When heading to Canada in June 2012, one thing that was definitely on my hit-list was a trip to the spectacular Niagara Falls. And at the top of what to do once we got there: a trip on the world famous Maid of the Mist.
If you’ve seen ‘Bruce Almighty’, the Maid of the Mist with its recognisable plastic ponchos is bound to ring a bell! For me though, the chance to get that up close and personal with such a force of nature was one not to miss. A boat ride unlike any other, the round trip takes you as close as it can to the three waterfalls – the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls – which together form the Niagara Falls. As North America’s oldest tourist attraction, it’s a much safer way to experience the Falls than the barrelled approach!
The Maid of the Mist was first launched in the 1840s as a ferry crossing between Canada and America. However, with the introduction of the first bridge to connect the two countries, the Maid turned itself into a tourist attraction which has been a success ever since. Royalty and celebrities such as Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbechev and Brad Pitt have all taken a trip! Operating from late April/early May (weather dependent) to 24 October each year, the Maid departs every 15 minutes so you never have to wait long.
Once you have queued and donned your bright blue poncho, it’s time to board. A top tip: everyone rushes for the top deck, but you might be happy down below as this can prove a bit of a blessing if the spray coming off the Falls all gets a bit too much. Believe me, there were times that I could barely see the person standing less than 2ft away from me, or could hardly open my eyes!
Nothing quite prepares you for the roar of rushing water as you approach the Canadian Falls in particular. If you want to take pictures – and if you can, you definitely should – bring a waterproof camera. Mine came particularly in useful!
The day that my partner and I visited, was the day before Nik Wallenda’s tightrope crossing of the Falls in summer 2012. Because of this, if you look closely my photographs of the occasion, a tightrope can often be seen cutting across the top of the image!
When I had the pleasure of sailing on the Maid of the Mist, a ticket from the Canadian departure point cost $19.75, and the whole trip took around 30 minutes to complete.
The chance to get so close to the Falls, and to feel the rush of water on your face from the intense spray was an amazing experience that is also family friendly for all ages. Just try to avoid why I did – wearing mascara and having a water drenched face is not a good mix!
Sadly, this month it has been announced that the Maid of the Mist has lost the operating rights for the boat tours which will be awarded to Hornblower Canada from spring 2014. I am sure however though the same thrill will be felt by all taking part.
To close, I wanted to share with you some interesting facts that I learned about Niagara Falls in the hope you might also find them fascinating:
- On a day to day basis, it’s hard to believe but the amount of water passing over the Falls varies, with two hydroelectric plants which draw water into their reservoirs prior to the Falls. This generates a massive amount of energy split between Canada and the USA. The plant’s intake greatly affects the volume of water flowing!
- Less than 10 per cent of the water flowing over the Falls comes from the American Falls; the rest passes over the Horseshoe Falls.
- Niagara Falls has moved back seven miles in 12,500 years and may be the fastest moving waterfalls in the world. Currently, it still moves back by around 6ft every year.
- At the current rate of erosion, scientists believe that the Niagara Falls will be gone in around 50,000 years. This should still give you enough time to see them though!