It’s a sure sign of summer for Niagara’s emergency workers.
Calls for high-angle rescues of hikers or tourists come in just about every week. There were two in one day in St. Catharines during a recent weekend.
Some are mundane — a lost hiker who needs some direction and help up a steep slope. Others are dramatic, such as the high-flying rescue in Niagara Falls in May where a Niagara Parks Police officer was suspended from a helicopter above the Niagara River while helping an injured man in the water.
“When they are off trail, it’s a naturally hazardous situation,” said Niagara Parks Police Insp. Paul Forcier.
Crews in Niagara Falls are hard at work getting the Maid of the Mist ready for the winter.
The tour boat company must remove its vessels from the lower Niagara River before the water freezes over. But before that can happen, a giant crane from Germany has to be assembled and then lowered 200 feet into the gorge.
The crane will be used to hoist the boats out of the water and into the dry dock beginning in November. Once on land, maintenance crews will work on the boats through the off-season.
After 167 years, one of Niagara Falls’ most iconic attractions is sailing into the Canadian sunset.
The Maid of the Mist is concluding its tour-boat excursions on this side of the Niagara River for the final time Thursday. The Maid has been around since 1846 and has been owned by the Glynn family since 1971.
Hornblower Niagara Cruises will operate on the Canadian side of the gorge starting next spring.
I’ve lived in the Niagara Region for most of my life and have worked in Niagara Falls for 12+ years. After all that time, one thing I had never done was take a helicopter ride around Niagara Falls. Last week I had the opportunity to do just that, and it was awesome!
Our trip started on Victoria Avenue right across the street from the Great Wolf Lodge. This is where the “Heli-Hafen Terminal” is that is run by Niagara Helicopters. On the day we were there, helicopters were coming and going every few minutes, so we got a good look at them taking off and landing.
Once you go inside, there is a ticket counter, and then a nice little gift shop. My wife and kids went to the restrooms first, and said they were clean and bright. Once they were back down in the gift shop, we were ready to go.
There is a video playing on a couple of screens as you walk up towards the helicopter, but we weren’t given a chance to watch them. I’m not sure if they were just promotional videos, or if they were for safety. There is also someone there taking some pictures of you that you look at after you land.
The helicopters are Bell 407 models. Apparently they are the quietest model of that size of helicopter, but they were still pretty loud. It didn’t hurt at all, but they were just loud. Two of my children covered their ears. Once you get loaded into the helicopter, the attendants give you some headphones to put on. They do a great job in cutting down on the noise, and also play an audio tour as you fly.
The ride is open to people of all ages and each helicopter can seat up to six people. There are five seats in the back, and there is a seat next to the pilot. My wife and three children accompanied me. Four of us sat in the back and my middle child sat in the front with the pilot.
Taking off was significantly different than in a plane. There seems to be all sorts of preparation that happens in a plane. You are then going down the runway and finally take off. In the helicopter, one second you are on the ground, and the next second you are up in the air. It was quite quick!
The tour lasts about 15 minutes and takes you up the Niagara River and flies you over the Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. You also get a good look at the various tourist districts (including Clifton Hill), as well as the hydro generating facilities on both sides of the border.
The view is spectacular! We were lucky enough to go on a bright, clear day and you could see a long way off in the distance. The Falls looked great. There are other ways to see the Falls (Skylon Tower, Niagara SkyWheel, etc), but there is no better way to see the whole river like that. The Autumn/Fall colours were on full display in the gorge and they looked beautiful. My kids were a little disappointed that the helicopter didn’t fly lower into the gorge, but it is obvious that they don’t do that sort of stuff for safety reasons.
The ride itself is remarkably smooth, especially as you are moving. As the helicopter hovers in a spot so you can get a nice view, you can feel the helicopter vibrating/shaking a lot more. My wife was not keen on going up in the helicopter as she is kind of afraid of heights, but she enjoyed the ride and only grabbed my leg a couple of times. The kids weren’t bothered by it at all.
After landing, you are directed into a small room where they show you the pictures they took of you. The pictures are $25 each and are cheaper if you buy a few pictures together.
If you watch the video that I’ve put together below, my 5-year-old daughter says it all. The last second of the video is us landing, and my daughter enthusiastically says, “That was fun!” My sons said the same thing. My 8-year-old son said, “It was wicked! I want to do that every day for the rest of my life!” That son sat in the front and thought he was a “mini co-pilot”.
The ride truly is a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. It is definitely not cheap (the tickets are $82-$132), but there are always deals around. I’ve seen Groupon-type deals, deals with hotels, and more, so be sure to ask around before paying full price. Even then, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with the experience.
I took lots of pictures. As always, you can see some of the thumbnails below. You can see all of the thumbnails and all of the larger size images in the Niagara Helicopters in Fall 2012 gallery.
Note: The Niagara Falls Image Gallery now has 3,590 images in 272 categories.
I also recorded some video clips and I’ve put them together into a 2 minute HD video. You can view it below or directly on YouTube. As I noted on the video description, I apologize for some of the unsteady camera work. There were some parts of the ride that were shakier than others, and the more zoomed in I was with the camera, the more noticeable the shaking was.
New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey on Tuesday outlined a three-part plan to ensure that Niagara Falls State Park offers a welcoming and attractive visitor experience that matches the natural beauty of the Niagara River falls and gorge.
“Governor Cuomo’s administration is fully committed to revitalizing New York’s economy, and Niagara Falls State Park is a critical part of the economic future of Western New York,” Harvey said. “The facilities at Niagara Falls State Park need to match the expectations of 8 million visitors coming from around the globe each year to see the iconic falls. State Parks staff takes great pride in the park and we will dedicate ourselves to improving and enhancing the facilities that complement the falls.”
On this, the 150th anniversary of the day Bill Evans’ great-great-grandfather surprised people by steering the Maid of the Mist through the wild rapids in the gorge below Niagara Falls, the old captain’s fame has faded.
While Evans is not sure how the man he grew up hearing about at the Sunday dinner table affected his life, he’s proud of the family history that local buffs want to keep alive: the amazing feat by Joel R. Robinson, the man known as the “Hero of the Rapids.”
“He was fearless, in a sense,” Evans, 66, said of his ancestor. “It was just like this Evel Knievel kind of thing. For the money, they were willing to risk their lives to do that for their families. That’s about all I can say. It’s amazing that they got through it.”
A Philadelphia TV reporter called Niagara Falls a great option for parents in need of a good getaway destination for their families.
David Murphy with WPVI brought his family to Niagara County recently. He recommended to travelers coming from the east to utilize Route 18 to get to Niagara Falls: “The final miles into the falls area are especially exciting using this approach, because the road south from the Great Lake (Lake Ontario) parallels the gorge cut by the falls before they receded back to their current position.”