The Development of the Gorge
The mouth of the Niagara River lies in the Queenston-Lewiston area, where the water jumps over rocks, creating whitewater peaks throughout, along 7 miles to the lower river before heading into Niagara Falls.
Approximately 12.500 years ago, the gorge began to form as the waterfalls eroded the rock below. The water flowed over the rocks, continually digging away at the ground under and around it, to form what is known as the Niagara Gorge.
The gorge houses many escarpments, showing the layers of the decades gone by, giving one the sense of the numbers of years involved in making the gorge what it is today. Many creatures of long ago lie beneath the layers of stonewalls that line the five discernable sections of the gorge. Visitors claim each section has a separate feel and look.
The Upper Great Gorge is closest to the falls. At nearly 365 meters, or 1200 feet, it is the home of the world famous Maid of the Mist ship, that navigates the waters to give visitors a closer look at the explosive Niagara Falls.
The Whirlpool Rapid Gorge area combines the river and gorge creations together, whisking water into a 90 degree turn and a drop in elevation of over 50 feet in a distance that is but a little over a mile. The mixture of the sudden curvature and drop in elevation create a section known as the Whirlpool Rapids. The Whirlpool Jet Boat does the only water navigation in this section of deadly water. Due to the power of the jet boat, it is the only water vehicle strong enough to power itself back out of the whirlpool.
The Niagara Gorge is home to the Lower Great Gorge as well. Lower Great Gorge may be the name, but the nickname fits it better. It is called the “Devil’s Hole" and was given the name because of a drop in elevation of about 16 feet in one spot. The Lower Great Gorge section of river is only about a third of a mile in length and drops a full 50 feet.
The Lower Great Gorge is about 250 feet wide in this section. The falls were split into two sections for a period of time when there was restricted water flow to the river itself. The river remained as two until the water of Lake Erie began to flow into the Niagara River again. Devil’s Hole rapids are categorized as class 3 rapids and are located in this section.
The oldest part of the Gorge is the Old Narrow Gorge. Niagara Falls started at this location. The Old Narrow Gorge is located in the Queenston-Lewiston area where portions of the gorge begin and were formed nearly 12,000 years ago as the falls developed.
Visitors can read a placard in Queenston, marking the line where the falls began. After years of traveling, the falls and river have flowed through the rocky area, where the gorge and various other falls have been created by nature through erosion. Visitors here can get an image of how far the water has traveled and how much the land formations have changed during these years.
Housing a rough part of the water flow, the Old Narrow Gorge is traveled by some personal watercraft but can be a dangerous undertaking. The Niagara River has an increase of water flow in the area from the power station discharge; however, this also creates one of the most spectacular views of the gorge.
The Lewiston Branch Gorge section extends from the Queenston-Lewiston area and into the Lake Ontario area. This is where most distinguishable features of the gorge end, as the travel leads into a drop of 5 feet in elevation, from the Devil’s Hole Rapids to the lake itself. The relatively calm water is a recreation site for boaters and kayakers to participate in their love of water sports, safely.