I went to a place that I never was in the Niagara Gorge the other day. I have been to many places that are a little dicey for safety, but this area is mostly visited by diehard fishermen. So if you can’t get to a far off location this Labor Day, take a virtual vacation to Niagara Falls.
I had my husband, a fisherman, take me to the Lower River, where I have been before, but not all the way down the 40 foot incline to the river banks. It is an area with huge rocks and rock slides. It is an area where plants grow right out of the boulders.
Let’s start the journey on a nature trail in Whirlpool State Park. The scenery changes as you take this hike, from sunny spots with meadows, to forested areas with deep canopy. The trail changes as well, from easy to navigate to difficult to traverse.
Many paths are off the main trail, and some border on dangerous. It really is a nature lover’s paradise, but one not for the faint of heart.
This is a view you see from the top of the gorge looking out over the Niagara River. The water is both blue and green.
The shore is lined with huge boulders millions of years in the making when nature cut the gorge into the landscape and formed the river 4,500 years ago. I have written on the history of our area quite a few times and if you are interested in this history check out the post, Tag Along Thursday, Devil’s Hole State Park.
This is a path that I have taken many times and is a good place to see hawks and vultures. About one-third down this trail is bends in the path, like above, where you can stop and see hawks do a flyby. Or you can zoom across the river and catch them in the trees or luckily, in the tree tops above.
f8 1/320 ISO 125 Should have been a faster shutter speed and higher ISO.
These images were taken on a previous late winter visit. All you have to do it look up, way up. You also have to look out across the river for the most part. Occasionally, one will fly out over your head, but then it is usually too late to capture a shot. They are very shy and fly off if they sense you even looking in their direction. But none were flying on this trip.
f5.6 1/250 sec ISO125
The stairs look easy to navigate, but rock slides and erosion have made some areas most difficult. The stairs, which start at the gorge top trail, bring you, after a long walk down, to about forty feet above the river to a dirt and tree covered trail. Then you descend from there again. It is a long hike and being in shape is a must. See my hike down in winter in the link in this post. I only made it about three-quarters of the way down. You can see the effects of expansion and contraction on the stairs in that post.
This is where we are headed, and this view is still not at the river’s edge, but rather, the trail above. Very few clearings to the water are open through the trees, this being one.
This is one of the paths that run off the main trail, and an easy one to hike. I did not photograph the side trails we used to access the river as they were hard to descend.
Here we are at the river, and I am perched on a high rock that I had to climb.
My husband is climbing the said rock.
Safely on my rock, I photograph what I believe are cormorants. They are very large. You can see how big in the image on the rock with the gulls. They are big gulls too.
The jet boat above runs the rapids filled with tourists. This is how most tourists will ever get to see the Lower River. Not that many venture the trails to river’s edge that I have ever seen. The fishermen and naturalists do not like the jet boat, I bet you can guess why.
The fisherman below left before the boat started running. You can see how the sportsman is perched high on a rock. We were on the next rock downstream after my husband checked out how difficult it was to climb. This guy had a better rock, one further out into the water. My husband was going to ask him if I could go onto his rock to take photos, but not wanting to disturb him, I chose another rock instead.
Notice above, trees are growing in the rocks. And below, all the greenery growing from mere cracks in the rock surface.
We are at the river’s edge. The algae covered rocks are very slippery. While we were down here, the power authority increased the flow of the water going over the Falls. What this does is make the water much more turbulent and raises the height of the river. We got stuck on our rock and would have had to wade in three feet of fast-moving water in order to get back had my husband not known where alternate trails were located. See the tall pointy rock in the distance? That is where we were when the tide rose.
We climbed over huge rocks you can barely see behind the pointy rock to get back to dry land. This high tide happens really quickly too. The fishermen always pack up and go before it happens. My husband said they let the water out earlier than usual, but me thinks he just was not watching the time. The fisherman I photographed was packing up when we started our trek to the pointy rock.
Here is a pebbly beach that is actually a pretty nice area, but one that gets filled with water when the water flow is increased. We were gone from here when that happened.
It is like walking into a storybook setting when taking this darkened trail.
Can you imagine the actual Falls before it was a tourist trap? I think I would have loved to see it then. It would have been more similar to this area.
Rocks sporting a garden.
The husband climbs a huge set of rocks, the aforementioned pointy rock is to his left.
Notice here the rock to the right. It is taller than the surrounding trees. I was unable to get back far enough to see from top to bottom, even at 55mm.
Ferns growing from this rock’s side.
You can see how turbulent the water is at this portion of the river.
Yours truly got down to the water, but not in it, on this one. The rapids are much rougher than I can show. The jet boat image is the closest to reality above. These smaller rapids are near shore.
f22 1/20 sec ISO 100, taken from a tripod.
And of course, the scene above is what the tourists see all the time. The one below of the mini falls, seen not as much. I shot these images last week.
When you get down to the Niagara River, it is a most amazing sight. Almost all the river images were taken from various rocks I climbed that are out in the river. One rock leads to the next until you are out as far as you can go.
I went down early morning, but a little too late (9am) for the lighting contrast. I was in shade most of the places and looking out into the sunny spots, so the images are not as good as I would have liked. I really needed a tripod, like I had above, but it would have been almost impossible to carry it in this rugged terrain. You cannot image how big these rocks are from my images. I took a few images to try to show the scale. I had on a telephoto lens and should have had the 18-135mm lens because my main hope was to catch the hawks in flight. I did not even see one.
Coming up, a travel post on two other NYS parks, Letchworth and Allegheny. I am not sure when I will be posting them as we will be going on these trips as reconnaissance missions, scouting out the best locations for fall photos. I will have more from the Niagara Gorge also. It is the actual whirlpool which is how the park got its name.