The Majestic Beauty of Niagara Falls in Winter

Breathtaking winter vistas from one of Canada's most famous natural wonders.

1 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - Rainbow
Photo: John Busch
A winter rainbow.

Niagara’s Frozen Tundra

For the most part of my 70 years I’ve always lived within a four-hour drive of Niagara Falls and, as such, I have had many opportunities to visit this amazing place. From school trips, earning the funds to charter an Air Canada aircraft to fly over the falls, to our honeymoon, I have lost track of the number of times I have been to the area. I have also been under the falls through the tunnels, and I have, of course, been on the Maid of the Mist cruise. It seemed strange that the area of the cruise would now be covered with thick ice.

2 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - Journey Behind The Falls
Photo: John Busch
A very cool vantage point.

The Niagara Gorge, Frozen Over

When I heard the gorge was frozen over during the winter, back in 2015, I decided to drive for two hours to the falls to see what kind of photo opportunities I could find. It was a cold day with light winds, a bit of sun with cloudy periods, ideal for photography. When we arrived at the falls, it was not what I expected.

Find out what it was like on the coldest day in Canadian history.

3 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - Crest Of Horseshoe Falls
Photo: John Busch

The Horseshoe Falls in Winter

We walked to where we always started our tour, the Horseshoe Falls. Nearly everything was white with the only exceptions being the sky and the odd flash of turquoise water around the ice, so it was nice to have the sun blocked periodically to give some contrast and shadow. Even the nearby trees had several inches of ice on the branches and trunks. We were able to get an unobstructed view of the falls and the gorge, as it was off season for tourists.

Discover more of Canada’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders.

4 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - Snow And Ice
Photo: John Busch
A wintry tableau.

Mounds of Ice

I was thankful for the breeze, cold as it was, because it moved mist out of the way so we could view the water flowing over the edge. We did have a great view of the American Falls as the water flow did not seem to generate the mist. The ice had piled up in huge mounds over the winter, as it seemed to build up from the rock foundation below the falls, something which is not present below the Horseshoe Falls.

Don’t miss this gallery celebrating the beauty of the Canadian winter.

5 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - American Falls
Photo: John Busch
Mother Nature and her sculpture.

The American Side

As we walked over the icy sidewalks downriver to the docking station of the Maid of the Mist, I was continuously taking photos. The clouds were constantly moving overhead, and the mist was wafting around at the will of the breezes. I had never observed the long ice falls hanging from the layers of limestone on the walls above the gorge between the two waterfalls. The photo that shows this phenomenon also shows people on the top of the gorge on the American side, which puts the size of the icicles into perspective.

Find out 10 more places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.

6 / 6
Niagara Falls In Winter - Ice Build Up On Guardrail
Photo: John Busch
John’s wife Mary Lynn posing with the ice build-up on a guard rail.

The Walk Back

On our return walk back to the Horseshoe Falls, I was able to take the same photos again, but with different lighting, and when much of the mist over the falls was displaced by the breeze. When we got to the right viewpoint, we were able to see a rainbow in the mist over the falls.

Mother Nature does not look at this frozen waterway with our eyes. I saw cormorants, gulls and an osprey hanging around on the nearby trees or sitting on the edge of some open water in the gorge, waiting for fish to show themselves. It provided a small window for them to feed.

Every time I visit, I start at Horseshoe Falls and eventually make my way downriver to the Whirlpool Rapids. This portion of the river never freezes. It is one of life’s great pleasures to take a cable car ride across the whirlpool in season.

All in all, it was a breathtaking visit to Niagara Falls in winter.

Check out more of Canada’s most beautiful waterfalls.

Originally Published in Our Canada

Newsletter Unit