Cave Of The Winds
When you visit Niagara Falls, you expect to see waterfalls… and big ones at that. The first one which comes to mind is the Canadian Horseshoe Falls which has by far the most water flowing over its brink, at more than half a million gallons every second. Next would be the American Falls, with only a quarter the flow of the Canadian falls but equally spectacular in its own rite… it’s basically a near-vertical stretch of white-water rapids.
It’s the Little Waterfall we’re talking about here, the Bridal Veil Falls at the right side of the photo. See all the walkways just below it, with all the tourists wearing rain ponchos? It looks pretty tame from here, but delivers an unforgettable thrill when experienced from only thirty feet away!
My two daughters, about five years ago, on the walkways of the Cave Of The Winds Tour. Nothing but Mist, White Water and Noise! Notice the virtual lack of other tourists… Advice: Arrive early as soon as they open, and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. In the afternoons at peak times, these walkways can be jammed with people!
But then there’s this little waterfall which is almost lost from sight between the Horseshoe and the American Falls… Little Tiny Bridal Veil Falls…. the little waterfall nobody ever travels from the four corners of the globe specifically to see.
‘Little and Tiny’ would describe it only in a world of giant waterfalls. The Bridal Veil Falls (also less-known as Luna Falls) would be the centerpiece of any national park in the world were it situated all by itself. By nearly anyone’s standards it’s massive, and the flow of water over its edge is impressive to say the least and lethal to say the most. Despite that, the Bridal Veil Falls is the only waterfall in the Niagara System you can actually ‘touch’ (sort of) and live to tell the tale.
My younger daughter reaching through the steps to ‘touch’ Niagara Falls… a ‘Must-Do’ thing when on the Cave Of The Winds Tour!
I’m talking about The Cave Of The Winds Tour, which is a walkway-and-stairs construction built over the ‘rapids’ of the Bridal Veil Falls. The tour is named for how the attraction used to be a very long time ago… once there actually was a cave directly behind the falls, with a walkway for tourist access. The winds inside the cave were said to be fierce! It must have been incredible to stand behind the falls and feel such a force, but sadly it was also incredibly dangerous. In 1920, layers of shale rock broke free from the cave roof and killed three tourists… and that was the end of the cave behind the falls. It was then dynamited and no longer exists.
Where the Cave Of The Winds Tour begins… in the Elevator House. Photo courtesy of LandisD at www.TripAdvisor.com
Once down in the gorge, this is where you’ll end up. The start of the tour is fairly dry… but be assured, they don’t provide rain ponchos for nothing — in just a few minutes you’ll be glad you’re wearing one! (Photo courtesy of OnTraveler 8 at www.TripAdvisor.com Thanks Much Leonard!)
If you aren’t up to the voluminous output of water the Bridal Veil Falls can deliver, you might opt to relax here and enjoy the atmosphere while others in your party get drenched. (Photo graciously provided by HeidiMT at www.TripAdvisor.com Thanks Heidi!!)
Today a walkway leads tourists directly beside and very nearly under this amazing waterfall… at which point you will never consider the Bridal Veil Falls ‘Little’ or ‘Tiny’ again!
Tourist are issued Flip-Flop type sandals and hooded rain ponchos before descending by elevator to the walkway… and that’s it. No time limits! You are allowed to stay as long as you like. There are places where you will be relatively dry, but also places (such as the Hurricane Deck — which you can bypass if desired) which will blast you with wind and spray and all the energy of the original ‘Cave’ tour which existed long ago. Easily one of the best things to do in all of Niagara Falls, if not the very best of all.
What the Cave Of The Winds Tour is all about… Having Fun! This is a group of exchange students having the time of their lives on the American Side! (Photo graciously provided by Yuriy over at http://jobs.seasonalstaff.org/ Please click their link for their amazing connection to Niagara Falls! Thanks Yuriy!)
Windy and Wet… and Fun!! (Photo graciously provided by Yuriy over at http://jobs.seasonalstaff.org/ Please click their link for their amazing connection to Niagara Falls! Thanks Yuriy!)
WooHoo! Braving the Hurricane Deck! The falling water captures and compresses air as it falls, and the air exits directly at you as a measured 70mph wind… literally a Category 1 Hurricane Force! (Photo graciously provided by Yuriy over at http://jobs.seasonalstaff.org/ Please click their link for their amazing connection to Niagara Falls! Thanks Yuriy!)
Exhileration on the Hurricane Deck!! This is what you pay your money for! That moment you remember the rest of your life? This is it, right here! (Photo graciously provided by Stevesgirl at www.TripAdvisor.com Thanks Stevesgirl!)
An exchange student enjoying her time at Niagara Falls on the Hurricane Deck… I think this photo captures it all. I never met these girls but I would’ve enjoyed watcthing them… they were having a blast! (Photo graciously provided by Yuriy over at http://jobs.seasonalstaff.org/ Please click their link for their amazing connection to Niagara Falls! Thanks so much Yuriy for your help in my project!)
One of the most amazing facts about the Cave Of The Winds is the annual human achievement behind it: the walkway is torn down every year before winter, then rebuilt from scratch every spring. There is no way the fragile wooden structure could withstand the massive ice formations which come with the frigid Niagara winters… so they tear it all down and save what lumber they can.
When the ice has melted and springtime rebuilding begins, it’s amazing to consider that the construction crews work right on the rapids in very cold temperatures, using nothing but hand tools…. since there is no way to keep even cordless power tools dry and functioning with the splashing water and wind-driven spray. The crew take their jobs very seriously, since there is always the chance of serious injury or death while working on the rocks. Most crew members are veterans at the task, but others are rookies who are learning the ropes… under the strict guidance of the experienced foreman.
It’s amazing what these folks do for our entertainment. No two walkways are ever the same, or are ever anchored in the same exact nooks and crannies in the rocks. All during the building process, they endure freezing cold fingers and freezing soaked feet, spray and water in their faces while moving in bulky, dripping rain suits! Talking to them as I have, I quickly learned one thing: They love what they do, relish the challenge and take immense pride in their results! I’m grateful for what they do… the Cave Of The Winds Tour is simply awesome… and you simply have to experience it for yourself!
When you’re all finished, and you’ve just ascended the elevator and are once again walking the beautiful park grounds on the American Side in warm summer sunshine, I guarantee you will shake your head in disbelief at what you’ve just seen and done! You will mutter something like, “Wow — I can’t believe I was just so close to a gigantic waterfall… and the power and the wind it had — Wow!! From that point on and for the rest of your life, you will never think of the Bridal Veil falls as the ‘Little’ waterfall at Niagara!
I hope you will always enjoy these Places At Niagara!