Niagara Falls is the honeymoon destination for over 50,000 couples a year. Niagara Falls is the birthplace of the world’s first hydroelectric power station. Niagara Falls formed about 12,000 years ago from retreating glaciers.
But none of that mattered to my family and me (well, except for the glacier part) as we scrambled for survival because we journeyed to this mighty force of nature in the dead of winter. In Ontario, Canada to visit family, we took a detour to the landmark to snap some photos, and little did we realize what was in store.
The thermometer rested below freezing as thrashing winds whipped spray from the falls and pierced our skin like glass shrapnel while we stood at the railing. Conversing was out of the question as the roaring waters, sounding like a thousand stampeding horses, obliterated all nearby sounds. Nearly two-inch-thick white ice laminated everything from the cliff side vegetation to the concrete path leading from the sensible, heated visitor center where we purchased flimsy ponchos meant to keep us dry—-fat chance! Thick icicles hung like stalactites off everything. Walking proved little easier than skating in quicksand. And, though I’m sure it was my imagination, my brain felt like it was frosting over.
A winter wonderland? It felt more like a narrow escape from a Ted Williams cryogenic treatment.
Once my toes, fingers, nose, and brain thawed out, I was able to appreciate just how beautiful and enchanting these falls straddling two countries really are. The Canadian side offers a panoramic vista of all three falls—the American, Bridal Veil and Canadian Horseshoe Falls—-not available from the American viewpoint.
Even in the middle of January, Niagara Falls is a smorgasbord for (most of) the senses. The swirling water at the base of the falls was a brilliant turquoise and the 20-story-high cascades—-one million cubic feet of water goes over every second of every day, providing one-fifth of the world’s entire supply of fresh water—more than lived up to what Native Americans called "Onguiaahra" or "Thundering Waters." I wouldn’t describe hanging out at the falls this time of year as romantic (I’m sure taking advantage of one of the many nearby hotel rooms would have been another story), but our frostbitten adventure was worth every challenging second. We made sure to depart before wearing out our welcome with Mother Nature.
To more than 14 million annual visitors, Niagara Falls is an unforgettable display of wonder and discovery. It’s a place I won’t hesitate to visit again—-no matter the time of year.