Whirlpool State Park, New York – 5/27/12 – 3 Miles
Every year Jim and I take a little anniversary trip. Most often we go to the North Carolina mountains. On the “big ones” we go farther, like Alaska or Ireland. For number 31 this year, we went all the way to Niagara Falls.
We spent the first few days exploring the falls from every angle, the Canadian side, the American side, the nighttime illumina- tion, the fireworks, the Maid of the Mist boat ride, the Cave of the Winds tour, and so on. Niagara Falls State Park (American side) was expensive but excellent. One day we drove on the scenic Canadian Niagara Parkway up to the lovely town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we rented a tandem bike and navigated the Niagara Parks Recreation Trail, stopping at a winery or two.
On our last day we drove north on the American side of the Niagara River and visited Whirlpool State Park, part of the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail system. From the Rim Trail we could see:
A trolley crossing with a bird’s eye view of the Niagara Gorge whirlpool - between this and the power boat tours and the helicopters flying over, it's a busy place
Water coming down Niagara River – Class VI rapids
Flowing into the “V”
Entering into the whirlpool basin
The whirlpool: There is an elbow in the Niagara River where it takes a right-angled turn and a basin has been carved out to the left. When the water flows above a certain level, the water coming down the narrow Gorge enters the pool and then travels counterclockwise around the basin. When the water tries to cut across itself after swirling all the way around, pressure is built up and forces that water to flow underneath the incoming stream. The swirling movement creates a vortex or reversal phenomenon. If the water flow is low (diverted for hydroelectric purposes) the water merely flows straight through the basin and on to Lake Ontario.
We walked downstream on the Rim Trail, then descended 300 feet down the crazy tilted steps to the bottom of the Gorge and followed a trail back up the river to reach the whirlpool rapids up close.
Eye level at the "V"
Big waves at the entrance to the whirlpool basin: the wave is curling upstream
A hole formed by pounding backsplash
A meditation moment at the whirlpool rapids (except for when the powerboat tours come roaring up about every five minutes)
Standing at the river’s edge, looking back up at the Rim Trail
So it’s more of a walk than a hike, but well worth the time. If we had planned a little better we would have tried the whole Rim Trail as it continues on downriver to Devil’s Hole State Park. Maybe next time?
“So much water moving underneath the bridge, let the water come and carry us away.” Crosby, Stills & Nash