The Niagara Falls in the Niagara River, W N.Y. and S Ont., Canada; one of the most famous spectacles in North America. The falls are on the international line between the cities of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont. Goat Island splits the cataract into the American Falls (167 ft/51 m high and 1,060 ft/323 m wide) and the Horseshoe, or Canadian, Falls (158 ft/48 m high and 2,600 ft/792 m wide). The governments of the United States and Canada control the appearance of the surrounding area, much of which has been included in parks since 1885. The earliest written description of the falls is that of Louis Hennepin (in Nouvelle Découverte, 1697), who was with the expedition of Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, the French explorer, in 1678. In the 19th cent., daredevils attempted to brave the falls in barrels, boats, and rubber balls. The great Blondin performed (1859) on a tightrope over the falls, which continue to be a major center of international tourism. Historical and natural history material relating to the region is in the Niagara Falls Museum in the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2005.