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Some parts of the Falls are consolidated into fluted columns, and the river above is seen partially frozen. The boughs of the trees in the surrounding woods are hung with the purest icicles, formed from the spray, and, reflecting in every direction the rays of the sun, produce a variety of prismatic hues, and a lustre almost too refulgent to be long sustained by the powers of vision.
SUMMER AND WINTER SCENERY.-RIVER BELOW THE FALLS.
THE surrounding scenery on both sides of the river is in good keeping with the magnificence of the Falls. It is just what it should be,-grand, striking, and unique. By most visitors it is only seen in summer. But in the winter it is also inimitable and indescribably beautiful. The trees and shrubbery on Goat and other islands, and on the banks of the river near the Falls, are covered with transparent sleet, presenting an appearance of "icy brilliants," or rather of millions of glittering chandeliers of all sizes and descriptions, and giving one a most vivid idea of fairy-land.
"For every shrub and every blade of grass,
And every pointed thorn, seems wrought in glass;
Which wave and glitter in the distant sun."
The scene presents a splendid counterpart to Goldsmith's description of the subterranean grottos of Paros and Antiparos. The mist from the Falls freezes upon the trees so gradually and to such thickness, that it often bears a most exact resemblance to alabaster; and this, set off by the dazzling colours of the rainbows that arch the river from twenty different points, seems by natural association to raise the imagination to that world, where the streets are of pure gold, the gates of pearl, and night is unknown.
"Look, the massy trunks
Are cased in the pure crystal; branch and twig
Is studded with its trembling water-drops,
With amethyst and topaz, and the place
Lit up most royally with the pure beam
That dwells in them; or, haply, the vast hall
Where crystal columns send forth slender shafts,
And crossing arches, and fantastic aisles
Wind from the sight in brightness, and are lost
The winter scenery about the Falls is peculiar, a sight of which is worth a journey of thousands of miles. Myriads of wild ducks and geese spend the day in and above the rapids, and regularly take their departure for Lake Ontario every night before dark; though some are often found in the morning with a broken leg or wing, and sometimes dead, in the river below the Falls. This generally happens after a very dark or foggy night; and it is supposed that, as they always have their heads up stream, while in the water, they are carried down insensibly by the rapids, till they find themselves going over the precipice, and then, in attempting to fly, they dive into the sheet of water, and are buried for a time under the Falls, or dashed upon the rocks.
Dead fish too, of almost all sizes and descriptions, and weighing from one to seventy pounds, are found floating in the eddies below the Falls, forming a dainty repast for gulls, loons, hawks, and eagles. The splendid gyrations of the gulls, and their fearless approaches, enveloped in clouds of mist, up to the boiling caldron directly under the Falls, attract much attention. But the eagle, fierce, daring, contemplative, and tyrannical, takes his stand upon the point of some projecting rock, or the dry limb of a gigantic tree, and watches with excited interest the movements of the whole feathered tribes
below. Standing there in lordly pride and dignity, in an instant his eye kindles and his ardour rises as he sees the fish-hawk emerge from the deep, screaming with exultation at his success. He darts forth like lightning, and gives furious chase. The hawk, perceiving his danger, utters a scream of despair, and drops his fish; and the eagle instantly seizes the fish in the air, and bears his ill-gotten booty to his lofty eyrie.
Sometimes during a part of the winter, the ice is driven by the wind from Lake Erie, and poured over the Falls in such immense quantities as to fill and block up the river between the banks, for a mile or more, to the depth of from thirty to fifty feet, so that people cross the ice to Canada, on foot, for weeks together: the river itself is never frozen over, either above or below the Falls, but it affords an outlet for vast quantities of ice from the upper lakes.
The river at the Falls, is a little over three-fourths of a mile in width, but below, it is immediately compressed into a narrow channel of less than one-fourth of a mile in width: its depth, as ascertained by sounding, is about 250 feet. Its colour is deep green, and sometimes blue; occasioned, no doubt, by reflection from the sky.
One of the best general views of the Falls and river below, is from a projecting rock, about a mile below the village, sometimes called Point View. The perpendicular rock is here 200 feet above the river, and from the verge of the dizzy height is to be obtained the most complete and extensive view of the entire Falls, the river below, and its rocky and precipitous banks, that can be obtained from any other position.
For about two miles below the Falls, the river is comparatively smooth; it then runs with amazing velocity to Lewiston; and, what is remarkable, while the river makes a constant descent, the banks have a gradual ascent for six miles; so that from the top of the bank to the water, at Brock's Monument, near Queenston, is 370 feet; and the heights there are 38 feet higher than Lake Erie, and 25 feet higher than the land
at Schlosser. Whether the bed of the river here was once a natural ravine, or was formed by an earthquake, or worn away by the continued and violent action of the water falling upon the rocks-thus carrying the Falls back from Queenston to their present situation, it would be difficult to determine with certainty.
From descriptions of the Falls written nearly two hundred years ago, we learn, that though their shape has been somewhat altered since, they then occupied the place which they hold now, and exhibited the same wonderful phenomena. When and by whom among the whites they were first discovered, the writer has never yet been able to ascertain. Tradition ascribes their discovery to two missionaries, who were on an exploring tour to this part of the country, in an age anterior to any written account extant.
NIAGARA.-BY CHARLES JOSEPH LATROBE.
(From his "Rambles in North America.")
You may recollect my juvenile weakness, that of being a notorious cascade hunter. There was something in the motion of a waterfall which always made my brain spin with pleasure. Impelled by this passion, as a boy, I ransacked the moorland and mountain districts of the north of England, in quest of the beautiful but diminutive specimens of this variety of natural scenery with which they abound; and at a later period, there was not an accessible waterfall within my range of travel, from the Rhine Fall to Tivoli, that I did not contrive to approach, gaze upon, and listen to with infinite pleasure. So you may well ask what impression was made upon me by Niagara.
I am glad that the position and the general features of this celebrated scene are too well known to need description, and that you will require none from me.
At the commencement of the present century, Niagara,
difficult of access, and rarely visited, was still the cataract of the wilderness. The red Indian still lingered in its vicinity, and adored the 'Great Spirit' and 'Master of Life,' as he listened to the Thunder of the waters.' The human habitations within sound of its Fall were few and far apart. Its few visitors came, gazed, and departed in silence and awe, having for their guide the child of the forest, or the hardy back-woodsman. No staring, painted hotel rose over the woods, and obtruded its pale face over the edge of the boiling river. The journey to it from the east was one of adventure and peril. The scarcely attainable shore of Goat Island, lying between the two great divisions of the cataract, had only been trodden by a few hardy adventurers, depending upon stout hearts and steady hands for escape from the imminent perils of the passage. How is it now? The forest has everywhere yielded to the axe. Hotels, with their snug shrubberies, out-houses, gardens, and paltry embellishment, stare you in the face; museums, mills, staircases, tolls, and grog shops, all the petty trickery of Matlock-baths, or Ambleside, greet the eye of the traveller. Bridges are thrown from island to island; and Goat Island is reached without adventure. A scheming company on the Canadian side have planned a 'City of the Falls,' to be filled with snug cottages, symmetrically arranged, to let for the season; and, in fine, you write to your friend in Quebec, and giving him rendezvous at Niagara for a certain hour, start yourself from Richmond, in Virginia, for the point proposed, with a moral certainty of meeting at the very day and hour specicified, by taking advantage of the improvements of the age, and the well-arranged mode of conveyance by steamers, railroads, canals, and coaches. In short, Niagara is now as hacknied as Stockgill Forge, or Rydal-water, and, all things considered, the observation of an unimaginative Eastern man' is said to have made, addressing a young lady-tourist, who was gazing breathlessly for the first time at the scene, was not so far out of keeping with it: "Isn't it nice, Miss ?" Yes, all is nice, that that active little biped man has done, or is doing.