- Niagara River
Satellite image of the Niagara River. Flowing from Lake Erie in the south (bottom of image) to Lake Ontario in the north, the river passes around Grand Island before going over Niagara Falls, after which it narrows in the Niagara Gorge. Two hydropower reservoirs are visible just before the river widens after exiting the gorge. The Welland Canal is visible on the far left side of this image. (Source: NASA Visible Earth)
Origin Lake Erie Mouth Lake Ontario Basin countries United States & Canada Length 58 kilometres (36 mi) Avg. discharge 5,796 m³/s (204,800 cfs) Basin area 684,000 square kilometres (264,000 sq mi)
The Niagara River flows north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. It forms part of the border between the Province of Ontario in Canada and New York State in the United States. There are differing theories as to the origin of the name of the river. According to Iroquoian scholar Bruce Trigger, "Niagara" is derived from the name given to a branch of the locally residing native Neutral Confederacy, who are described as being called the "Niagagarega" people on several late 17th century French maps of the area. According to George R. Stewart, it comes from the name of an Iroquois town called "Ongniaahra", meaning "point of land cut in two".
The river, which is occasionally described as a strait, is about 56 kilometres (35 mi) long and includes Niagara Falls in its course. The falls have moved approximately 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) upstream from the Niagara Escarpment in the last 12,000 years, resulting in a gorge below the falls. Today, the diversion of the river for electrical generation has significantly reduced the rate of erosion.
Power plants on the river include the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Stations on the Canadian side, and the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant (built in 1961) on the American side. Together, they generate 4.4 gigawatts of electricity. The International Control Works, built in 1954, regulates the river flow. Ships on the Great Lakes use the Welland Canal, part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, on the Canadian side of the river, to bypass Niagara Falls.
The Niagara River also features two large islands and numerous smaller islands. Grand Island and Navy Island, the two largest islands, are on the American and Canadian sides of the river, respectively. Goat Island and the tiny Luna Island split Niagara Falls into its three sections, the Horseshoe, Bridal Veil, and American Falls. Squaw Island lies further upstream, alongside the city of Buffalo.
The Niagara River and its tributaries, Tonawanda Creek and the Welland River, formed part of the last section of the Erie Canal and Welland Canal. After leaving Lockport, New York, the Erie Canal proceeds southwest until it enters Tonawanda Creek. After entering the Niagara River, watercraft then proceed southward to the final lock, where a short section of the canal allows boats to avoid the turbulent shoal water at the river intake and enter Lake Erie.
The Welland Canals used the Welland River as a connection to the Niagara River south of the falls, allowing water traffic to safely re-enter the Niagara River and proceed to Lake Erie.
The Niagara River and Falls have been known outside of North America since the late 17th century, when Father Louis Hennepin, a French explorer, first witnessed them. He wrote about his travels in A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America (1698). 
The Niagara River was the site of the earliest recorded railway in America. It was an inclined wooden tramway built by John Montresor (1736-1799), a British military engineer, in 1764. Called "The Cradles" and "The Old Lewiston Incline," it featured loaded carts pulled up wooden rails by rope. It facilitated the movement of goods over the Niagara Escarpment in present-day Lewiston, New York.
Several battles occurred along the Niagara River, which was historically defended by Fort George (Canadian side) and Fort Niagara (American side) at the mouth of the river and Fort Erie (Canadian side) at the head of the river. These forts were important during the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. The Battle of Queenston Heights took place near the river in the War of 1812.
The river was an important route to liberation before the American Civil War, when many African-Americans escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad crossed it to find freedom in Canada. The Freedom Crossing Monument stands on the bank of the river in Lewiston, to commemorate the courage of the escaping slaves and the local volunteers who assisted them in secretly crossing the river.
On the Canadian side of the river the provincial agency Niagara Parks Commission maintains all of the shoreline property, except the sites of Fort George and Fort Erie (both National Historic Sites are maintained federally by Parks Canada), as a public greenspace and environmental heritage.
On the US side New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation maintains the state parks that line Falls and Niagara River.
Cities and settlements
Population centers along the Niagara River include:
Name Country Buffalo United States Chippawa Canada Fort Erie Canada Lewiston United States Grand Island United States Niagara Falls United States Niagara Falls Canada Niagara-on-the-Lake Canada North Tonawanda United States Porter United States Queenston Canada Tonawanda (City) United States Tonawanda (Town) United States Wheatfield United States Youngstown United States
The Niagara River is listed as a Great Lakes Areas of Concern in The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.
The Niagara River has a long history of both road and rail bridges spanning the river, both upstream and downstream of the Falls. This history includes numerous bridges that have fallen victim to the harsh conditions of the Niagara Gorge, such as landslides and icepacks.
The following parks are located along the Niagara River:
Name Country Beaver Island State Park United States Bowen Road Park Canada Broderick Park United States Browns Point Park Canada Buckhorn State Park United States Deveaux Woods State Park United States Dufferin Island Natural Area Canada Earl W. Brydes ArtPark United States Falkner Park United States Fisherman's Park United States Floral Clock Park Canada Fort Niagara State Park United States Gratwick Riverside Park United States Griffon Park United States Jayne Park United States Joseph Davis State Park United States King's Bridge Park Canada MacFarland Park Canada Niagara Falls State Park United States Niagara Glen Nature Reserve Canada Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens Canada Nike Base Park United States Queen's Parada Park & Memorial Park Canada Queenston Heights Park Canada Riverside Park United States Strawberry Island State Park United States Sugar Bowl Park Canada Veterans Memorial Park United States Victoria Park Canada Whirlpool State Park United States
A Niagara River Greenway Plan is in progress in the United States.
Waterways & Falls
Feature Country Notes American Falls United States Located entirely on the US side Bridal Veil Falls United States smallest of the three falls and entirely within the US Chippawa Channel Shared Niagara River to west of Grand Island Horseshoe Falls Canada Border lies within the falls Goat Island Channel United States between Goat Island and Niagara Falls, New York Niagara Gorge Shared runs from Niagara-on-the-Lake ON/Lewiston NY to the Falls Devil's Hole Rapids Shared located further downstream across from Devil's Hole State Park in the US and next to the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens in Canada Whirlpool Hole Rapids Shared located upstream from Whirlpool along the Niagara Gorge Niagara Whirlpool Canada located next to Whirlpools Golf Course and across from Whirlpool State Park Tonawanda Channel United States Niagara River to east of Grand Island Welland River Canada Flows from Hamilton, Ontario to the Niagara River near Niagara Falls, Ontario
Several islands are located on the upper river upriver from the falls:
Name Location Country Status Notes Buckhorn Island Grand Island United States park located on the north end of Grand Island Cayuga Island Niagara Falls United States residential at the mouth of Cayuga Creek, a residential neighborhood of the city Cedar Island Canada filled in filled in by the creation of the William Birch Rankine Power Station by Canadian Niagara Power Company in 1905 Deer Island United States Dufferin Islands Canada man made islands Goat Island United States park located at the brink of the American Falls was named by John Stedman in the 1770s; briefly renamed to Iris Island by General Augustus Porter, a United States Commissioner (after the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow) Grand Island United States developed the largest island on the river; some parks, but mostly residential and industrial; originally called Ga-We-Not (Great Island) by the Seneca Indians Grass Island United States filled in filled in during the 1960s to create the Robert Moses Parkway at Point Day Green Island United States renamed originally called Bath Island, it was renamed in the early 1900s for Niagara Reservation Commissioner Andrew H. Green Gull Island Canada Hogg Island Canada filled in filled in by the creation of the Chippawa Queenston Power Canal in 1917 and finally by the Sir Adam Beck Dam # 2 in 1950 by the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario Little Brother Island United States Luna Island Niagara Falls United States park located next to Goat Island; originally called Prospect Island Moss Islands United States renamed Three Sisters Islands Motor Island United States park a small park Navy Island Canada park designated as a national historic park Prospect Island United States renamed renamed Luna Island Robinson Island United States named for daredevil Joel Robinson in 1860 Ship Island & Brig Island United States Squaw Island Buffalo United States developed home to Broderick Park and a waste-water treatment facility Strawberry Island United States park a small park Three Sisters Islands Niagara Falls United States park park located next to Goat Island was originally called Moss Islands and later renamed for the three daughters of War of 1812 United States Army General Parkhurst Whitney (Asenath, Angeline and Celinda Eliza) in 1843 Tonawanda Island United States developed occupied by marina and some industries Tower Island United States man-made man-made island created in 1942 by the US Army Corps of Engineers Willow Island United States man-made / filled in man-made island created in 1759 by Daniel Joncairs and filled in during the 1960s to create the Robert Moses Parkway
Military Posts along the Niagara River
United States Coast Guard Fort Niagara Station was once a United States Army post. There are no Canadian Coast Guard posts along the river. Fort Mississauga, Fort George and Fort Erie are former British and Canadian military forts (last used 1953, 1965 and 1923 respectively) and are now now parks.
On the Canadian side the Niagara Parkway travels along the River from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.
Robert Moses State Parkway on the state side only travels along the River from the Falls to Lake Ontario. The remaining river sections (with some interruptions) are covered by the LaSalle Expressway, New York State Route 384 and Interstate 190 (New York).
- ^ a b "Facts & Figures - Niagara Parks, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada" (online). http://www.niagaraparks.com/nfgg/geology.php. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- ^ Water Resources Data New York Water Year 2003, Volume 3: Western New York, USGS
- ^ Bruce Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic (McGill-Queen's University Press, Kingston and Montreal,1987, ISBN 0-7735-0626-8), pgs.95.
- ^ Stewart, George R. (1967) Names on the Land. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company; pg. 83.
- ^ Mobot.org
- ^ Hennepin, Louis. A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1903. Accessed December 8, 2008.
- ^ Porter, Peter (1914). Landmarks of the Niagara Frontier. The Author.
- ^ Electricity and its Development at Niagara Falls. University at Buffalo, June 2004. Accessed December 8, 2008.
- Tiplin, Albert H.; Seibel, George A. and Seibel, Olive M. (1988) Our romantic Niagara: a geological history of the river and the falls Niagara Falls Heritage Foundation, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, ISBN 0969045727
- Hulbert, A. B. (1908). The Niagara River. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
- List of international border rivers
- List of New York rivers
- List of Ontario rivers
- Whirlpool Aero Car
- Niagara Photos
- Niagara River and its Around Views
- Views of the Niagara River Niagara Falls Public Library (Ont.)
- Digital Images of the Islands of the Niagara River Niagara Falls Public Library (Ont.)
- Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper
- Niagara Falls The Islands A History of the Niagara River Islands
- Niagara River from The Canadian Encyclopedia
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