Goat Island is the main hub on the New York side of Niagara for tourist activity. It is the landmass that splits the Niagara River into the two largest separate waterfalls of Niagara, and hosts a variety of activities and amenities for visiting sightseers. Arguably the most popular attraction Goat Island has to offer is also the one that offers the most intimate connection with the falls themselves – and that is the Cave of the Winds walk.
The original ‘cave’ the name alludes to was behind Bridal Veil Falls, the smallest of the three main waterfalls of Niagara. The cave was closed and filled in a long time ago, and the redesigned tour, open since 1924, now operates alongside the massive cliff face of Niagara Gorge.
An elevator from Goat Island takes tourists down to the base of the falls – a 175-foot descent. The ubiquitous Niagara poncho is handed out by tour guides to attendants – as well as specially designed sandals for the slippery decking tourists will encounter – before accessing the wooden walkways that run along the bottom of Niagara Gorge. The winds kick in here – gusts of up to 68 miles per hour are expected underneath the waterfalls, and the high count of moisture in the air lends to a stormy, almost tropical climate.
The network of walkways weave towards Bridal Veil Falls, before reaching the ‘hurricane deck’ – a platform only 20 feet away from the waterfall itself. This is about as close anyone can safely get to the massive deluge of water. Other decks further away from the falls – and wheelchair accessible – are also available for alternate views. Rainbows are often visible in the falling spray, which will almost certainly drench the hurricane deck observers instantly.
The walkway and the hurricane deck is only open seasonally – due to the water and humidity, the wooden walkways are dismantled and reconstructed before every winter to prevent weather damage and ensure the attraction’s safety. Restricted versions of the tours are available in spring as the walkways are being reconstructed for full tours in the summer.
There are a variety of ways to get close to Niagara Falls and see the deluge from a variety of angles, but few are able to get as intimately close as the hurricane deck – making the Cave of the Winds tour an essential item on any tourist’s to-do list.
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