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Day 30 (10.1.07) - Still Bustling around Buffalo

We visited Fort Niagara & Niagara Falls, which left no time to leave town

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When we left the campground in the morning, I asked where a beach was on Lake Onterio since I didn't think we'd be back to the lake again. We found out there was another State Park about 7 miles east of us, so off we went to get a little closer to the lake. Mom collected sand (of course). I found a pay phone to call Sprint and put my nightmares about international calling charges on my data usage to bed.

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It was still reasonably early, so I was fairly confident we could visit Niagara Falls and maybe get to Syracuse, NY. However, as we headed back (west) towards the Falls, I noticed a sign to "Fort Niagara State Park". We debated whether to stop or not, not knowing what to find there - and I decided to take the exit (if it wasn't anything interesting, we could always get back on the highway). Well, it was quite interesting.

Fort Niagara was built by the French in 1726 - about the oldest thing we've come across yet! The first building is commonly referred to as "The Castle", but it's just a misnomer based on the way the building looks. The French wanted to build a Fort, but were afraid the local Indians would object - so told the Indians they wanted to build a House. So they built a fortified military building, but tried to make it look like a house. While the living conditions look kind of rough to us today, it was probably a fairly decent post for a French soldier back in the 1700's.

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While we were still in the visitors center, Mom noticed a tour guide talking to a bunch of young folks. She asked if we could join their group, which they graciously allowed us to do. They were students from Niagara College studying to be teachers.

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Anyway, we joined this group on their tour and started up the Entrance to the main gate with a Drawbridge! This was added to the Fort later by the British after they captured it in 1759 (by siege).

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Behind the entrance gate was the South Parapet, one of two built by the British. One way you can tell this is to look at the Insignia above the main door of a building - French Insignia, French built building, British Insignia, British built building (but I think I forgot to take a picture of the French Insignia).

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We spent quite a bit of time in the "Castle". It was very interesting to see how the French Soldiers lived in the 1700's. One thing we learned was that the two main staples in their diet were Peas and Salt Pork. They would cook the peas at least in a kettle over the fire to make "Porridge", like a soup. They weren't much into washing dishes back then (no running water for one thing), so some of the porridge would stick to the kettle. After a couple of weeks of this, a thick layer of porrige would be built up and could be cut or peeled off and eaten cold (like a pea tasting, heavy bread?) Since this process of building up a layer of porridge thick enough to peel and eat cold could take about 9 days - you have the phrase, "Peas Porridge Hot" (when first cooked in the kettle), "Peas Porridge Cold" (after peeling off the dried porridge that stuck to the kettle), and "Peas Porridge In the Pot, Nine Days Old" (stuck on, but not peeled off yet). So there is a real meaning behind the nursery rhyme!

Here are some of the shots from inside the "Castle". Keep in mind that there were no builders supply stores or machined hinges, door or window clasps, etc.

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One more interesting point about the "Castle": the Well inside the main door has been rumered to be haunted. The French built the well inside since the building was designed to withstand a siege. The story was that two soldiers got into a sword fight over a native women and one beheaded the other. Worried that his crime would be discovered, he through the head into Lake Onterio. However before he could do the same with the body, he thought he heard other soldiers coming to investigate, so he through the body into the well which was right there. So every October 1st (or which ever date the tour is being given on), the body rises out of the well to look for it's head.

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Well, it makes a good ghost store but it's not true and our guide pointed out several reasons why. It turns out that in the early1900's, a fellow made up the story to promote tourism (sorry ghost hunters). One interesting tidbit that is true about the well is that when the English captured the Fort in 1759, they were afraid the French might have poisened it, so they covered it and dug their own well outside of the building.

Around the grounds of the Fort are displayed several types of large guns. Fort Niagara is thought to hold one of the largest collections of 1700's canon in the US! There are actually three types of large guns that were used at the fort: canon, mortar, and howitzer.

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In addition, each soldier would have a smooth bore black powder rifle (I have a video to add of one being fired...)

Finally, a few more shots of the grounds and North Parapet.

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The Fort was used by the British as a base of warfare during the American Revolution. After the Revolution, the Americans took control of the Fort, but the British recaptured it during the War of 1812. When that war ended, it was turned over to the Americans (peacefully) and has remained in American hands since. The Fort's cannons and fortifications were obsolete by 1865, but the facility continued to be used as a recruitement and training base during the Civil War and later. In World War II, it was used as a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp.

So Fort Niagara did turn out to be a very interesting place to stop and of course we spent much more time there than we had expected, so by the time we headed on to Niagara Falls, it was mid afternoon. We made a couple of short stops on the way to the Falls at two State Parks for Devil's Hole and the Whirlpool.

Devil's Hole is a natural geological formation that is a wider spot in the Niagara River Gorge, which covers much of the distance from the Falls to Lake Onterio. It played a role during the British occupation of Fort Niagra during Pontiac's revolt against the British. A supply wagon train was attacked by Indians at this point and the attackers pushed the wagons (and their drivers) over the steep cliff at Devil's Hole. Only 3 people survived. This frightened the British considerably, which is why they built the North and South Parapet's at the Fort.

The Whirlpool SP is just that - a giant Whirlpool in the Niagara River that forms about 3 miles below the Falls. It really is something to see. (My still shot doesn't do it justice, will try to upload a video if that works).

Finally, we got to Niagra Falls (about 3 PM I think). We went to the American side, because it was so late and we were already there. It amazed us both. From the Parking Lot, we went through a Visitors Center to a nicely landscaped park with paths, benches, tree's, seagulls and squirrels. Not very far (and quite visible from the Visitors Center), you can see the Niagara River cascading over a series of steps, then disappear into a great roar & mist. As we walked along the edge (you really are very close to the edge of the river, one of the fence posts was already starting to collapse into the eroding river bank) - you can watch the water go over the edge right up close, then from the front of the edge, etc.

For $1.00 - you can walk out onto an observation platform maybe 100' (30 meters) and view the falls from the front. Mom seems to hate heights, so she elected to stay at the side of the falls while I walked out. Finally, after much debate (and a little food), we decided to take the "Maid of the Mist" boat to the base of the falls. I wasn't sure it would be worth the bother - but this is a 'once in a lifetime' trip, so if I didn't do this on this trip, I'd probably never do it. It was quite worth it! However I couldn't take pictures of the Canadian side because it was too wet to risk taking the camera out of our plastic rain cover.

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I was really trying to only spend one day in the Buffalo, New York area (as we have most places), however we kept finding places we really wanted to stop, so ended up going back to Four Mile Creek SP at the end of the day!

Posted by jl98584 19:15 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Great photo of the falls and rainbow taken from the Maid of the Mist (I assume)! Judging from your "distracted pass-through of Buffalo", you guys sure are going to be in trouble when you get to the really old, historical parts of the country! LOL You'll be lucky to make it to Texas.

by TexasRTJ

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