Why Visit the Niagara Region?
More than just “the Falls” this area extends southeast from Hamilton and includes the heart of Ontario’s wine and fruit-growing district, the charming old homes and beds & breakfasts of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and chance to watch freighters heading up or down the Welland Canal, visit a wide range of touristy attractions in Niagara Falls, see forts, battlefields and memorials of the War of 1812, and even cross the bridges and check out the American side of Niagara (there, its called “the Niagara Frontier”), and visit Buffalo, New York.
Niagara Area Overview
Niagara Falls is located on the Niagara River, on the border between Ontario, Canada and New York State in the USA. Niagara Falls is about 130 km south of Toronto via the QEW Queen Elizabeth Way (70 km away by air), and about 25 miles north of Buffalo, NY.
The Niagara Region has populations on both the Canada & US sides of the Niagara River. On the Canadian side, Niagara Falls, Ontario has a population of 88,000 (2019) while the Niagara Regional Municipality (which includes Niagara on the Lake, St Catherines and Welland) has a population of 447,000 (2019).
On the US side, Niagara Falls, New York has a population of 44,000 and Niagara Falls County. But it is close to the city of Buffalo, which is across the river from Fort Erie, which is the second largest city in New York state, with a population of 256,000 a (2018).
Niagara’s name originates from the Neutral Indian name “Ongniaahra” meaning “Thunder of Waters”, the noise these towering waterfalls make, as water drains from the Upper Great Lakes via the Niagara River. This location was a meeting and trading place for the First Nations, the early explorers, and for both Canada and the United States in recent history. This locale has been fought over in several wars, most recently the War of 1812, and has a rich history.
Niagara Falls’ weather ranges dramatically over the seasons. In the summer, it hot & sticky (the humidity comes from the Gulf of Mexico, not Lake Ontario as is commonly believed) with warm nights, and in the winter it is cold, with snow lasting from end of November until mid-April. Winter snowstorms can come quickly and often bury cars overnight (locals consider any snowfall under a foot a “dusting”). Spring comes quickly as the snowdrifts melt and tulips pop up into bloom. In the fall, as nights get longer, the leaves turn into a brilliant range of colours, as sap returns to the roots with declining overnight temperatures.
Industries of the Niagara Area
The major industries in Niagara Falls reflects are tourism & agriculture, reflecting its position location as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” and on the fertile and temperate Niagara Peninsula. There are also large casinos on both sides of the Niagara River. The area has been popular with tourists ever since the mid-1800s when railways and mid-1900s with the arrive of the Interstate Highway system.
The large drop of the Falls led to the construction of hydro-electric generating facilities in the area over a century ago, which made the use of electric-power possible for the areas homes, businesses and factories. Half the water of the Niagara River is now used for power generation, bypassing the Falls by way of a series of canals and aqueducts on both sides of the border.
The manufacturing sector is also strong, reflecting St Catharine’s accessibility on the Welland Canal portion of the St Lawrence Seaway, a well as the region’s proximity to Buffalo, New York. The manufacturing ranges from automotive to fabricated metals and chemicals, as well as the associated distribution and logistics sectors.
On the US side, there is significant manufacturing, much of it due to its proximity to the massive hydro-electric power generation near the Falls. This included steel, aluminum and chemicals (Niagara Falls, NY is home to the infamous “Love Canal”), though their decline has moved the Niagara Falls & Buffalo economy to move to a mix of industrial, light manufacturing, high technology, banking and services companies.
Communities around the Niagara Region
The Niagara Region covers the area between the Niagara River and Hamilton, and covers a number of large communities like Niagara Falls, and Thorold , and several smaller communities like Niagara on the Lake, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Thorold , Welland , and Grimsby. These communities are nestled in prime Niagara Peninsula farmland and wineries, which support a strong food processing & manufacturing sector.
St Catharines (pop. 133,000) is the geographic and industrial hub of the Niagara Region, with Thorold (pop. 18,000) and Welland (pop 5w,000) to the south. The industrial lands adjoining the current (and relatively straight) route of the Welland Canal. The original route of the Welland Canal has been converted to scenic parklands, and on Lake Ontario, Port Dalhousie has become a very scenic residential neighbourhood in St Catharines, and popular tourist attraction.
Nearby Niagara on the Lake is the historical and theatrical hub of the area, as home to the world famous Shaw Festival each summer. The region has popular beaches on both lake Ontario and on Lake Erie.