Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Niagara Falls: slowly I turned ... and other great waterfall memories

John Muir wrote, "As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing."

There is definitely something magic about waterfalls - although usually if you're close to one, you'll be hard-pressed to hear birds or wind sing over the roar of the falls.

I've been extremely blessed in having seen waterfalls all over the world, some great gigantic falls of world renown, others very small but equally special natural places.

Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 favourite waterfalls, along with the memories and moments associated with each one.

Almost anyone who grew up watching the Three Stooges will remember the lines: "Niagara Falls - slowly I turned...step by step, inch by inch..." (If you don't, just search for it on YouTube).

I've been to Niagara Falls four times, three of those when I was 14 or younger. My first and last trips were the most memorable and meaningful to me, although all four had good memories.

The first one involved my very first road trip; I was seven, and my dad took a week off work so we could go to the falls, then spend a few days across the river in New York state. I still cherish that trip, I can still remember many details about it.

The last trip there I took in 2002, and during the trip, I visited the Niagara Falls Aviary. The falls were there, but they were secondary to my day spent with the free-flying birds.

Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe size.

2. Victoria Falls (Africa)

In visiting these spectacular falls, like Niagara Falls, I saw them from two different countries, as well: Zambia and Zimbabwe. They are spectacular; but what I most remember was the adventure I enjoyed below the falls, whitewater rafting through 20+ rapids on the Zambezi River. Just about drowned in a class 5 whirlpool, but I lived to tell the tale - and a great tale it is, especially when someone captures it on video!

I spent my first summer vacation as an Alberta resident exploring the central Rockies near Rocky Mountain House on horseback, in 1985. These falls presented one of the many scenic vistas during the three-day trip. We did not get really close to them; but watching them from horseback was pretty cool.

4. Cariboo Falls (B.C.)

These falls can only be accessed on foot, and only as a short hike from one of the lakes on the Bowron Lake canoe circuit. This was memorable, as it was the first canoe trip I ever took with Ann Kidston, the first summer we dated, in 1989. We survived and still paddle together today.

5. Grand Falls (New Brunswick).
The largest falls east of Niagara. That pretty much sums it up. If you follow the trail along the one side of the river below the falls, you will see some incredible vistas along the gorge.
Grand Falls, New Brunswick

6. Ragged Falls (Ontario)
Lots of memories associated with these falls, which are right outside Algonquin Park, just a short drive from the west entrance. Years ago on my very first canoe trip that did not involve an older adult supervising, me and a buddy decided to sleep up on top of the falls, under the stars. You are not really supposed to do that, but it was late when we got there, we decided it would be just as easy to sleep there, rather than getting back in the car, driving into the park and trying to find a campsite (that we were only going to use for sleep) in the dark. It was incredible, hearing the falls on either side of the rock we slept on, watching all the stars above. Very special.

7/8. Two different sets of falls in Belize.

Neither of these falls had names - but they are memorable for a couple of reasons. The first one was in the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Sanctuary. It was our first jungle waterfall. And while we did not see any jaguars, we could hear parrots and other birds squawking while we slogged down the jungle trail to a small waterfall and pool which we all eagerly dove into, to help cool us down.

The second one was bigger, and was in the pine savanna forest of Belize; we had to ride horses to get there. It was also cool and refreshing, after our ride. We also had lunch there, prepared by our Mayan guides.
Plenty of gorgeous waterfalls - like Akaka - in Hawaii.

9. Akaka Falls (Hawaii).
It is in Hawaii. It is gorgeous, the first (of many, I hope) waterfalls I will see there. What more needs to be said?

10. Widgeon Falls (B.C.)
This also involved paddling: we canoed through Widgeon Slough from Grant Narrows on the Pitt River, an hour east of Vancouver. 

We camped overnight at the recreation area campsite, then hiked up to the falls the next morning, then returned home that day. Great trip!

Other honourable mentions: Athabasca Falls (Jasper), an unnamed waterfall in Ecuador, Sheep River Falls in Alberta, Elk Falls near Campbell River, B.C. Alexander Falls, south of Whistler, B.C. and Bijoux Falls along Highway 97 in B.C. 


  1. You've seen some great waterfalls! Victoria Falls is awesome - we got completely drenched by the spray visiting just after the rainy season...

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