My first visit to Niagara Falls in brief historical perspective

Yesterday marked my first visit to Niagara Falls, just one day after the landmark was featured on the The Colbert Report, and one day before Nik Wallenda’s scheduled high-wire escapades described by Stephen Colbert.

Having never visited, the Niagara Falls pictured in my head looked much like waterfalls I’m familiar with: quiet, secluded, clean.

In reality, they’re immediately next to a tourist trap masquerading as a city.

I’m not the first one to notice that the site is not exactly a soothing, natural get-away. From Ken Burns’ documentary Ken Burns: The National Parks – America’s Best Idea, Episode 1, about 23 minutes in:

“European visitors [to Niagara Falls] publicly belittled Americans for allowing such a majestic work of nature to become blighted by commercial development, and offered it as further evidence that the United States was still a backwards, uncivilized nation.”

Two things.

Thing one: The American side was considerably more natural, and less ‘built up’, than the Canadian side. And Canada has a queen, so it’s obviously the more European of the two. Clearly, the condescending visitors knew not of what they spoke.

Thing two: I’m sorry, my European friends, but have you ever been to the Alps?

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