Falling for Niagara

  Story and Photos by Ronald Jones

Among the world’s major waterfalls, Niagara Falls is one of the most spectacular and accessible. It’s also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations—a trend started by Jerome Bonaparte (brother to Napoleon), who took his blushing American bride there in 1803.

But more important, Niagara Falls is a great destination for RVers. Located on the Canada–U.S. border just north of Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls is easy to get to for any size RV, and there are plenty of nearby campgrounds, both public and private. The falls themselves are located on the Niagara waterway between two of the Great Lakes, where Lake Erie flows north into Lake Ontario. And because the falls are angled toward our northern neighbor, the Canadians definitely have the best view.

Everything here is named after the falls. You’ll find a Niagara Falls, New York, across from Niagara Falls, Ontario, with the real Niagara Falls cascading in between. If you’re surfing the Internet for travel information, you need to be creative with your search terms.

Crossing Over
Border crossing into Canada is fairly easy for U.S. citizens in an RV. Each adult must have two pieces of photo identification or a birth certificate and one photo ID. Starting in 2008, U.S. travelers to Canada must have a passport or another secure, accepted document to re-enter the United States.

One point of entry is the Rainbow Bridge, a main border crossing that spans the Niagara River Gorge just below the falls. As with all popular crossings, congestion happens. On weekends during summer, there’ll likely be a wait.

A second crossing, the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, is about 25 miles south. Crossing the Peace Bridge allows you to take the Queen Elizabeth Highway (called the QEW) or the scenic Niagara River Parkway to the falls.

About five miles north of the falls, you can cross the Queenston–Lewiston Bridge. Then drive to the falls on the Niagara River Parkway along the Niagara Gorge—a spectacular drive.

Numerous places invite you to pull off the parkway, but many won’t accommodate larger RVs. This course is best enjoyed in your tow vehicle or dinghy after you park the rig.

Viewing the Falls
Plan to park your RV and drive your car or tow vehicle or use public transportation into Niagara Falls, Ontario. There you’ll find Queen Victoria Park, a beautifully manicured public oasis that just happens to have its own spectacular waterfall nearby.
Situated on a rock cliff, Victoria Park is a wonderful place to view the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You can safely walk close to the water here and view Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. This closeness allows you to experience the power of the water as it plunges over the precipice.

Victoria Park becomes congested with sightseers during tourist season, and it’s best to view it on foot. Buses also are available to help you get around. If you don’t mind walking a hill, there’s usually ample parking near the Skylon Tower.

Plan to stroll through the park more than once. Early morning and late afternoon will guarantee you a rainbow from the mists. After dark, colored spotlights illuminate the falls.

Crossing the park away from the falls, you can browse through restaurants, shops, arcades and tourist attractions. We always search for local restaurants, and Dad’s Cafe was recommended for lunch.

Dad’s is definitely not a tourist stop, and we found a seat among the lunch crowd of workingmen and women. Here we discovered peameal sandwiches, which are boneless pork loins that are sweet-pickle cured—also known as Canadian bacon—rolled in a golden corn-meal coating. Tender and juicy peameal bacon is lower in fat and salt and higher in protein than conventional bacon.

Different Perspectives
For two of the best views of the falls, visit Skylon Tower and sail the Maid of the Mist. Skylon Tower rises 775 feet and contains an observation deck and rotating dining room—a spectacular top-down view with a wonderful meal. Try it at sunset.

The Maid of the Mist takes you very close to Horseshoe Falls for a bottom-up view. Four boats sail simultaneously, and you can board from either the Canadian or the American side for the tour. Tour organizers even provide a poncho to help you stay dry. Put your camera inside a sealable plastic bag, and it’ll stay dry, too.

Journey Behind the Falls is a series of tunnels and an observation platform near the bottom of Horseshoe Falls (take the elevator from the street-level entrance). Two tunnels run behind the waterfall, and from this vantage point you’ll see the water loudly falling in front of the open cave entrances. There’s plenty of spray, so be sure to wear the raincoat given to you by tour organizers.

From the U.S. side, walkways in Prospect Park and an observation tower provide views of the American Falls. The Cave of the Winds trail takes you down about 300 steps to a point beneath Bridal Veil Falls.

The Whirlpool Aero Car offers an aerial view of Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls, New York, although the cable is suspended between two Canadian points. The cable car crosses the Canadian and American borders four times on one trip. The whirlpool results from the rapids entering a tight bend in the river, forcing the rushing water into a whirlpool-like spin.

For RVers, Niagara Falls is a spectacular summer destination, though you’ll enjoy smaller crowds and good weather in May and September. Plan to spend a few days and don’t forget to sample a peameal sandwich.

Article originally appeared in June 2007 Highways