Correction to This Article
A headline and caption in the Sept. 18 Travel section incorrectly implied that two photographs of Niagara Falls depicted the U.S. and Canadian sides of the falls. Both photos showed the Canadian side.

Niagara Brawl: Canada vs. New York

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By Peter Mandel
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wondering how the New York and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls measure up? Here's our report card.

1. Falls and Views

Even the famous walls of water have a split personality. Both Canada's huge Horseshoe Falls and the smaller American Falls (which includes wispy Bridal Veil) make mist. Both pound rocks with falling fish and everyday explosive sound. But though equally tall -- each drops the Niagara River about 170 feet -- almost 90 percent of the total water volume flows over the wider Canadian end.

Asked if this statistic makes her slightly jealous, New York state park ranger Jess Alarie says no. "What's water volume," asks Alarie, "when you're around so much beauty? We think you can get closer to the falls on our side. There's a saying that on the Canadian side you see the falls, on the U.S. side you feel them."

Walkways and viewing stations on both sides let you get right up to the edge and feel plenty of spray, but it's clear: The better panoramic views are owned by Canada. Over there, you've got the entire sweep of the falls (including the American Falls, which is hard to see from the U.S. side) and a long parklike pathway to work on catching the light just right for a rainbow down below.

Visitors Doug and Marty Willsie of Durham, Ontario, believe the comparison is a no-brainer. "Who has the better view?" says Doug. "Unless you cross over, you Americans can't see your own falls, can you?"


Canadian side: A+

American side: B

2. Water-Related Fun

Up for a whirlpool jet boat ride through churning rapids near the falls? Both sides offer this adventure (splash gear and footwear provided) along with helicopter flights and the old but still cool Maid of the Mist boat trip that takes you right into the rinse cycle at the bottom of Horseshoe Falls.

But when it comes to falls-based activities, one key Canada-vs.-United States difference is this: Getting behind -- and under -- the tumbling water means choosing between the American Cave of the Winds attraction and the Journey Behind the Falls experience on the other shore.

Plan on taking Canada's Journey? Bring your miner's helmet and lamp. It's a long way down into this muskrat's warren of dim, drippy tunnels behind Horseshoe Falls. Plus there's a claustrophobic wait in a line that snakes down stairwells and through interior rooms. An outdoor platform next to the falls is hurricane-force fun, but unless you like gray mist, skip the portals that are supposed to let you "look" behind the falls. A rain poncho is provided, but I needed Paddington-style galoshes in all the puddles.

As for "Cave of the Winds," a big plus is that you're issued not just a poncho but also non-slip sandals that you can keep as a souvenir. On the other hand, sorry to be picky, but well, where's the cave? No one tells you these things, but the namesake of this attraction collapsed in 1920. What's left is a series of boardwalks and stairways at the base of Bridal Veil, including a next-to-the-falls wet deck where you can take a powerful shower.

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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