Niagara Falls State Park

Welcome to Goat Island

Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S.. The 400 plus acre park was established in 1885. I spent an entire afternoon exploring its trails and taking in the sights and sounds of The Falls.

Niagara Falls from the American side

Compared with last autumn, when I was on the other bank with the Curator & Brazil Lucas, the crowds this week were at a minimum. From the looks of things, May 1 is the date that things open up. The lower trails were still closed off, and few, if any attractions/facilities were open.

Statue dedicated to Nikola Tesla

In 1896, Nikola Tesla sent AC power, generated at The Falls, to Buffalo for the first time, proving to the world that it could be done. Previously, the DC power generated at The Falls could only be transmitted 100 yards.

Canadian Goose enjoying lunch at The Falls

It was a beautiful day to be out walking the trails. There is a trolley that runs through the park. You can get on and off as many times as you need during a day for $3. Not a bad price when you consider that a horse drawn carriage ride around The Falls in 1895 cost $1/hour.

Waterfall leading up to Three Sisters Islands

There is a pedestrian bridge and a vehicle bridge over to Goat Island. There are actually several islands at this end of the park, with foot bridges connecting them all. Some nice views of both sides of The Falls can be had from the island, with the Niagara River surrounding you.

Niagara from Goat Island

Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, before it flows into Lake Ontario. 75,750 gallons of water a second goes over American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, and another 681,750 gallons per second over Horseshoe Falls.

It will take 50,000 years, due to erosion, for Niagara Falls to cease to exist.

Friars have landed

It’s Hockey Day in Buffalo. The Providence Friars take on the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in game one.

In the nightcap, the Denver Pioneers play the UMASS Minutemen.

Drop the puck.

Niagara Aquarium

I spent some time out at the aquarium in Niagara. I arrived just in time to see the sea lions. I’m not a big fan of “seal acts”, but at least these sea lions are not eligible to be put back into the wild. For various reasons, these animals would not make it on their own in the natural world. Some were found as abandoned pups, and others were found injured from run-ins with boats.

California Sea Lion

Australian Spotted Jelly

Lion Fish: These fish have a lifespan of 15 years, and are an invasive species in North America

Clown Fish

Juvenile Lake Sturgeon: The sturgeons at the aquarium are all hatchery raised, and will be released into Lake Ontario once they are strong enough.

Axolotl: There are no axolotls left in the wild. All habitat has been destroyed by humans. Also known as a “Mexican Walking Fish, the axolotl is not a fish at all, but an amphibian.

Harbor & gray seals

Niagara River Gorge

Niagara River Gorge

I finally broke free, stretched my legs a bit, and ventured out to the lower Niagara River Gorge. After brew pubs, and Ted’s Hot Dogs, I needed to wear off some calories.

The Whirlpool on the Niagara River

I stopped by Devil’s Hole State Park, which historically, was an important portage around The Falls & rapids of the Niagara River. A 6.4 mile trail loops between Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Park. The trail runs the rim of the gorge, overlooking the river, but another route runs along the river’s bank. I did the two trails in a loop. To get to the trail along the riverbank, one has to venture down a series of rock stairs. I’m not sure when they were built, but the park was formed in 1924, and they look original to the park. Not that I’m complaining, the more rustic the better, in my opinion.

At any given time, only 25-50% of the water that should be flowing through the gorge and over the falls, actually does so. The rest is syphoned off for hydroelectric power. The romantic in me would love to see The Falls and The Gorge with full power. Just for a day. Or two…

Therefore choose life…

Attu Island; Photo credit: CBS News

60 Minutes, the news program on CBS, did a great story on Attu Island this past Sunday.

Screen shot of 60 Minutes Attu story

I’m not sure which surprised me more: The fact that I even caught the story as I travel about the Niagara area, or the fact that broadcast television did a story on Attu at all.

Anti-aircraft gun on Attu today

The episode, on an all but forgotten battle of WWII ,at a far corner of the globe, is well worth the 20 minutes to watch. Sorry, no spoilers.

Fort Niagara

The French Castle

I headed out to Old Fort Niagara, which is located on a point, overlooking the Niagara River, at its mouth with Lake Ontario. Two “forts” preceded it, although neither lasted much over a year. Built by the French to protect their interests in North America, The French Castle is the oldest structure in the complex, having been built in 1726. The local native population tolerated its construction, because the building looks more like a grand home, than a fortification, which is exactly what was intended.

The layout of Fort Niagara

The fort played a significant role in the French and Indian War. During the Battle of Fort Niagara, the British lay siege to the fort for 19 days in July of 1759. The French commander, Francois Pouchot, surrendered to the British commander, Sir William Johnson, after learning expected reinforcements were massacred en route. Johnson, the leader of the New York militia, had taken over the British command when General John Prideaux stepped in front of a mortar test firing, and lost his head.

Battle of La Belle-Famille; painting of the siege of Fort Niagara

The fort would remain in British hands for the next 37 years. During the American Revolution, British Loyalists used Fort Niagara as a base, and protection from the Continental Army.

South Redoubt

Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the revolution, but was not occupied by American forces until 1796, after the signing of the Jay Treaty.

With the War of 1812, Fort Niagara once again saw hostilities. The fort’s guns were able to sink the Provincial Schooner, Seneca, but British forces would go on to capture the fort in 1813.

Fort Niagara’s flag, with 15 Stars, from the War of 1812

When the fort was captured by the British, the U.S. flag flying over the fort, was taken as a trophy of war. Eventually, it was laid at the feet of the Prince Regent in London, who would go on to be King George IV. The flag was promptly given back to the British commander of Canadian forces, Major General Sir Gordon Drummond. It remained on display in a hallway in his home for decades. The flag was damaged by a fire in 1969, and somehow forced into a washing machine for cleaning. Considering the size of the flag, 12 feet, six inches by 27 feet 3 inches, that must have been some washing machine.

Eventually, the flag was purchased by the Old Fort Niagara Association for $150,000, which paid for a new roof on the Drummond ancestral castle. It is now displayed in a climate controlled environment in the visitor center, which was renovated from a 1939 U.S. Army warehouse.

First floor of the French Castle

Fort Niagara was reenforced on the river and lake shore during the Civil War, mainly out of concern that the British may intervene on behalf of the Confederates. It continued to see action in one form or another throughout the world’s ensuing conflicts. Men were trained here for both World Wars, and a prisoner of war camp, with 1200 German soldiers captured in North Africa, was located nearby during WWII.

The Army officially deactivated the fort in 1963. Although, the U.S. Coast Guard still operates The Bottoms, making Fort Niagara one of the longest continuously operated military bases in the United States: 1726-present.

I had a great time out at Old Fort Niagara. The visitor center houses a decent museum, in addition to the 1812 flag. There is a short film on the importance of the area, and how the fort was originally built to protect the portage around Niagara Falls. There was also a musket demonstration out in the field. I hear there are reenactments that take place every year around July 4, with approximately 500 participants.

Monument commemorating the Rush – Bagot Treaty, 1934

Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park

USS Croaker and USS Little Rock

It’s time for the Frozen Foursome+ to meet up, and take in some championship hockey. This year’s title game is in Buffalo, New York. I arrived a bit early, to take in the western New York sites.

One of my first stops, was at The Naval and Military Park in Buffalo, which opened in June 1979. At their dock, they have the USS Croaker, USS The Sullivans, and the USS Little Rock.

USS Little Rock and USS The Sullivans

USS The Sullivans was launched out of San Francisco in April 1943.

USS Juneau

The five Sullivan brothers enlisted in the Navy and served together on the light cruiser, USS Juneau. While fighting off the coast of Guadalcanal, the five brothers died, along with 700 of their shipmates, when a Japanese submarine sank the Juneau.

The shamrock on The Sullivans forward stack

President Roosevelt ordered that one of the new destroyers under construction be named after the Sullivan brothers. It was the first Navy destroyer to be named after more than one person.

USS The Sullivans sailed into WWII with 14 crewmembers named Sullivan. The Sullivans fought in the Marshalls, Carolines, Marianas, and the Philippines. She never lost a man in battle, and went on to serve in the Korean War and the Cuban Blockade.

The Sullivans arrived in Buffalo in 1977, and was designated a national historic landmark in 1986. In 1997, the name The Sullivans was passed onto a new class of destroyer carrying the heritage forward.

USS Little Rock

The USS Little Rock, a Cleveland class, light cruiser, was launched in August 1944. She was decommissioned in 1949. In January 1957, the Little Rock entered the Philadelphia Naval Yard for a conversion to a guided missile cruiser. In June 1960, she was recommissioned and re-entered service.

Missile track on board the Little Rock

The Little Rock saw service throughout the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. She was decommissioned for a final time in November 1976. The Little Rock name was passed onto a new class of ship, the littoral combat ship.

Control room on board the USS Croaker

The submarine, the USS Croaker, was launched in December of 1943. The Croaker made six WWII patrols, sinking 11 Japanese vessels, including the light cruiser, Nagara. She received three battle stars for her service.

Torpedo and tube on board USS Croaker

The Croaker was recommissioned under the Hunter/Killer program in 1953. Deployments were made to the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean until 1968. From 1968 to 1971, the Croaker served as a Naval Reserve trainer. In 1988, the USS Croaker arrived in Buffalo. It has been placed on the National & New York State registers of historic places.