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Niagara Falls: Natural Wonder of the World

Perhaps New York's most famous natural site is Niagara Falls. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The massive waterfalls are located on the border between the United States and Canada.

About 12,000 years ago, a glacier traveling from eastern Canada tore its way through the land. It crushed soil and rocks, rerouted and deepened rivers, and created new lakes, gorges, and waterways. Changes were made in the way water flowed and was distributed. Niagara Falls was born.

Niagara Falls consists of three waterfalls. The Canadian Falls is 167 feet high and, as the name suggests, is located in Canada. The American Falls, which is 176 feet high, is located in New York. Bridal Veil Falls is the smallest of the three waterfalls. Located on the American side, it resembles the American Falls, only on a much smaller scale.

Behold the Power

The roaring Niagara River plunges over the American Falls at roughly 150,000 gallons per second. About 600,000 gallons drop over the Canadian side each second. That's a lot of power. So much power, in fact, that it can be turned into electricity by using huge turning machines. Niagara Falls is a valuable source of hydroelectric power, or waterpower, to the region.

Electricity production is important to the region's economy today, but tourism focused on visiting Niagara Falls has been energizing the region's economy since the 19th century. Located in western New York and southern Ontario (a province of Canada), Niagara Falls is best known for its beauty and magnificence. It draws people to the twin cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario to admire it. The site attracts about 12 million tourists each year.

Over the years, millions of people have visited Niagara Falls. Now the National Park Service has recommended that Niagara Falls become a National Heritage Area. Such a designation would provide the region with up to $1 million per year for 10 years to help boost the area's tourist trade even further.

Look, but Don't Touch . . . or Jump!

Niagara Falls is beautiful to observe. While visitors come from all over the world to view it, some of them have gotten a little too close.

Ice often forms along the banks of the falls and the river. If the winter is long and cold enough, the ice will create a bridge that is several miles long. A long time ago, visitors were allowed to walk across these icy paths. But walking on the ice was prohibited after an ice bridge collapsed in 1912, killing three people.

Despite the dangers, some people have tried to ride the moving waters by jumping over the falls or riding down them in barrels and other vessels. This often resulted in injury or death. Today, these foolish actions are illegal and punishable by fines.