Standing at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls, the raw power of the water of the Niagara River is plainly pretty awesome.
But for a whole different look at the danger – the chilling, churning, lethalness of the flow – you have to stand at White Water Walk overlooking the Class 6 rapids a little further upriver in Niagara Falls.
They’re among the most dangerous rapids in the world.
Located on River Road just north of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, you’ll descend by elevator 70 metres to the river’s edge, to a quarter-mile of boardwalk at the base of the Niagara Gorge.
You’ll be close enough to feel the splash and spray of the water, and to appreciate the fact that there is no way in heck you would ever want to be out there on a raft.
There, the rock layers are more than 400 million years old and the Whirlpool Rapids rush by at nearly 50 km-h. The waves can reach 15 feet in height and the water is about 50 feet deep.
MSN.com rates them as one of the world’s 10 most deadly rapids and it was there, during the mid-1970s, a commercial rafting tour ran into trouble and capsized, killing three people on board. In that tragedy, a 37-foot professionally guided raft capsized with 27 passengers and two pilots aboard. It was the 11th trial run for the company, which no longer operates.
In fact, no rafting is allowed over that stretch of rapids. It is too dangerous.
According to WetPlanetWhitewater.com, rapids that are Class 5 – one step below the Niagara Rapids – are “extremely difficult, long, and very violent rapids with highly congested routes. … Rescue conditions are difficult and there is a significant hazard to life in the event of a mishap.”
A Class 6 rapids, like Niagara’s, involves “the difficulties of Class 5 carried to the extreme. Nearly impossible and very dangerous.”
There are only six classes of rapids.
Note: The White Water Walk is an attraction operated by the Niagara Parks Commission and an admission fee is charged.
There is ample parking in the area, and the WeGo transit system also stops there regularly.