Niagara Falls at Night with Lights
Almost everybody on earth knows about Niagara Falls but did you know that there are lights on Niagara Falls at night?
Unless you have stayed at one of the hotels overlooking the falls you might not know that every night from January through April Niagara Falls has lights shining on it until 10 pm and from May through December the lights stay on until midnight.
The effect is quite spectacular and adds another magical dimension to this extremely popular tourist attraction that receives tens of millions of visitors every year.
Lighting up Niagara Falls is nothing new. In 1860 some 200 Bengal lights were placed around and behind the falls to celebrate a visit by the Prince of Whales. Bengal lights were produced by mixing sulfur, saltpeter and orpiment which would chemically react and create a blue light which was used at the time primarily at sea for signaling and illumination and were called Bengal lights because the saltpeter came primarily from Bengal. In addition to the Bengal lights rockets and other fireworks were also ignited creating the first lighted magical night scene at Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls has generated and continues to generate tremendous amounts of hydroelectricity every year and the falls were first lit up using electricity on the evening of July 4, 1879 to celebrate the visit of the Governor-General of Canada and his wife who was a princess. The falls stayed lit at night for the rest of that year but then the lights were discontinued. In 1892 the owner of the tourist vessel the Maid of the Mist placed lighting on his Canadian dock to illuminate the American side of Niagara Falls at night. In 1895 the owner of the Great Gorge Railroad which brought tourists to the falls began to light the falls three nights a week to coincide with his scheduled night tourist trains to the falls.
Niagara Falls was lit up at night in 1901 to give tourists to the Pan American Exhibition a show and something to do at night. In 1907 the General Electric Company set up 32 projectors to light up Niagara Falls with the most powerful lights yet but the show only lasted for a few weeks.
The falls were lit up at night sporadically after that until 1925 when the Niagara Falls Illumination Board was created by local businessmen hoping to make Niagara Falls an even more popular tourist attraction and to fill up the local hotels each night by guests wanting to see the falls all lit up.
The Illumination Board was set up to "finance, operate and maintain a new, permanent illumination system" and included in its board members are representatives from the City of Niagara Falls in New York, the City of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, the State of New York, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Ontario Power Generation and the Niagara Parks Commission.
Since the creation of the Illumination Board in 1925 Niagara Falls has stayed continually lit up at night except for during special circumstances like WW II when the falls could have been a bombing target to knock out the hydroelectric power generation and to conserve electricity for the war effort. Since WW II Niagara Falls has been lit every night except during periods of peak electric demand which mainly occurred in the years right after the war.
In the late 1990's 21 new state of the art 250 million candlepower xenon lights were installed at Niagara Falls which doubled the intensity of the illumination. Except for a brief time in 2003 during the Great Northeast Blackout which affected some 55 million people living in the United States and Canada the new xenon lights have been thrilling visitors to Niagara Falls at night with brilliant shows of rainbow colors. Some 25 to 30 million tourists visit Niagara Falls each year but many come during the daylight hours and some are not even aware that they light up Niagara Falls at night.
If you are going to visit the falls this year stay around for the night light show and get a hotel room with a view of Niagara Falls if you can afford it. You will not be disappointed.