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"Though sparkling spray in thundering clash,
The lightning of the water flash,
In awful whiteness o'er the shore,
That shines and shakes beneath the roar."
Two miles above the Falls, in approaching from Buffalo, you come in sight of the white-crested breakers, more than a mile in width, dashing, foaming, and tossing from ten to thirty feet above the main current; and at the same time hear a low, monotonous tremendous roar, and as you approach nearer, feel a tremulous motion of the earth. The distance
at which this roar can be heard varies with the state of the atmosphere, ordinarily from five to twenty miles, though it is said to have been heard at Toronto, forty-five miles distant and yet, in the village near the Falls it is scarcely heard at all. The mist, arising like curling smoke, and separating as it rises into masses of fantastic clouds, is seen at the distance of from three to twenty miles. This distance depends upon the state of the atmosphere, the height of the sun, and the force and direction of the wind. This mist sometimes rises in immense masses, and sometimes in a pyramidal shape to a very great height, and is an object of great curiosity, especially in the morning, soon after sunrise. It then sparkles like diamonds, and becomes illuminated with the most brilliant prismatic colours.
"Niagara! Niagara! I hear
Thy tumbling waters. And I see thee rear
And roll obedient to thy call. I hear
The tempest-hymning of thy flood in fear;
The quaking mountains and the nodding trees-
One everlasting earthquake rocks thy lofty shore."
From Table Rock, you have an extensive and picturesque view of the rapids; but they are seen to still better advantage from the bank of the river, half a mile above. They are also to be seen to very great advantage from the different.
sides of Goat Island. Indeed, the great variety of views of the rapids to be obtained from the island, renders it the most eligible place for viewing them. From the south-west corner of this island, just above the Moss islands, you have by far the best view that can be taken from any place. There is, too, an amazing rush of water between the Moss islands, the force and sublimity of which may be conceived, but not described; and no tourist or traveller, who desires to behold one of the most wild and fantastic scenes in the vicinity of the great Falls, should fail to visit this beautiful and interesting spot.
Goat Island, is so called from the circumstance, that about the year 1770, Mr. Steadman, then resident at Schlosser, contrived by some means to put a few goats upon the island; but its more appropriate and adopted name is Iris Island. It commences near the head of the rapids, almost in the middle of the river, and extends to the precipice, dividing the Falls into two sheets. It is half a mile in length, and one-fourth of a mile in width, and contains seventy-five acres of rich and heavy-timbered land. Situated in the midst of the rapids, and surrounded by them on three sides, this island is one of the most beautiful, fascinating, and romantic places in the world; it affords a delightful retreat for "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet," to indulge in their meditations. Fanned by gentle breezes, thickly and delightfully shaded, free from noisome insects, encircled by a neat walk, and presenting to the visitor a great variety of views of the Falls and rapids, he feels a reluctance on leaving it, and is wont to exclaim with Montgomery,
"If God hath made this world so fair,
Where sin and death abound;
How beautiful, beyond compare,
Will Paradise be found!"
Or with Eve, in the language of Milton,
"Must I leave thee, Paradise?
These happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods?"
About two-thirds of this island are still covered with tall trees, many of which are clothed with a magnificent drapery of ivy and other creeping plants, and many have been killed by reason of the countless names that have been cut into their bark. So strong is the desire of man for immortality, that few can resist the temptation to leave some memorial of their visit to the Falls. The earliest genuine date of any name yet found, is in the year 1769, though names have been cut within a few years, and dated back as early as 1745; but on the rocks near the Falls on the American side, there are names chiselled out and dated 1711, 1726, 1745, &c. On Goat Island, a number of human skeletons have, within a few years, been dug up; supposed to be the remains of Indians buried in a former age, and many more are doubtless now resting there in undisturbed repose. There may they rest, in nature's solitude, till the Great Spirit calls them hence! On this island is found a very great variety of wild plants, shrubs, and flowers; nearly two hundred different species, some of them very rare, have already been discovered. Of the Tilium Grandiflora, sixteen varieties are found here. The seeds of plants and flowers, from the shores of all the upper lakes and rivers, have probably been washed upon this island.-Some years since, a number of deer were put upon this island, which soon became quite tame; but visitors, in order to see them leap, would occasionally frighten them, when they would immediately betake themselves to the rapids, and thus were carried over the Falls, until all were finally destroyed.
Judge Porter, the proprietor of the island, has had it in contemplation to lay out upon it a spacious garden, in which all the plants and fruits adapted to this genial climate, should be cultivated. When this and other projected improvements shall be completed, no other spot on this earth, perhaps, will present attractions equal to this celebrated and beautiful island. The approach to it is from the American side, by means of a bridge of the most difficult and hazardous construction, which extends from the shore, 28 rods, to Bath Island, and thence 16 rods further, to Goat Island.
There are many other beautiful islands situated among the rapids of this river, a number of which, as Bath, Ship, and Luna, are, and all the rest might be, connected with Goat Island by bridges, and afford the most charming and impressive views of the surrounding scenery. On Bath Island, which is twenty-four rods in length, containing about two acres, is the Toll House, kept by Mr. A. B. Jacobs, who keeps an excellent house of refreshment, and has for sale one of the best collections of Indian curiosities, geological specimens, walkingcanes, &c. &c. which are to be found at the Falls.
On this island is situated Porter's extensive Paper Mill, three stories high, where is manufactured yearly large quantities of paper.*
Luna Island, about thirty yards in width, stands directly on the precipice near Goat Island, and divides the stream, a part of which forms the most splendid cascade, perhaps in the world. This is about twenty-two yards in width, and is sometimes called the "Centre Fall," to distinguishing it from the other two main sheets. Approaching this island from the foot of what is called, from the shape of the path, the "Hog's Back," visitors have, from the north-west corner, a much better view of the American Fall than can be obtained from any other place. This Fall, like the other, has evidently changed its shape, within a few years, and has now nearly as much of a resemblance to a horse-shoe as the other.
There are ten other islands in the rapids besides those above mentioned, containing perhaps from one-fourth to an acre each, to all which bridges might, probably, be constructed.
* The paper composing the Guide Book which I purchased on Goat Island was manufactured here.
NIAGARA.-BY CHARLES DICKENS.
(From his American Notes.)
BETWEEN five and six in the morning we arrived at Buffalo, where we breakfasted; and being too near the Grand Falls to wait patiently anywhere else, we set off by the train the same morning; it was a miserable day; chilly and raw; a damp mist falling; and the trees in that northern region quite bare and wintry.
Whenever the train halted, I listened for the roar; and was constantly straining my eyes in the direction where I knew the Falls must be, from seeing the river rolling onwards towards them; every moment expecting to behold the spray. Within a few minutes of our stopping, not before, I saw two great white clouds rising up slowly and majestically from the depths of the earth. That was all. At length we alighted; and, then for the first time I heard the mighty rush of water, and felt the ground tremble underneath my feet.
The bank is very steep, and was slippery with rain, and half melted ice. I hardly know how I got down, but I was soon at the bottom, and climbing, with two English officers who were crossing and had joined me, over some broken rocks, deafened by the noise, half-blinded by the spray, and wet to the skin. We were at the foot of the American Fall. I could see an immense torrent of water tearing headlong down from some great height, but had no idea of shape, or situation, or anything but vague immensity.
We were seated in the little ferry-boat, and were crossing the swollen river immediately before both cataracts. I began to feel what it was; but I was in a manner stunned, and unable to comprehend the vastness of the scene. It was not until I came on Table Rock, and looked-Great Heaven, on what a fall of bright green water!-that it came upon me in its full might and majesty.