Niagara Facts and Figures

The Niagara River

  • The Niagara River flows north about 58 kilometres and is a connecting channel between two Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.
  • The Great Lakes is the largest surface freshwater system in the world, meaning about one-third of the world’s freshwater goes over Niagara Falls.
  • The elevation between the two lakes is about 99 metres, half of this occurs at the Falls themselves.
  • The deepest section of the Niagara River is just below the Falls. At 52 metres deep, it is equal the height of the Falls.
  • At Grand Island, the Niagara River divides into the west channel, known as the Canadian or Chippawa Channel, and the east channel, known as the American or Tonawanda Channel. The west channel carries approximately 60% of the total river flow.
  • The Niagara River’s vibrant green colour comes from the dissolved salts and “rock flour” picked up primarily from the limestone bed but probably also from the shale and sandstone under the limestone cap at the falls. An estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute.

Niagara Falls

  • Niagara Falls is approximately 12,000 years old.
  • The falls were formed when melting glacier waters flowing from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and carved out a river in their descent. The river passed over the steep Niagara escarpment and began to erode its way back, leaving behind the what is known today as the Niagara Gorge. Niagara Falls erodes back approximately 1 foot/year.
  • More than 168,000 cubic metres of water goes over the crestline of the Falls every minute during peak daytime tourist hours.
  • Niagara Falls is 57 metres tall.
  • The crest line of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls is approximately 670 metres wide.
  • The crest line of the American Falls is approximately 260 metres wide.
  • The rapids above the Falls reach a maximum speed of 40 km/hr, with the fastest speeds occur at the Falls themselves at 109 km/hr.
  • The foam that formed in the basin below Niagara Falls is a natural result of tons of water plummeting into the depths below. The foam’s brown colour comes from clay, which contains suspended particles of decayed vegetative matter.
  • Niagara Falls is made up of three waterfalls: the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
  • The word Niagara comes from the First Nations word “Onguiaahra”. Many believe “Onguiaahra” means “Thunder of Waters” and was used to describe the beauty and power that is Niagara Falls.

The Niagara Whirlpool

  • The huge volume of water rushing from the Falls is crushed into the narrow Great Gorge, creating the Whirlpool Rapids that stretch for 1.6 kilometres.
  • The whirlpool is a basin with depths up to 38 metres. This is the elbow, where the river makes a sharp right-angled turn and continues flowing towards Lake Ontario.
  • In the whirlpool, you can see the “reversal phenomenon.” When the Niagara River is at full flow, the waters travel over the rapids and enter the pool, then travel counter-clockwise around the pool past the natural outlet. Pressure builds up when the water tries to cut across itself to reach the outlet and this pressure forces the water under the incoming stream.
  • If the water flow is low (water is diverted for hydroelectric purposes after 10 p.m. each night) the reversal does not take place; the water merely moves clockwise through the pool and passes to the outlet.

Information on Niagara Parks

Since its establishment in 1885, Niagara Parks has remained a self-financed agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, entrusted to preserve and protect the land surrounding Niagara Falls and the Niagara River.

Niagara Parks offers visitors the opportunity to authentically experience and interpret the 56 kilometre Niagara River corridor through our sprawling parkland, natural attractions, locally-sourced culinary offerings, celebrated golf courses and restored heritage sites.