Post-feast, Elly and I take in Niagara-on-the-Lake, whose stone houses and wrought-iron street lamps dripping with petunias are a welcome contrast to the mayhem surrounding the falls. Our room at Harbour House Hotel has a fireplace, river view, another whirlpool—and homemade cookies that I have no qualms about devouring, since tomorrow we’re cycling the river path to the Horseshoe Falls and back.
Dew is still in the air, and other guests snug in their featherbeds, when we head out. The path is mostly flat, and we pedal to the old British stronghold Fort George, passing the cherry trees and pink roses of the Botanical Gardens. We reach the Spanish Aero Car at 10:00. Boarding the red gondola with only one other family (the tour buses have yet to arrive), we cross the churning river, suspended from cables stretching from bank to bank. The 10-minute joyride is quite tame, but it’s just a short pedal to White Water Walk, where Lois Lane jumped into the rapids to prove Clark Kent really was Superman.
The Rainbow Carillon is a set of 55 tuned bells hung in the tower at the Canadian end of the Rainbow Bridge; the largest bell weighs 10 tons.
We coast into Victoria Park at noon as the bells play “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” By now the promenade across from the falls is teeming with tourists—in shorts, saris, burkas—all of them pointing and posing for the quintessential photo op. We lock up the bikes and elbow our way to the brink of the Horseshoe. Though we don’t seem as close to the water as we were on the American side, we get wet. We’re wetter still after taking an elevator six stories down to the Journey Behind the Falls, an opening right in back of the coursing water. From an outdoor platform we—and our fellow gawkers—get a profile view of the falls. Then, craving the calm of our little town, we mount our getaway bikes. With the escarpment dipping slightly in our favor, we make the return trip quickly, though we can’t resist stopping at a farm stand for sun-warmed peaches, and at the McFarland House for finger sandwiches and tea.
As much as three-quarters of the water from the Niagara River is diverted to American and Canadian power plants before it even reaches the falls.
On our fifth day, we make a remarkable discovery: at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant four and a half miles from the main cataract, we learn that this and a Canadian plant across the river siphon off water for inexpensive hydroelectric power. In effect, we’ve been looking at Samson after a haircut.
So how rampant could the river be?On our last morning in Niagara, we join the ranks of daredevils, signing up for the Whirlpool Jet ride, featured on The Amazing Race. We board a turbo-powered boat that takes off at 50 miles an hour, heading for Class Five rapids. What Elly and I do not know is that we’re sitting in the section dubbed OH.MY.GOD. With no windshield to screen us when the boat does a 360-degree wheelie in 12-foot waves, we look up, see a swimming pool’s worth of water about to crash on our heads, and scream: OMG. Our immersion is complete.
Hadas Dembo is a writer and photographer who lives in New York. Her book, Through the Viewing Glass (Simon & Schuster), is about taking pictures of children.