Gazetteer of New York, 1860 & 1861 page 450
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30 mi., the river descends 334 feet, the difference of level between the two lakes. Above Schlosser
and below Lewiston the current of the river is not very rapid, and the descent is trifling, so that
nearly the whole fall is condensed into a space of about 8 mi. The plateau in which the basin
of Lake Erie is situated extends to the mountain ridge at Lewiston, the summit of the ridge being
34 feet higher than Lake Erie. The river originally must have flowed over the face of this preci¬
pice, at which time Niagara Falls were 7 mi. below their present position. By the wearing away
of the rocks the falls have gradually receded, becoming lower at each period of their progress, and
leaving a deep, rocky channel, with ragged and precipitous banks 200 feet high, to mark their
course and attest their power.1 At the present time the falls are at the abrupt angle where the
river changes from a w. to a
n. course, and the water is precipitated in part over the front or ex¬
tremity of the chasm and in part over the side, the two parts of the fall being at nearly right
angles to each other. Goat Island, having an area of about 70 acres, lies between the two falls, its
w. edge being a continuation of the precipice over which the water flows.2 The principal fall at
the head of the chasm on the w. side is known as the Canadian or Horse Shoe Fall,3 and the fall
k. of Goat Island as the American Fall. The Canadian Fall is 2000 feet wide and 154 feet high,
and the American Fall 900 feet wide and 163 feet high; and it is estimated that 100 million tons
of water flow over the two falls every hour. A mi. above the edge of the falls a series of rapids
commences, the water descending 60 feet before taking the final plunge.4 From the foot of the
cataract the river flows about 2 mi. in a comparatively still current, but from that point to Lewiston
it is compressed within narrow banks, and flows through the tortuous, rocky channel in a perfectly
tumultuous and resistless torrent. The immense body of water in Niagara gives to the falls, and
to the rapids both above and below, a grandeur scarcely equaled by any other of nature’s works.
Here one of the largest rivers in the world, forming the outlet of the great internal fresh water seas
of North America, plunges down the shelving rapids and leaps into the profound chasm below, and
then whirls and struggles with an apparently almost irresistible force in its rocky channel for 7
mi., and at last emerges from its mountain barrier and spreads out into the calm and peaceful
waters of Ontario. Scenes of surpassing sublimity and grandeur open upon the view at every
point, and pilgrims from every part of the world flock hither to offer their devotions at one of the
great shrines of universal nature.

Tonawanda Creek forms the greater part of the s. boundary of the co. Along its course are a
series of extensive marshes known as the Tonawanda Swamp.5 The other principal streams are

4 Numerous improvements have been made to afford facili¬
ties to visitors. A staircase constructed at the
n. extremity
of the American Fall, some years since, w-as burnt and re¬
built in 1858; another, upon Goat Island, was built in 1829, and
called the Biddle Staircase; and another near Table Rock, upon
the Canada shore, by which visitors can descend to the bottom
of the precipice. A row boat ferry crosses the river from the
foot of the American Staircase, and a carriage road extends up
the bank on the Canadian side. A little w. of Goat Island, in
the midst of the rapids near the edge of the precipice, a stone
tower 45 ft. high was constructed, in 1833, to afford a more ex¬
tensive view of the falls. The
“Maid of the Mist,” a small
steamer, makes trips upon the river from her dock, a little above
Suspension Bridge, into the foam and mist just below the Cana¬
dian Fall. The awful majesty of this cataract is seen to great
advantage in the winter season, when the spray settling upon
all objects in the vicinity covers them with a glittering crust
of ice. The rocks below become loaded with immense masses;
and in extremely cold winters the river belovr gets blocked in
so as to form a natural bridge, over which people venture to cross
to the Canada shore and even up to the island. In the winter
of 1841-42 the river w-as passable for several months, and a
small house was built near the center for the sale of refresh¬
ments. The ice was estimated to be 100 ft. thick. A year seldom
passes without several fatal accidents happening at these falls,
and an enumeration of those udio have been drawn into the
rapids, or who have slipped from the precipice and been mangled
upon the rocks below, w-ould form a long and mournful cata-
logue. In 1827 the Michigan, a condemned schooner, was sent
over the falls, with several animals on board, in the presence
of 15,000 spectators. She mostly went to pieces in the rapids.
In 1829 the schooner Superior, and in 1841 the ship Detroit,
were towed into the rapids, but the former lodged several days,
and the latter was permanently grounded upon the rocks in the

6 This swamp could be drained if the State dam at the mouth
of Tonawanda Creek wTas removed; and this only is needed to
convert the tract into the most productive region in the co. As
the land is cleared, it becomes sufficiently dry for agricultural
purposes. The muck and marl which abound in the swamp,
and the limestone and gypsum which underlie it, are all sources
of great agricultural wealth.


The precipice over which the water flows is composed of
solid, compact limestone, with shale above and below. The
wearing away of the shale above has formed the rapids, and
the disintegration of that below has left the limestone in over¬
hanging masses until they break off with their own weight.
The dip of the rock is toward the s.; and as the falls recede the
surface of the limestone will come nearer and nearer the present
bottom of the fall, until, at a distance of 4 mi. farther back, it
will entirely disappear, and, the soft shales wearing away irre¬
gularly, the river will at some distant period of the future fall
in a series of rapids.


Luna Island lies upon the precipice N. of Goat Island, and is
separated from it by a stream 65 feet wide, which forms a dis¬
tinct fall. Beneath the shelving rock over which this small
cataract flows is a recess of 30 feet, known as the Cave of the
Winds. Three small islands lying near the head of Goat Island
are called the Three Sisters. Bath Island lies between Goat
Island and the American shore, about 50 rods above the falls.
A bridge extends from the American shore to Bath Island, and
another thence to Goat Island. The first bridge was built in
1817; but the next spring it was swept away by the ice. The
one built in 1818, and rebuilt in 1839, was replaced by the pre¬


sent iron bridge in 1857. The cribs were sunk in the rapids
from the end of a long platform projecting from the shore and
heavily loaded with stone to keep it firm. As one crib was sunk
and filled with stone, the platform was pushed forward and
another sunk at its extremity; and so on to the island. Before
the bridge was built, access to the island was attended with
great peril, and very few persons had attempted it. It was done
by shooting down in boats from above, a strong rope being
fastened to the shore, by which the boat in returning was swung
back. It is related that the first white person who visited the
island was Israel Putnam, in 1755, while on a campaign against
Port Niagara
.—Dwight s Travels, IV, 88. The Indians appear to
have crossed occasionally, and traces of their graves are still
seen. On the 23d of Feb. 1811, Augustus Porter applied for the
purchase of the island, upon which to keep sheep, and alleged


in his petition that the wolves that infested the settlement ren¬


dered this business next to impossible without some asylum


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