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North Hills Monthly

Jetboat Rides, Journey into History Add to Attractions at Niagara Falls

May 31, 2019 01:18PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Niagara Jet Adventures tour. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls USA

There’s nothing quite like sitting in a high-speed jetboat, bracing your feet against the front hull to push your back against the seat and watching as Captain Lloyd, singing Garth Brooks and laughing maniacally, plows the 1,650-horsepower machine into a roiling rapid. The adrenaline rush is intense, as are the screams of the people sitting in the rows behind you who weren’t quite as prepared for the launch into the air—and then the bumpy landing—as the boat rocks and rolls through the raging water. 

What’s super surprising—other than the fact that you want to do this death-defying trip again and again—is that this experience is available in Niagara Falls. While most people are familiar with the Falls’ main attractions, like the Maid of the Mist tour and a visit to the Cave of the Winds, there are a lot of lesser known adventures to be had in the area, which is only about a four-hour drive from Pittsburgh. 

For all of the times that I’ve visited western New York, I can’t believe that I didn’t know about the opportunity to take a Niagara Jet Adventures tour, which offers riders the chance to fly down the swift waters of the Niagara River before hitting the Niagara Gorge Devil’s Hole Class 5 whitewater rapids. While the boat’s three Cadillac engines make mincemeat of the roiling water of the gorge, you might question your own sanity while holding on through the 360-degree ‘Cowboy’ spin, just to do it all again. 

This is not a trip for the faint of heart; it’s fast, it’s loud and there are definitely moments when you reconsider your decision to put on that life preserver and plunge ahead. For the adventure-seeker, though, it’s an incredible hour-long trip—and adrenaline junkies can have even more fun by sitting in the open back of the boat where they end up wearing each wave that the boat hits.

It’s important to mention that the boats’ captains, who run the river year-round, do have a 100 percent safety record. Trust me, you’ll be glad you have this information once you’re on board.

Riders can choose to stay inside, watching the upcoming whitewater while still staying (mostly) dry, or ride on the open back wet deck. I wouldn’t recommend the latter unless you really want to get soaked and have a change of clothes on-hand. In that case, challenge accepted!

For those who do not consider heart-stopping action to be insane fun, a trip back in time might be more the right speed. A visit to Old Fort Niagara—the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America—is well worth the time, especially if you’re a history buff or enjoy seeing how people lived long ago. Not only do you get to wander through the fort, which is kept in pretty much the same shape that it was in the 18th century, but you can wander through all sorts of demonstrations from blacksmithing to firing muskets (which is really, really loud) to cannon loading protocol—all set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Ontario. 

An interesting fact about the fort:  when it was first being built, the Seneca tribe objected to it being built on their land, so it was designed to look like a house instead of a fortress. I’m not sure that anyone was fooled, though—very few homes in the day featured 2-1/2-foot thick stone walls. 

Three different time periods are represented at Old Fort Niagara, including the French & Indian War; the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. In addition to the fort, there is also a museum on-site so that visitors can learn about the British, French and American soldiers who helped give birth to a nation.

Of course, you can’t visit Niagara Falls without actually spending time gaping at the falls—no matter how many times you see 3,160 tons of water plunging 175 feet into the gorge each second, it never gets old. The Maid of the Mist tour is always exciting—and you really can’t say you’ve been there unless you’ve got the obligatory selfie of yourself in the bright blue souvenir rain poncho in front of Horseshoe Falls. I always like visiting the Cave of the Winds as well; there’s something about being soaked by the spray from Bridal Veil Falls as you wander the wooden walkways to the Hurricane Deck that reminds you just how small you are in the scheme of things.

Just like there are new things to see every time you go, there are different things to see depending on the time of day—the lit-up falls at night are amazing—and the time of year you visit. While there are many amazing places to see on earth, sometimes it’s worth a second, or third, or even fourth visit to the falls to see what you might have missed!

To learn more about all you can do in Niagara Falls USA, visit https://www.niagarafallsusa.com. Learn more about Niagara Jet Tours at https://www.niagarajet.com. More information on Old Fort Niagara can be found at https://www.oldfortniagara.org.