The old power station on the Canadian side offers a new front view of one of nature’s great spectacles very close to the city of Toronto
Niagara Falls is one of nature’s great spectacles and one of the most accessible waterfalls of colossal dimensions on the planet. It is also a major tourist destination and, as such, has natural attractions and a leisure offer that is being renewed little by little. And the latest addition, truly majestic and providing a different perspective from which to admire them, is the tunnel that runs through them, simply called The Tunnel, inside the Niagara Parks power station.
Compared to the Victoria Falls in Africa or the Iguazu Falls in South America, Niagara Falls is neither the largest nor the most voluminous. Their drop is only 51 metres, but they are so wide and sweeping that their roar and enveloping effect – sometimes drenching onlookers – are truly magical. Its most famous sight is the horseshoe-shaped Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, on the same side as The Tunnel. Marlyn Monroe, Superman… thanks to Hollywood, every generation has an image of Niagara Falls. Here’s how to discover them.
The short Niagara River, a mere 56 kilometres long, serves as the border between the United States and Canada, and in fact joins two of North America’s great lakes, flowing from the Erie to the Ontario, on whose banks lies the city of Toronto, Canada’s most cosmopolitan and populous city. The famous waterfalls are about 140 kilometres from Toronto, about two hours by car. On the US side, it’s about a seven-hour drive or a one-hour flight to Buffalo. The falls are actually three waterfalls, the Horseshoe Falls in Canada, and on the US side, two vertiginous falls, the Bridal Veil and the American.
The 670-metre-long tunnel was opened to visitors in 2022 and includes a privileged viewpoint, facing the horseshoe waterfall, but close enough for the steam to soak the walkway. A mackintosh is a must! In a short time it has become one of the attractions of this part of the falls. The tunnel has not been dug on purpose. On the contrary. It has existed for more than a century, but it was used for hydroelectric infrastructure, which harnessed the power of water to generate electricity. In fact, the eight-metre high and six-metre wide tunnel was where the water returned to the river once it had turned the turbine blades. The visit explains how the installation worked and the generator room has been restored to give a complete view of what it was like.
The good thing about walking through the tunnel, with a blaze of light and a roar at the end, is that it helps you understand that you are in a unique environment among mighty waters and makes you aware of the experience of reaching the balcony that shows the fall in all its splendour: more than water, it looks like foam from the force with which it rushes and the explosion is incessant. The adventure begins in a glassed-in lift that descends through the underground floors and helps you understand the magnitude of the natural site and the power station. To visit, go to the Niagara Parks Power Station entrance. Admission costs from 28 Canadian dollars (about 19 euros), more if you want the guided tour. Journey behind the Falls also takes you to the base through a series of tunnels, but at the end you come out beside the falls, closer and louder than at Power Station, but without the head-on view.
♦ Tickets and opening times: here
In addition to discovering the tunnel, any visit to Niagara Falls should also include some of the usual attractions and activities. On the Canadian side, the most recommended is the Maid in the Midst boat ride, named after the most famous legend of the Neuter Indians who inhabited the area before the arrival of Europeans. The boat provides the most immersive experience to the point that there is a moment when it feels like the choppy waters are about to engulf you. Needless to say, you’re going to get chilled to the bone, so it’s best to take precautions. It’s worth it, really. Without leaving Canada, the Skylon Tower, a skyscraper climb for an aerial perspective of the falls, and the Zipline, the zip line, complement the adrenaline rush. There’s also the Clifton Hill entertainment and dining area.
The American side
It is often debated whether it is better to visit the falls from Canadian or American soil. In truth, the best thing to do is not to choose, but to do both. However, bear in mind that they are two different countries, so make sure you plan ahead for any border formalities. In the US, for example, you must have applied for an ESTA permit, and in Canada, the equivalent, called eTA. On both sides there are breathtaking views and adrenalin-pumping experiences. The American side also offers a tour on another Maid of the Mist boat, which moves between the two waterfalls in its territory. That area has an extensive network of trails and stairs with a guaranteed soak (Cave of the Winds) and you can even access the viewpoint on Goat Island, at the top between the two waterfalls, a dizzying adventure. You’ll also find the observation tower, a two-storey lookout point (Prospect Point), opposite the falls.
Canada’s most populous city is one of those cities that deserves to be visited once in a lifetime. In fact, it has been showing the future of the world’s mixed and diverse communities for decades. A leisurely stroll through the neighbourhoods is highly recommended. For example, in Chinatown you’ll feel like you’re in China and you’ll be hard pressed to find a sign in English. The city’s main attractions are the Canadian Tower, once the tallest telecommunications tower in the world with a viewing platform, Toronto Island Park -nothing to envy to New York’s Central Park-, St. Lawrence Market and the impressive ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), which was renovated in 2002 with a deconstructivist structure by architect Daniel Libeskind. In the outskirts of the city, the Casa Loma castle and the cruise ship that crosses the 1,000 islands of Lake Ontario stand out. And close to the falls, one of the hidden gems, the charming village of Niagara on the lake, a far cry from the tourist bustle of Clifton Hill.
♦ More information here
You may have the idea in your head that visiting a big waterfall is a wilderness adventure, with long walks and some sacrifices. Not so with Niagara Falls, which you can see after parking your car in a car park. They are next to towns and close to big cities, but they never disappoint. It is not for nothing that they are one of the great honeymoon destinations for North Americans. They exude romance and beauty in spades. And the new tunnel on the Canadian side is an added incentive to savour the power of nature at all times of the year, although in winter you run the risk of the falls… freezing over.