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Photo of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Tourism in Niagara Falls Ontario

When the Palaeo Indians witnessed the birth of the Falls almost 12,000 years ago, they could not have forseen how this landscape would turn into one of the most iconic Canadian vacation destination.  The formation of the falls occurred back in the Ace age where the melting of ice released large torrents of water draining into the Niagara River.  The water from the newly formed great lakes carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment en route to the Atlantic Ocean.

Oblivious of things to come the Iroquois culture came face to face with European explorers and missionaries that arrived at the beginning of the 17th century.  However, there are reports that the first eyewitness description dates back to 1604 by explorer Samuel de Champlain. In 1762 Captain Thomas Davies, British Army Officer and artist surveyed and painted the first watercolour. 

Over the next several decades many settled in the Niagara Region from the Northern United States.  There was a significant amount of United Empire Loyalists (loyal to Britain but had settled in the new world) that felt pressured to move out of the United States once they found themselves with opposing political views regarding the relationship with Britain and maritime rights.  at the same time taking over Upper Canada (Niagara Region).

During this time 3 distinct communities developed in Niagara Falls, the first was called Drummondville and was located near Main, Ferry and Lundy’s Lane.  The second was Clifton that was located on Victoria Avenue, Bender and what is known as Clifton Hill today.  The third was called Elgin and was located by Bridge Street.  This community developed due to the building of a Suspension bridge that ran across the Niagara River connecting Canada to the United States.  The bridge opened in 1848 and was followed by a rail line coupled with the development of 3 hydroelectric power plant that provided abundant cheap electricity, this area began to boom.  Unprecedented growth caused the three areas to amalgamate to become the City of Niagara Falls in 1904.

Commercialization took on a life of it’s own and in the early 19th century people were travelling to Niagara Falls because of the booming industrial development as well as it’s new identity as a vacation destination.  The Falls and the Niagara gorge attracted ‘stunters’ and dare devils who would do tight rope acts along the river or challenge the mighty falls by trying to survive going over the falls in a barrel.  A popular attraction called the Burning Spring brought people from all over to see this unusual attraction. 

The Burning Springs was one of Niagara Falls’ first attraction.  It was originally discovered in 1790 during an excavation project but over time the owners of the land found that this was a lucrative way to make money.  The phenomenon of gas bubbling up through the water was eventually encased into a barrel which was enclosed into a building.  Tourists were initially charged 12 cents a visit to walk into the building and watch the attraction host light a match that caused the trapped gas to burn. 

Meanwhile the conservation of the land along the Niagara River and the Falls itself became a political concern.  It was decided to preserve this area before it became over run with industrial facilities.  So in 1885 the Niagara Parks act was passed, and a commission was formed (Niagara Parks Commission).  The property around the area was expropriated and many buildings were demolished.  The Park officially opened on May 24th, 1888 and named after Queen Victoria.  Over the next few years the Niagara Parks Commission acquired more land until so that it now covers 3,274 acres that extend the entire length of the Niagara River.

As automobile travel increased Niagara Falls became a compelling getaway destination and had also become known as the Honeymoon capital of the world.  Thousands of visitors eventually turned into millions, the 21st century sees 12 million plus visitors every year. 

Tourism in Niagara Falls continues to grow as new hotels, attractions and restaurants develop and expand for this natural world wonder.

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