Niagara Falls (American Side), On The Cheap

5/27/14 Tuesday in Lockport, NY (Niagara Lazy Lakes-ROD)

Warning:  this is a long post with lots of photos.

Someone told us that Niagara Falls State Park (the first and oldest formed 1885) Visitor Center Parking was free. Wrong. All New York State Parks have a parking fee. Once paid for, your receipt is good for any and all NY St Parks for that day. Here the fee is $10. Once we found that out we turned around and parked at this loud, trashy, American Capitalism-at-its-worst building’s parking lot for $5 [all day]. Note this was not only the first State Park, it became the example that the others followed.


This building is right across the street from where you enter the Niagara Falls St. Pk. Parking Lot. The $5 parking lot is on Rainbow Blvd. You can get here by following Rt 104 or the Robert Moses Parkway both of which go right to the Niagara Falls Parking Lot #1. Of course, don’t turn off at the Rainbow Bridge unless you want to go into Canada. We checked inside the building later (lunch time) to find out that they charge about the same as the Top Of The Falls Restaurant for lunch. The “discounted” experiences of the Falls they provide cost $69/person. They bus you with a group and their package only includes “Maid of the Mist” and “Cave of the Winds” compared to the 5 experiences that you get with the “Discovery Pass” from the Niagara Falls St Park Visitor Center for $36/person. There are some others they mention but you can enjoy those for free. Purchasing the Discovery Pass gives you “Maid of the Mist”, “Cave of the Winds”, “Niagara Gorge Discovery Center”, “Aquarium of Niagara” and “Niagara: Legends of Adventure Movie”. It also includes all day transportation on the Trolley. Because this was a scouting day for us, we are saving those experiences for tomorrow. We did buy our wrist band for the trolley today ($2/person) because it saves a lot of time and walking. Warning: it’s not a smooth ride. The good news is you get a little history along the way.

This is a park after all, one that the other state parks were fashioned after too, so you can simply enjoy the beauty, bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds. Thus 2 adults can enjoy the whole day there for $9.

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Amish on the way to see the Falls. There is construction like this all over the place.




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Overall image of American Niagara Falls (Names over each feature)

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Photos taken from Prospect Point (of American Falls)

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From here the trolley takes you to Goat Island where you first see a statue of Nikola Tesla – invented Alternating Current. His inventions were incorporated into the Niagara Power Station in 1896-the beginning of “the revolutionary march of electronic energy”. Wonder how Goat Island got its name? Back in the 1800’s a man moved his livestock onto this island to keep them safe from wolves and the like. Unfortunately he couldn’t visit the Island often enough to care for them and all of his animals died except for one goat.

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After the 3rd Power plant was crushed by falling stone, the Robert Moses Power Plant was built in 1961, taking advantage of the greater drop of elevation in the gorge, producing an average of 13 billion kilowatts of power per hour.

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This is also the place [of Tesla statue] where you go down an elevator shaft built by hand, so as not to crack the rock, to the bottom of the falls. It’s called “Cave of the Winds” because in the early years you could walk into the rock behind the falling water but the ledge above had become unstable so they blasted it, so you just get to walk up in the midst of the “Thundering Water”, as the Indians called the Falls”

From this point as well you can see Luna Island. People could walk there from here but now that access has been blocked off for remedial construction. It lies between the American Falls (farther) and Bridal Falls (closer). It was named in the 19th century for the beautiful rainbows created by the glow of the lunar light at night. They’re no longer visible today because of the decreased flow of water (to create the mist) and additional artificial light. It was once covered with white cedar trees which survived the harsh winter conditions. In the summer cedar waxwings and bald eagles nested in them. Through the years the trees have disappeared due to natural erosion and human activity. It was closed in 1954-55 to remove a rock overhang, then again in 1970-72 to stabilize the area. Sadly, it’s closed now as well.

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Photos taken from Terrapin Point, our next stop.   This is of Horseshoe Falls:

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This is of American Falls.  Notice the rocks as the bottom? Find the seagull flying there? See the Rainbow Bridge that goes into Canada (also pedestrian)? Find the Observation Tower?

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Top of the Falls Restaurant (at Terrapin Point) and view from where we ate. We highly recommend it. I had the “Horseshoe Burger” and John had the “Bridal Burger”. We should have split one burger ($13.95 ea). They must be ½ lb. Per New York law the meat is cooked to medium well yet it was just as juicy and flavorful as you could wish. Simply excellent food, service and experience. Very reasonable prices.

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Next on our trolley’s path are the “Three Sisters” – 3 islands named after 3 daughters of the man who owned them. This is a beautiful area, well worth a visit.

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Between Terrapin Point and when we leave Goat Island is the Diversionary Bridge – built by Canada, now an International Bridge that is used to shut off the flow at night, directing the water to the power plants that will power New York the next day.

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This is a beautiful area of the American Rapids. We spent our last hour or so just sitting on a bench in the shade soaking up the sounds and visuals. This water is flowing from 4 of the Great Lakes into this area, then the narrow gorge at the Falls.

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Trivia, for those (like John) who enjoy such things:

Trivia 1 Trivia 2 Trivia 3 Trivia 4 Trivia 5

We were pretty tired by 4:30 pm when we left yet we still needed to gas the car. John had found a place with prices $.20/gallon lower on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation.


Next we got groceries and finally got home just in time for a big thunder storm. It was pouring hard when we parked so we waited for it to back off a bit, then I decided to make a break for it, unlocking the rig. We got the groceries in and it really was pouring hard again. Whew!

Instead of the big supper we’d planned, since we were tired and full, we just had grilled tuna sandwiches. Ah, bedtime.

Oh yes, we found out that you can park FREE at the Aquarium (701 Whirlpool Street, Niagara Falls, NY 13301). They had lots of empty spaces. Then you can walk on the overpass over the road to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center (which is closed until this Saturday so we couldn’t see it today) and catch the trolley. They’ll let you buy your tickets at the next trolley stop that has a ticket booth. It’s not in as close walking distance as our $5 lot, but it’s fairly close via the trolley and overpass walk.

About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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