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Exploring a tunnel deep below Niagara Falls

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NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -

Turbines that once harnessed the powerful energy of Niagara Falls into a great source of electricity came to a halt years ago. But the secrets deep below the power station are coming to life once again.

Visitors can now explore the former cathedral of power and a tunnel that opens to a spectacular view of the falls.

The Niagara Parks Power Station was once a pioneering masterpiece that helped bring the area into the modern age. In operation from 1905 to 2006, there is a lot of history hidden within its walls.

“It’s such a layered story, this is a story of entrepreneurship and innovation, it’s a story of architecture of course it’s a story of hydro power,” said David Adames, CEO of Niagara Parks.

The first major hydroelectric power plant built on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, it was originally operated by the Canadian Niagara Power Company and used cutting-edge technology for its time.

In the early years, customers were offered special views overlooking the main generator floor.

“We have to remember at the time people were still having to be convinced to buy electricity,” said Adames.

The Niagara Parks Power station generator floor. (Courtesy Niagara Parks)

Visitors today do not need convincing. They can come to see first-hand the engineering marvel, many amazed by the architecture.

The building and generator floor are not the only spaces with stories to tell.

Deep below the surface there are chambers that were used to harness the power of the thundering river. Water rushed down, spinning turbines into energy and now those are on full display.

Visitors can travel 55 metres in a glass elevator deep into the facility core, viewing turbines on their trip down and into a 670-metre tunnel. This is where rushing water flowed through and back into the lower Niagara River. People can now walk through the brick-lined tunnel where water once flowed at around 70 thousand gallons per second.

At the end of the tunnel, once known as the “tail race,” it opens to the lower Niagara River and a new viewing platform. As visitors emerge, they are greeted by the sound of the rumbling falls. This offers a fresh perspective of the Niagara gorge.

“People know Niagara Falls but can now enjoy it in a different way,” said Adames, calling this a “legacy project” for everyone to enjoy.

This is an area rich with natural beauty, but even this new view offers people a chance to think about the force of Mother Nature and how it was captured to bring us into the modern age. 

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