Visiting My Quiet Place
The lower Niagara River: More than just Niagara Falls
Millions of people visit Niagara Falls every year. It is a natural wonder of the world that attracts people from all over the globe. However, the stretch of real estate that extends north of Niagara Falls through the passage of the lower Niagara River in what locals refer to as “the Gorge” is a wonderful place to enjoy nature. It is my favorite “quiet place” when I want to escape from the hustle and bustle of society.
The Gorge extends from the mighty Cataracts to Lewiston, several miles downriver, where the Escarpment drops down. It is from here that Niagara Falls began its southern migration to its current location some 12,000 years ago, carving its way with the tremendous power of the raging river current and tumbling water. On either side of the river, rock walls 200 feet high help to shield the majestic river and create a unique environment of flora.
There are miles of trails that meander through the gorge if you are looking to stretch your legs. Whether it is from the Schoellkopf site at Niagara Falls, Devil’s Hole State Park, Whirlpool State Park or Artpark State Park, the natural settings provided are one of a kind.
My primary reason for visiting this beautiful area is because of something beneath the water, the fish. These waters are filled with a wide variety of fish species from January through December. When I want to relax and grab a little down time, I head to the gorge to pursue the piscatorial wonders of Niagara. The most amazing thing is that you never know what you are going to catch.
You can be fishing for trout in the winter months (when most of the inland trout waters are closed throughout the state) catching rainbow/steelhead, brown or lake trout and find yourself battling a large muskellunge on the end of your line. You could be fishing for Pacific salmon like Chinook or Coho and without warning suddenly wrestling with a huge sturgeon. It might be bass or walleye you are after in the spring and summer, but a big catfish could show up for a tussle. Surprises like these are not uncommon.
This unique area can be as productive from shore as it is from boat. Shoreline access points are numerous. One of the best, from April 1 to Dec. 1 (depending on the weather) is the New York Power Authority’s Fishing Platform in the Devil’s Hole area. It is even handicapped accessible with special parking at the based of the gorge.
While you are fishing, you can get lost in the scenery. A wide variety of bird life can also distract you, a globally recognized important bird area – especially in the winter when the turbulent current helps keep the waters from freezing. It is a world that is second to none.
At a time when connections to nature are vitally important, we all need to have our “quiet place” to recharge our internal batteries. When you do find that special spot, make sure you take some photos. They will make great screen savers on your phone or computer when you need a little boost while working. I am more than willing to share my spot.
Bill Hilts, Jr. is the Outdoor Promotions Director for Destination Niagara USA, outdoor writer with The Buffalo News, and host of the Outdoor Beat TV show on Spectrum/lctv.net. He is a member of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association.