Continuing on along the 5 Coastal Highway, we crossed over into New York State. We pushed north through an area called Dunkirk – would be interested as to how some of these areas were named. Again, the coastline through here had loads of apples and grapes being grown – nice to see. We stopped for the night at a truck-stop in a place called Irving – an Indian Reserve. As a result, they are able to see fuel, alcohol, smokes and tobacco and more with no tax so very cheap and obviously very popular. On Tuesday morning we got on the road early and I filled up at the station – I paid $2.12 a gallon but I saw it around the road on our way out for $2.10 so cheapest we have seen to date in the US. We were heading for Niagara Falls so we carried on the 5 into the outer suburbs of Buffalo before cutting across to join the very busy Interstate 90. Cleverly the NY State have a series of toll roads and bridges leading towards Niagara – most would take them as the most direct route to the falls, but not us – we were determined to work our way around those roads – as a result the 60 odd miles we travelled to the falls took us over 2 hours – it was rush hour so the interstate and surrounding roads were all busy, but it was a slow and frustrating run to Niagara. Finally with some directions from the Visitor Centre it was a quick drive over and onto Goat Island – the base for viewing the falls on the US side.
We parked Romin at the southern end of the island and it was an easy walk up and along to see the falls. We walked out to the Three Sisters Islands which puts you out into the Canadian flow / rapids (the southern side of the island has the Canadian Rapids, and the north, the American Rapids), and then up to the Terrapin Point viewing spot to take in the famous Horseshoe Falls. Down below the Maid of the Mist was loaded with people as it inched up into the spill of the falls – they were all getting a good wash below. There’s another boat that operates from the Canadian side – the Hornblower – a bigger catamaran, but again, everyone on board was getting a good wash. The US have plans to shortly introduce an all new electric cruise boat – to be more eco friendly to the environment. From Terrapin Point you walk along the face of the falls over to Bridal Veil and American Falls. On the US side you can go down and into a cave to get out near the fall so that’s another tourist excursion but not in our budget. We headed over to Prospect Point on the mainland and picked up some more great views and some handy info relating to the falls.
Here we go – Niagara consists of the 3 falls – Horseshoe, Bridal and American. The American Falls are the highest at 184 ft, and it pumps out 65,000 gallons of water per second. The 3 falls combined pump out something like 600,000 gallons of water per second. The falls lie on the Niagara River which connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. That was where it got really interesting for us – how do the 2 lakes have such a drop-in level between them (that being the falls), and how do boats transit through here? Turns out there are something like 8-10 locks along the canal that ‘gently’ drop the lake levels from one to the other. Both the US and Canadians have respective large hydro power plants on the river driven by the force of the rapids and fall of the falls – the Robert Mosses plant on the US side is the state’s largest producer of electricity and one of the largest hydroelectric plants in the world. The inventor Tesla was instrumental in developing the power stations here. The Maid of the Mist tour boats first started operating here in 1846 to ferry passengers too and from Canada. The Canadian side of the falls was a bit more outlandish – there was casino after casino and amusement park activities – looked a bit like a circus, whereas the US side was more reframed with the likes of the Observation Tower. Apparently fish do travel over the falls – and around 90% of them survive the fall – the white foam from the rushing waters is thought to cushion their fall.
In awe of what we had seen, it was time to push further north. We worked out way north on Highway 104 across to Rochester, and then cut north so as to come out on the Highway bordering the lake – Lake Ontario that is. Again the land around here close to the lake was obviously great for growing apples and fruit – there was orchard after orchard, and large houses that flowed down on large sections to the lakes edge. We stopped at a park at Pullneyville (site of a ship wreck in 1890 where the Captain uncharacteristically was the only one to survive) and I managed to tick off the 5th of the Great Lakes – hands tipped, challenge complete. Lake Ontario is the baby of the ‘big 5’ but is still the 14th largest fresh water lake in the world. Whilst smaller, it is the third deepest of the lakes. At the base of the Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario sits 325 ft below Lake Erie. The lake was called Ontario by the Iroquois Indians and means ‘beautiful lake’. The lake flows out into the St Lawrence River and then on out to the Atlantic – this is the first or last of the lakes depending on which way ships are transiting.
From the lake we moved inland on Highway 104 and other secondary roads through Fulton and then over to the Lake Oneida to an RV park we had arranged to stay in for the night. As we’d seen down on Lake Erie, we spotted another large nuclear power plant up against Lake Ontario before we dropped inland. The RV park was set to close the coming weekend – as were many in the northern states – supposedly the RV traffic dries up, plus the weather just isn’t conducive to being open. The park bordered 2 rivers and was a nice quiet spot for us to park after several noisy stops in recent nights. On Wednesday morning we had a leisurely start and took advantage of the laundry at the camp to get the washing all up to date. From there we hopped on the road before midday and headed back up to Rome and then east on a series of secondary roads in order to avoid the tolls in place on Interstate 29 – the most direct route east through this sector of New York, but we managed to cut across to Saratoga as needed. From there we turned north on Highway 4 and had a bit of a stop start affair as we worked our way towards the Vermont border. We followed along the Champlain Canal – this eastern side of the US is steeped in history – in 1609 the Dutch came through here, before the French arrived and then the English took over – calling this eastern side of the US – New England. We crossed over the Hudson River on our way north – took us something like 3.5 hours to cover 140 miles, but eventually we made our way up and across to Fair Haven – time to leave New York State behind – for now atleast.