large groups would migrate to the area during lush and fruitful summers to hunt deer and moose as well participate in mass fishing initiatives along the lakes and rivers.

The Beginning of Agriculture

In the Woodland period, the Iroquois began cultivating the soils around Niagara for agriculture, planting corn, beans and squash to fill the bulk of their diet. With food needs covered, the Iroquois were able to establish more permanent communities with palisaded villages and surprisingly large populations.

Various complex cultural rituals were introduced during this period, including burial ceremonies and ceramic creation, and more complicated political systems came into being with the enhanced importance of kinship ties.

Of the Iroquois confederacy, the most prolific in the Niagara region was the Atiquandaronk tribe. These groups, like many of the Iroquois, lived communally in huge longhouses segmented into areas for different kinships and classes.

The Invasion of Europeans

sotfblog34.jpegFrench explorers were the first of the white settlers to discover the Niagara region. They renamed the resident American Indian groups the “Neutral” tribes, though they included more than nine different tribes under this single moniker. The promise of trade from the wealthy and exotic Europeans as well as age-old disagreements encouraged inter-tribe fighting, which led to the degeneration of the native cultures.

Additionally, the introduction of European missionaries as well as various European diseases and wars led to diminished native population and influence. After the War of 1812, virtually all of the native tribes had vacated the area or began assimilating (as best they could) with the European towns. Today, the Iroquois Nation still exists and continues to fight for the land and rights stripped of them by various European groups.

If you’d like to learn more about Niagara Falls, its history and its peoples, visit the Niagara Falls History Museum during your stay.

Bookmark and Share

7 Famous Celebrity Trips to Niagara Falls

August 12th, 2014

sotfblog22.jpegNiagara Falls is a vacation destination for couples, families and groups of all kinds. So, it seems totally natural that famous people love to come and spend time watching the splendor of the falls and experiencing the thrill the falls instill. Niagara Falls has been a must-see location for centuries, and celebrities from every decade have graced the shores of the river to behold the wonder and beauty. Though there are truly too many to name, here are a few of the more outstanding celebrities of the present and past who have visited Niagara Falls.

Jerome Bonaparte

Though perhaps he is not the most recognized of the Bonaparte brothers — his older sibling Napoleon certainly stole the show with his militaristic antics — Jerome and his wife chose to honeymoon in Niagara Falls, which kicked off Niagara’s moniker “Honeymoon Capitol of the World.” Reportedly, Jerome and his wife traveled all the way from New Orleans by stagecoach to see the magnificence of the falls. Other famous faces of the time were then inspired to visit for their honeymoons, and a tradition was born amongst the laypeople as well.

King George VI

In the past couple of years, good King George VI has received quite a lot of press from the release of a movie chronicling his battle with a speech impediment, “The King’s Speech.” However, the movie failed to depict a famous and fantastic voyage the king and his family made to Niagara Falls in 1934. You can learn more about the king’s trip by visiting the statue erected in his honor during your own stay in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Marilyn Monroe

Niagara Falls’ popularity has made it a hot spot for movie production as well as a vacationer’s dream. The mystical feeling of the falls as well as their known ability to encourage passionate love has inspired many a filmmaker to set his or her film amidst the falls. Marilyn Monroe’s hit movie “Niagara,” a film noir following two honeymooners to the region, was shot on location in Niagara, as there was no other way to accurately capture the true essence of the falls.

Shirley Temple

Earlier this year, Shirley Temple passed away at the comfortable age of 85, but she previously made headlines earlier in her career by visiting Niagara Falls. Though her trip took place after she was quite grown and in fact married — her name changed to Shirley Temple-Black — the lively and jovial child actress continued to captivate with her beauty and charm.

Princess Di With Prince William and Prince Harry

sotfblog23.jpegThat enigmatic and important princess of England came to Niagara with her two young sons in tow in 1991. Princess Diana participated in several popular Niagara attractions, many of which are still active today. If you want to see Niagara like a princess, be sure to book a ticket on the Maid of the Mist, which brings you right up close to the bottom of the falls, and take a few walks around the surrounding parks and hiking trails.

Bookmark and Share

Niagara Falls Is Peachy Keen

August 5th, 2014

SOTFblog7.jpegWhen you think of major peach growing regions, you probably think of the southern U.S., specifically Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. You probably don’t think of the Niagara Falls region — after all, Canada’s climate isn’t all that similar to most peach producing areas.

Yet there is a small (but growing) contingent of farms in the Niagara region that have added peaches to their orchards; enough so that every August, Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts a popular Peach Festival to celebrate the sweet fruit. This year, the Peach Festival is scheduled for August 9 and 10, and organizers promise a “peach” of a celebration.

Food, Fun and Family

As you might expect, the star of the Peach Festival is the fruit itself. While you’ll be tempted to fill up on peach pie, peach cobbler and other peachy treats, there is much more to do than that during the two-day event.

Saturday’s festivities begin at 11 a.m., in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Heritage District. Queen Street between King and Victoria Street will be closed to cars, and visitors can explore booths featuring homemade peach specialties, crafts and art from local artisans, live music and games. The festival also honors the region’s history with historical displays and a fife and drum procession along Queen Street.

At 5 p.m., Queen Street will turn into a night market, with local restaurants, shops and vendors setting up booths along the street. Until 10 p.m., you can peruse the booths, try local food and wine and pick up a unique souvenir from your trip to Niagara Falls.

The fun continues on Sunday morning, when it moves to the grounds of the St. Vincent de Paul Church on Picton Street. Family fun is the focus here, with face painting, games, crafts, clowns and more, along with a family-style picnic featuring hamburgers and hot dogs along with a wide array of peach dishes. Visitors can help judge a peach pie-baking contest, check out more local crafters and artists, and in the afternoon, head over to Niagara Falls Park for a free concert by the town band.

Important Details

SOTFblog8.jpegNiagara-on-the-Lake is only about a 20-minute drive from Niagara Falls, a picturesque drive along the lake that passes by several fine wineries. If you decide to make the trip up for the Peach Festival, be aware that you may have to park some distance away from the main festival area and walk; however, there are plenty of public parking areas in town.

The festival itself is free, but you’ll want to bring plenty of cash to pick up the delicious treats and to shop the tents. Also, leave some time to explore the rest of this quaint town or possibly take in one of the productions of the works of George Bernard Shaw at one of the three theatres in town. The Shaw Festival, a nine-month celebration of the playwright’s works, will be in full swing at the time of the Peach Festival, meaning you can experience two of the best events that the Niagara Falls region has to offer in one memorable excursion.

Bookmark and Share

Five Awesome Ways To Make The Most Of The Summer Weather In Niagara

July 30th, 2014

golf landscapeTake advantage of the beautiful warm weather this summer by checking out these top five attractions in Niagara. All the activities embrace the season and are a definite must do in the city!

Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake: Whether you love wine or quaint villages, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s charm will leave you wanting more. Check out the many wineries in the area and enjoy some of Ontario’s most prestigious wines while taking a guided tour through the vineyards. With specialty shops and restaurants you won’t have to go very far to get a taste of what the region has to offer.

Take a Ride on Hornblower Niagara Cruises: Get up close with the Falls at this unique attraction that takes you on an unforgettable journey. Hop aboard Hornblower Niagara Cruises as you sail down the Niagara Gorge all the way to the Horseshoe Falls. Choose from a day time or night time cruise with food available on the boat.

Take a Walk Through the Botanical Gardens: During the summer some of the most beautiful flowers are in full bloom in Niagara showcasing their incredible colours and scents. The Niagara Falls Botanical Gardens is a staple attraction and offers amazing scenery for a relaxing day away from the bustle of city life. Walk around the gardens, take photos and enjoy the natural scenery on a sunny day.

Hike along the Niagara Glen: Stay active during your visit to Niagara Falls by hiking along the Niagara Glen. See the trees and plants along the trails as well as the Canadian wildlife such as birds, squirrels, fish and many others. The paths overlook the Niagara River Whirlpool where you can be awed at the towering Niagara Escarpment and the Great Gorge.

Enjoy a Relaxing Round of Golf: Grab your clubs for a game of golf at one of the many championship courses in Niagara Falls. The golf courses in the region offer a unique view of the area and beautiful scenery to accompany your game. With several to choose from in Niagara Falls you don’t have to go far from your hotel to get in a game or two.

Bookmark and Share

The Screaming Tunnel: A Must for Ghost Hunters in Niagara

July 28th, 2014

SOTFblog5.jpegIn every small town, there is a place that local history — true or not — has turned into a place of mystery. There’s always that one spot — a long-abandoned building, an old graveyard, a clearing in the woods — that’s rumored to be haunted and where people go to either discover the truth for themselves or just be scared out of their wits.

In Niagara Falls, Ontario, that place is the Screaming Tunnel, located in the northwest corner of the city, off Warner Road. For decades, the tunnel has been the place where local teens prove their bravery and where ghost hunters visiting the Niagara Falls region attempt to see some paranormal activity live and in-person.

From Practicality to Paranormal

The Screaming Tunnel is often believed to be an abandoned railroad tunnel, but the 125-foot long tunnel was actually constructed to allow for drainage under what is now Canadian National Railways. The tunnel was constructed so that water could safely drain from the surrounding farmlands without washing out the train tracks and so that farmers, equipment and animals could pass safely under the tracks instead of over them and risk being hit by an oncoming train.

Today, though, there aren’t many local farmers leading cows and sheep through the tunnel, and most of the visitors come equipped with wooden matches, hoping to experience the phenomenon that gives the tunnel its name.

Local Legends

SOTFblog6According to local lore, in order to experience hear the screams that give the tunnel its name, you must walk halfway into the tunnel at night, without any lanterns, flashlights or other illumination. Once you’re in the middle of the tunnel, the legend says, you must light a single wooden match. When the flames go out, you’ll hear the sounds of a girl screaming from somewhere in the tunnel.

The identity of the screaming girl is unclear, as there are several versions of the story. In one version, the screams are those of a young girl who escaped a nearby farmhouse that had caught fire; her clothing was on fire and she ran into the tunnel to try to extinguish the flames, but died in the process. In another version, the girl is the daughter of a couple in the throes of a contentious divorce, and the father burned her in the tunnel to avoid losing custody. In the third, and arguably most disturbing version, the screams are those of a young girl who was attacked and killed in the tunnel and then burned to hide the evidence.

Regardless of local lore, there have never been any confirmed incidents of such crimes inside the tunnel, nor any identification of whom the screams could actually belong to. Nonetheless, the Screaming Tunnel continues to draw visitors from both the local area and ghost-obsessed tourists from around the world who want to try to hear the screams for themselves. Of course, the fact that scenes from the Stephen King film “The Dead Zone” were filmed here doesn’t hurt its popularity with tourists at all.

So what do you think? Will you brave The Screaming Tunnel on your next visit to Niagara Falls? If you do, make sure you don’t forget to bring a single wooden match — and maybe your running shoes.

Screaming Tunnel image by Russell Sturmey from Flickr Creative Commons

Bookmark and Share

Cast Your Line in Niagara Falls

July 21st, 2014

SOTF3.jpegIf there is one thing that Niagara Falls is known for, it’s water. And where there is water, there are usually fish — and Lake Ontario and the Niagara River is no exception. Most travelers come here to see the spectacular water, but if you’re an angler, you shouldn’t miss the many phenomenal fishing opportunities the area has to offer.

Local Species

By some accounts, the fishing in the Niagara region is some of the best in all of Ontario. The waters of Lake Ontario in Niagara Canada are home to a number of species of sport fish, including King and Coho salmon and several types of trout, including lake and rainbow. The Niagara River is a year round fishery for walleye, Steelhead, bass and musky. In short, whatever type of freshwater fish you’re angling for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.

Getting There

Even though avid anglers will argue that there is no such thing as a bad day of fishing, the easiest way to have a successful day of fishing in Niagara Falls is to hire an experienced guide to help you find the best fishing spots. In addition to getting to those “secret” locations where you’re more likely to finally land that trophy fish, a guide will offer more insights into the local area, sharing history, legends and information about where you are and what you’re seeing.

Most guide services will also outfit you with everything you need for a successful day out on the water, from rods and reels to bait, life jackets and licenses. Instead of packing all of your gear and searching for the perfect spot to drop a line, all you need to do is show up and your guide will do all the work to ensure you have a great day or afternoon on the water. Check with the Niagara River Anglers Association for guide recommendations, or ask the concierge at your hotel to recommend a fishing charter.

Local Laws and Regulations

SOTFblog4.jpegIn order to fish the waters of Ontario, you’ll need a valid Outdoors Card and fishing license. The Outdoors Card is a plastic wallet card that serves as an ID for anyone who wishes to hunt or fish in Canada. It is not a fishing license. You will need to purchase an additional license in order to fish; depending on how many you plan to catch and keep, you can purchase either a Sport Fishing License or a Conservation Fishing License for one, three or eight days. There are also one year and three-year license options. Licenses can be ordered online or purchased at Canadian Tire locations around Niagara Falls; if you’re working with a charter service, they can help you get your permits in order. You can also find out more about the various licenses and their costs and requirements from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry website.

Fishing the Niagara Falls region is a great way to enjoy some of the natural beauty of the area while getting away from some of the hustle and bustle for a while. You might even catch “the big one!”

Bookmark and Share