Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Hiking the Niagara Falls Whirlpool Basin

Whipped into an aqua frenzy, the Niagara River flows north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, passing over one of the world's most famous falls before it hits a 90 degree bend. The abrupt change of direction, coupled with an ancient river bed that was loosely filled with rocks and sediment, carved out the Niagara Whirlpool Basin.
The Aero Car makes the journey over the river
Remaining as one of the most under-commercialized of Niagara Falls many attractions, the gorge is crossed by the Whirlpool Aero Car which traverses the 540m span on six metal cables and at its lowest height is 61m above the fast flowing river. Several upgrades have taken place on the Aero Car system since beginning service in the year 1916. I found it interesting that the car crosses the U.S. border twice as it goes across in each direction.
I have taken the Aero Car several times in the past, but more often I stop at the lookouts to see the rapids and the many whirlpools that form in the water far below. Lately I have noticed some people down at the waters edge and I thought they were brave people that had found a dangerous way through the steep forest canyon. It is a popular location for local fishermen For a long time that was apparently true, but some years ago hard working individuals fashioned some wooden stairs that led down the initial almost vertical drop off the Niagara Parkway near Whirlpool Road. After the series of stairs, the mud and rock path on the canyon floor continues down to the river, crossing two small pedestrian bridges that wind over a small creek. After making the trip on two separate days I can confirm that the going down is a heck of a lot easier than the coming back up. On wet days or in winter the route would be best left alone.
Walking down to the middle of the Whirlpool Basin, you can continue following a meandering trail downstream along the gorge that takes you under the concrete platform and Thompsons Point lookout at the far end of the Aero Car, around the bend and along the Niagara Glen Trails. You can also wave across the river to the Americans that are enjoying nature in the same manner.
Great exercise, great views and a chance to do something that many millions of others don't. Take a welcome break in nature and enjoy something different in Niagara Falls.

Looking down into the basin
The trail at the top of the gorge that originates near the Whirlpool Restaurant parking area
Aero Car cables
Part of the path passes by a collapsing escarpment cliff with water from a small creek flowing over the edge
At the bottom of Thompsons Point
Water escaping the basin
Snakes catch some rays along the way
Looking towards the bend on the American side
Further upstream is the famous falls

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