Consider the river that cares not
what man thinks of it, churning
over obstacles that will not impede it
in a gorgeous canyon, miles from
a roaring cataract yet filled with the sound
of a rapid staccato best heard at the water’s edge,
that edge approached with peril for it cares not
what safety one desires when near, its own safety
never at stake, raging as it does at the disservice
served upon it, the waters it carries never truly clean,
yet powerless, despite its power, to change that course.
Now walk the trails that lie beside it, trails
that care not whether they are trod by soled feet
or the pads of wildlife content to share
with those who understand the fragile nature
of their home, this pocket of green. Marvel
at the escarpment that once was the falls
as the river wore at its limestone foundation
in its inexorable march to the current home
of those falls. Move briefly through shadow
between boulders larger than a house,
cleaved from the side of the wall towering
above you, as you wind your way to the river.
Watch a heron pull a fish from the water as you sit
on the rocks at the river’s edge, then gaze
at the roiling water beside you, sun glinting
from the foam of the rapids. Follow that light
to see the sun approach the crest of the gorge,
all the while taking in the green that surrounds you,
green that would not be had it not been preserved
by those who understand its fragile nature.
The Niagara River, the strait of water between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, carries all of the water of the upper Great Lakes. Much of the thirty-six mile length of the river was lined with industry, including within the gorge below Niagara Falls. The majority of that industry is gone, with the few remaining on the US side in the stretch north of Buffalo. While stricter regulations and ambitious cleanup campaigns, from the late twentieth century onward, reversed much of the degradation of the lakes during the industrial era, toxic sediments still exist and agricultural runoff remains a serious problem. The Canadian side of the Niagara River is a true parkway, maintained by Niagara Parks of Ontario. Beyond the falls, from the whirlpool to the end of the gorge is Niagara Glen, where a stairway descends the gorge wall to join four miles of trails that lead to the river’s edge as they wind through a Carolinian forest. When I lived in New York, I often crossed into Canada at Niagara Falls, just to walk those trails. The rapids within the gorge range from Class III to Class V.
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