Niagara Falls Gorge – Little Seen Area

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.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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29 Responses to Niagara Falls Gorge – Little Seen Area

  1. These are LOVELY! Would that I was there!

  2. Karen says:

    Beautiful! It makes me want to revisit your area and see the non-touristy stuff. Maybe on my way to Quebec next year….

  3. When I was a kid and lived in NY we used to climb on rocks that seemed to be many stories high….it was a lot of fun. Your outing along the gorge reminds me of that. Ours were up the mountain, not over rapids and falls. That pointy rock photo is pretty darn amazing. Thanks for sharing your hike with us.

  4. Andrea says:

    OMG Donna, those places are so dangerous, and i was holding my breath while looking at them and reading. I’ve had a few adventures on big ravine rocks when still a child but of course not as huge (huuuuuge) as what you showed. But the adventurous in me also wants to explore it, and am envious with your privileges. It really is so different because you are a resident there, you are also blessed to have that husband, haha! You are very much complimentary and also the same.

    I think I’ve seen most of the unknown crevices of Niagara areas, not seen by others eyes, through you, so thank you very much. Knowing you in this blog is also a privilege, thanks God. :-))

  5. Ogee says:

    You make me miss the east!

  6. Incredible place, Donna! Storybook setting, indeed. I’ll have to keep it in mind when I get over to Niagara Falls one of these days. Might be a good autumn roadtrip…

  7. Nicole says:

    I really enjoyed following you on this journey! Your pictures are breath taking! So glad you made it down safely but wow was it worth it! I hope you are framing some of those pics for your home!!! I would!!!

  8. I love the rock gardens! Never looked at Niagara this way…you changed the scene in my head! Thanks.

  9. Hello. Your pictures are lovely. I have been to the falls twice in my life when I was a kid, in the 70’s. My moms side of the family live in the city of Niagara Falls and so in the summers we would go and visit. In all my life I have never been to a more beautiful, majestic place on earth. Your photos are breathtaking of the the lower gorge. Thank you for posting them and allowing me to take a virtual trip.

  10. Victor Ho says:

    Nice story. Even for your husband, a man, his backside is not the best view.

  11. Sunita says:

    Absolutely mind-blowing! it was such a progression from those beautiful paths to that wildly tumultous water. Beautiful!

  12. Barbie says:

    Oh my word! How amazing it must be to live so close to running water and forests and fishing and nature. A lovely place!

  13. Nature at its most beautiful, most rugged best. I thought of you specifically, Donna, when I created my caption for today (Thurs.): http://thedailygraff.com/2012/08/30/the-blueprint-was-on-flypaper/ You made me think “out of the (stereotypical) box.”

  14. odex1987 says:

    wooooow… wonderfull pic..
    really,, really like it

  15. You gave us a great tour, and the photos are spectacular! I’ve got to get out there soon.

  16. You do live in a beautiful area. We have rivers in Michigan, but they are slow moving. Rocks, water, and cliffs are quite a stunning combination. http://mary-goingnative.blogspot.com/ I can’t link to my blog from wordpress blogs so I’m including my link here.

  17. HolleyGarden says:

    What a natural wonderland! And yes, it looks like it could be quite dangerous. I kept thinking that non-slippery shoes would be so very important! And bringing along a buddy, too.

  18. b-a-g says:

    I haven’t been blogging for a while, so glad I didn’t miss this post. It’s a bit like an Indiana Jones movie – action, romance and stunning scenery.

  19. Looks like you went out on a limb to take some great shots, i’ve never seen the Falls before thanks for the tour.

  20. gardenerat60 says:

    This is God’s gift to humankind. Pristine and unspoiled. Hope it remains so.
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful places with such lovely captures. It makes me want to see them again and again.

  21. Jennifer says:

    It is fantastic that you were able to take us along and were able to venture so close to those turbulent waters, Donna. The gigantic rocks are amazing! I bet you got quite the workout climbing over and around them.

  22. Les says:

    Except for a few shots of a man (your husband) and a few man-made things, it would indeed be easy to imagine this place while it was still wild. Thanks for the mini virtual vacation.

  23. I have explored areas of the Niagara River but not this area… just gorgeous Donna. I used to climb all around the Old Forge area in the Adirondack and this reminds me of the hills and mountains, vistas and lakes…

  24. Brian Comeau says:

    That does look like an amazing spot and I really like the first and last images.

  25. Looks like beautiful country – and I love that first photo with all those lavender tones.

  26. Shirley says:

    Fascinating! Your photos are beautiful and it’s amazing how close you were able to get to that wild water and slippery rocks. The plants in the rocks are also amazing.

  27. Paradise for fishermen (when the boat isn’t running) and adventurous nature lovers, but certainly not for the faint hearted. So many opportunities to get hurt – or stranded! Thanks for the tour Donna, it is the closest I will ever get. Wonderful to see how tenacious nature is, reminds me a little of the cliffs above the beach around here.

  28. beautiful photos Donna thanks for taking us along, I do know how big those rocks are as on the Canadian side there is a tourist walk along by the river, it’s a safe walkway but you see close up the rocks and river, also as you have to walk down it didn’t have too many tourists when I was there, Frances

  29. Thank you for sharing, looks like a wonderful place to visit.

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