How Old Is This Niagara Falls ?

There are differing theories as to the origin of the name of the falls. According to Iroquoian scholar Bruce Trigger, "Niagara" is derived from the name given to a branch of the locally residing native Neutral Confederacy, who are described as being called the "Niagagarega" people on several late 17th century French maps of the area.

A number of figures have been suggested as first circulating an eyewitness description of Niagara Falls. Frenchman Samuel de Champlain visited the area as early as 1604 during his exploration of Canada, and members of his party reported to him the spectacular waterfalls, which he described in his journals. Finnish-Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm explored the area in the early 1700s and wrote of the experience. The consensus honoree is Belgian Father Louis Hennepin, who observed and described the Falls in 1677, earlier than Kalm, after traveling with explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, thus bringing the Falls to the attention of Europeans. Further complicating matters, there is credible evidence that French Jesuit Reverend Paul Ragueneau visited the Falls some 35 years before Hennepin's visit, while working among the Huron First Nation in Canada. Jean de Brébeuf also may have visited the Falls, while spending time with the Neutral Nation.

During the 18th century, tourism became popular, and by mid-century, it was the area's main industry. Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jérôme visited with his bride in the early 19th century. In 1837 during the Caroline affair a rebel supply ship, the Caroline, was burned and sent over the Falls. Demand for passage over the Niagara River led in 1848 to the building of a footbridge and then Charles Ellet's Niagara Suspension Bridge. This was supplanted by German-born John Augustus Roebling's Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in 1855. After the American Civil War, the New York Central railroad publicized Niagara Falls as a focus of pleasure and honey moon visits. With increased railroad traffic, in 1886, Leffert Buck replaced Roebling's wood and stone bridge with the predominantly steel bridge that still carries trains over the Niagara River today. The first steel archway bridge near the Falls was completed in 1897. Known today as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, it carries vehicles, trains, and pedestrians between Canada (through Canadian Customs Border Control) and the U.S.A. just below the Falls. In 1941 the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission completed the third current crossing in the immediate area of Niagara Falls with the Rainbow Bridge, carrying both pedestrian and vehicular traffic between the two countries and Canadian and U.S. customs for each country.

After the First World War, tourism boomed again as automobile s made getting to the Falls much easier. The story of Niagara Falls in the 20th century is largely that of efforts to harness the energy of the Falls for hydroelectric power, and to control the development on both sides that threaten the area's natural beauty.

 

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