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Together with these changes in the condition of the river, the banks, from Chippewa to Bridgewater, very gradually attain the height of forty feet, in inclined scarps of loam, poorly clad with herbage. This apparent rise is caused by the sinking of the bed of the river, to the amount of fifty-eight feet, from Chippewa to the Falls*; but from hence, for the remaining mile and a quarter, a real elevation of the banks and adjacent country takes place. The united effect of these two circumstances is the formation, on the Canadian shore, of lofty steeps, overlooking the Cataract: they are from 120 to 150 feet high ; and skirt the river, from Colonel Clarke's, at Bridgewater, in a line of grassy knolls, with here and there an earthy hollow, and highly ornamented with fine trees, among which are some well-grown tulip-trees. Near their commencement, they are separated from the water by a low meadow, a few hundred yards broad; but at the head of the narrow island, in shore, and near the Falls, they rejoin it for a short distance; and finally are lost in the increased elevation of the neighbouring land at the edge of the chasm, a mile below. The American banks have no steeps; but ascend along the river side in a richly-wooded swell.
In this interesting locality, 300 yards below the islet just adverted to, and at the foot of what we must consider as the remains of Iris Island, the Niagara 'plunges at once into a rocky chasm, 1564 feet deep, 960 yards broad at this place, and prolonged east-north-east, almost at right angles with the former course of the river, for seven miles. This descent takes place obliquely to the direction of the river, and is divided into three distinct falls by Iris Island, and the islet on its right. These are named the “ Horse-shoe Fall," " Ribbon, or Montmorenci," and the “ American, or Schlosser" Falls, respectively. The whole line of subsidence is 1200 yards long; but the chord of this, joining its extremities, is 960 yards long. The Horse-shoe Fall occupies about one half of the brink, and the base of Iris Island, and the American Fall, each about a quarter. The Ribbon Fall, and an islet adjoining, take up each ten yards of the same line.
* Philadelphia Museum, vol. viii. p. 215.
The Horse-shoe Fall is contained by the Canadian shore and Iris Island. Its name is no longer applicable to its form, a correct idea of which, indeed, is only to be acquired with much trouble, from the perspective deceptions arising from the distance of some of its parts. I refer to the sketch for the supposed accurate shape, as laid down in the charts of the Boundary Commission.
A naked, flat ledge, called the Table Rock, at the brink of this Fall, and at its northern end, permits the visiter to dip his feet securely in the water, just as it passes over the precipice. It has been determined, by the officers of the above Commission to be 1564 feet above the surface of the water below. At this Fall, the waters, already in the swiftest motion, are projected in an unbroken curtain*, of an emerald colour in the centre, and white or brown at the sides. They rebound mid-height in large revolving spheres of foam ; a small rain spreads around for some hundred yards, and, with the high ascending wreaths of mist, is the seat, in certain circumstances, of brilliant rainbows. The stream beneath the pitch is smooth, but white with internal motion : a little way down, it forms into billows, and maintains great velocity through the whole chasm to Queenston.
At the foot of this Fall, a hundred yards or more from its north end, I am pretty confident that there are very large fragments of rock, which shew themselves a little above water, when the gusts of a tempestuous day have driven away the mist and broken water which at other times conceal them.
The Montmorenci or Ribbon Fall is aptly named. It springs from its dark channel with force, and contrasts very strikingly,
by its slender dimensions, with the vast bodies of water - around it.
The American Fall is 1624 feet high. Its line of descent,
* The continuation of Table Rock, over which the water passes, juts out beyond the inferior strata, while the curtain of waters also advances beyond the perpendicular line; a space of from fifteen to twenty feet is therefore left between the two, which is largest at the entrance, and is blocked up twenty or thirty feet within by a buttress of rock. The floor of this interval is a slope of slimy fragments of limestone, among which eels are often seen gliding. Violent gusts of wind, torrents of small rain, the slippery footing, and the astounding roar of the cataract, render it a very untenable position.
of Phil. Mus., ut antea.
although on the whole pretty straight, is in several places slightly serrated. Although the greater part of the water passes down in a continuous stream, yet it frequently dashes upon successive narrow ledges, and then, arching gracefully, drops in broken snowy masses.
Stairs have been constructed a little below the Falls on both sides of the river, to facilitate the descent of visiters down the sides of the chasm.
On the British bank, some distance below the Table Rock, a full and almost equidistant view of all the divisions of the cataract is afforded.
Near this spot, at the foot of the contiguous stairs, the scene has peculiar force. Every other object is here shut out. In front, the eye is filled with the expanded curtain of falling waters, the blanched purity of whose colour is rendered more marked by the gloom of the surrounding walls of dark limestone, crested with hemlock, pines, and elms. Colossal fragments in magnificent confusion mount half-way up the precipices, and even obstruct the stream, rolling impetuously.
A slippery path over these fragments on the north side leads to the foot of the Horse-shoe Fall, whose depth of curvature and very great length is there more fully developed.
We now proceed to bestow a few words on the lower division of this river.
The chasm is six miles and three-quarters long, and for two miles from the Falls runs east-north-east, when it turns to the north-west ; a mile farther, to the whirlpool. It there changes suddenly to the north-east, and so continues, or with slight variation, for two miles, to a little beyond the Devil's Hole, on the American side ; from thence a northern course is slowly assumed, and, with a few jutting elbows, is continued to Lake Ontario. The whirlpool above alluded to is a circular basin, 500 yards in diameter, on the left side of the river, created by the sudden change in the direction of the river. Its violence has been exaggerated. The water rushes into it in billows from the pent channel above, and then, with eddies here and there, courses round the Canadian side of the basin in a swift smooth current, and so flows off.
The side of the chasm may be described in general terms to be precipices, often, as near the Falls and elsewhere, mural in the upper half of their height or more, and terminated below by slopes of fragments, naked or overgrown with vines and other creeping plants; but more commonly they consist of ledges, and enormous displaced masses, numerous or few, high or low, according to accidental circumstances, and being interspersed with patches of soil, are clothed with underwood and fine trees. When the sides of the cliff are naked, the bright and contrasting colours of their rocks have a very shewy appearance. When they are mural, these colours are in bands.
di nu On the Canadian side, a mile and a half below the Falls, there is a cave called the Devil's Hole. Some roots adhering to the rocks afford the means of descending to a ledge twelve feet below the summit of the precipice. This ledge is the floor of the cave, which is twenty feet square, six feet high, and has a large mouth. The roof is uneven, and is covered with damp mould. There is another cave on the American side, two
-19 miles above Lewiston; I have not seen it.
The average breadth of the river in the chasm is 300 yards; but a mile below the whirlpool it contracts to 115 yards, near the ruins of a saw-mill. Here the bottom is seen, nearly in mid-channel, to consist of large fragments of rock, over which the water passes with inconceivable fury. The precipice on the Canadian side is so shattered here, that with some ingenuity and labour, an indifferent cart-road has been made down it. Two miles and a half below the whirlpool, the breadth of the floor is 135 yards. Rather more than half a mile above the
gorge of Queenston, it is 130 yards broad, and at the gorge 212 yards,
Of the depth of water in the chasm I know very little. Mr. British bank, informed me that, in the middle of the basin, in front of the Falls, the depth is 160 feet. The bed of the river makes a gradual descent of sixty-seven
. dilib feet * from the foot of the Falls to Queenston gorge. At this last place, therefore, the sides of the chasm are higher than at the former
. Mr. Gourlay states the elevation of heights to be 3701 feet, and, I believe, correctly,
* Philad. Mụs., ut antea,
The scenere in
scenery in the west side of this great defile is extremely rural and pleasing; but the view from the monument to General Brock, on the brow of the heights just noticed, is uncommon, as well as extensive and beautiful. In the immediate foreground, 370 feet below, are two pretty villages—Queenston and Lewiston ; between them the Niagara, escaping from the chasm, expands into a tranquil' river, and is traced in gentle winding through a mass of woods, seven miles across, till it loses itself at Fort George in Lake Ontario, whose wide waters, bounded on the north by blue heights, are seen in the distance. The junction of the river with the lake is marked by the heavy white building on the east bank of the former, called Fort Niagara, and the town of Niagara on the west bank, containing a thousand souls, and built in rectangular streets on a pleasant plain.
The suddenness of the depression at Queenston of the upper or Erie platform causes the escape of the Niagara from the chasm to be as sudden; but the widening of the stream, now succeeding, is slow, and from opposite Lewiston to Lake Ontario it seldom varies from a breadth of 700 yards. The course of the river is rather west of north: its current strongaveraging perhaps two miles per hour. The banks are of schistose clay and argillaceous sandstone at Queenston and Lewiston, supporting a gravelly loam, and are from fifty to eighty feet high ; but from thence to the mouth of the river they are a rich red clayey soil, and preserve a considerable elevation throughout. At the contiguous shore of Lake Ontario, they are from twelve to fifteen feet high, of pure clay below, covered with primitive boulders and a mixed soil. The confluence takes place with little preparatory expansion. The width between Fort Niagara, and the town of that name, is from 800 to 1000 yards. There is a considerable bar of sand and mud off the mouth.
Geology of the River Niagara. The diluvium and alluvium around the River Niagara afford but little room for remark, and have been sufficiently noticed in the geographical portion of this paper, and while treating on Lake Ontario. There are in this vicinity few boulders, and JAN.-MARCH, 1829,