Today, the park’s signature attraction, the majestic Niagara Falls, is the dramatic apex of the free-flowing waters of four of the Great Lakes into the Niagara River Gorge. But that wasn’t always the case. During the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th Century, the natural beauty of Niagara Falls began to suffer as earnest industrialists built mills and factories along the river to harness its power. By the late 1860s, a small band of early environmentalists, including landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who were concerned over the river’s waning flow, founded the Free Niagara movement. The movement believed that the natural beauty of the land surrounding the Falls should be protected from commercial interests and exploitation, and remain free to the public. Members urged New York State to reclaim the Falls and the surrounding area.
After more than 15 years of pressure, the Free Niagara crusaders won their battle. The Niagara Appropriations Bill was signed into law in 1885, creating the Niagara Reservation and signifying possibly the most important event in Niagara Falls’ history. New York State Assemblyman Thomas Vincent Welch was a prominent figure in getting the bill signed and later went on to serve as the first superintendent of America’s oldest state park.
Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps best known for designing New York City’s Central Park, believed that parks should be places of natural beauty, where “the masses could be renewed.” This philosophy was applied throughout Olmsted’s landscape design for Niagara Falls State Park, with an entire network of footpaths through wooded areas and along the banks of the Niagara River.
Today, the oldest American State Park retains Olmsted’s vision by staying committed to maintaining native vegetation, preserving its unparalleled vistas and providing public access. Visitors from around the world are entranced by the thundering wonder of Niagara Falls, a grand tribute to the men and women who fought to preserve it for all.
Facts About Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is amazing! Learn more about this special place and impress your friends when you check out some fun and interesting facts about Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls State Park:
- Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S. Established in 1885 as the Niagara Reservation, it was the first of several such reservations that eventually became the cornerstones to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
- Frederick Law Olmsted was a visionary for Niagara Falls State Park. He also designed Central Park in New York City.
- Niagara Falls State Park stretches over 400 acres, with close to 140 acres of that under water.
- Green Island, situated between Goat Island and the mainland, was named after Andrew Green, first president of the commission at the State Reservation at Niagara. He was a very prominent professional in New York City and was critical to the construction of Central Park, as well as the planning of northern Manhattan and today's Bronx. Green helped establish great cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Natural History®, Metropolitan Museum of Art®, and the Bronx Zoo®, and most importantly, led the Greater New York movement that joined the municipalities around Manhattan Island into today's 5-borough city.
- Three Sisters Islands were named after the daughters of Parkhurst Whitney, a hotelman and prominent local citizen. The daughters names were Asenath, Angeline and Celinda Eliza.
- A statue of Chief Clinton Rickard, who was the founder of the Indian Defense League in 1926, can be found near the Great Lakes Gardens in Niagara Falls State Park.
- 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second. This accounts for 75,750 gallons of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls.
- The water falls at 32 feet per second over the Falls, hitting the base of the Falls with 280 tons of force at the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 2,509 tons of force at the Horseshoe Falls.
- Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the United States and Canada.
- Four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) drain into the Niagara River before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply.
- In November 1896, electrical power was transmitted from the Adams Power Plant in Niagara Falls, New York to Buffalo, New York. This was the first time in the world that alternating current was transmitted over a long distance.
- In 1969, an earthen dam was built across the head of the American Rapids, de-watering the American Falls. For six months, geologists and engineers studied the rock face and the effects of erosion. It was determined that it would be too costly to remove rock at the base of the American Falls, and that nature should take its course.