If someone comes to visit Ontario for one day from halfway around the world, there’s a good chance Niagara Falls will be on the whirlwind tour menu.
Canadians are, truth be told, a bit smug about Niagara Falls. See, we Canadians have the Horseshoe Falls. The big impressive one. The Americans have, well, those other falls on the south side.
While I visit the Niagara Region and its wine country frequently, I hadn’t been to the falls themselves in years. The streets surrounding the river are lined with chotchke tourism outlets with inflated prices and seems spoiled, somehow, too carnival and crass. But this day I had a business meeting in Niagara and it wrapped in early afternoon, so I took a walk starting at a point just before the river cascades over the horseshoe. Most of the tourism concessions had shut down: it was November and the crowd was sparse, although the day was balmy.
The Niagara River, which tumbles over the Falls, is the connection between two great lakes: Erie and Ontario. There are around 500 waterfalls taller than this one in the world; but its shape and volume make it one of Canada’s signature scenes.
Walking along the Falls is something you experience with many senses: the sight; the sound of the pounding water; the smell of water and plants comingled with concession-stand popcorn and hot dogs; the feel and touch of the ever-present mist thrown up as water slams into water and rock, creating the canvas for a rainbow on any sunny day. So pervasive is that rainbow – something we usually experience as fleeting ephemera – that the structure linking Niagara Falls Canada, on the north side, to Niagara Falls New York, on the south side, is named the Rainbow Bridge.
For a moment, I was a child again, memories misting over me: first seeing this with my parents; school trips with an obligatory Niagara Falls stop. For a moment, only a seagull shared my view. For a moment, the rainbow still shimmered until the shadows of the fall afternoon blanketed the mist.
Photo: Kelley Teahen