Niagara river in winter with wonderful combinations of ice and snow.

Niagara, river, winter, Woodbury
Niagara river in winter. Photographed by Bierstadt.


NIAGARA! What magic in the name to all of us; how few of us have realized its actual glories, yet how few but have drawn some picture of its grandeur in their imagination. Yet all whose lot it has been to visit this greatest of Nature’s wonders, have at first felt a slight sense of disappointment, which has however soon passed away and given place to one of awe and wonder.

To see Niagara in its glory must be in winter time, when each tree stem appears as if newly covered with dead silver; when the bed of the river is changed by the magic hand of King Frost into a fantastic mass of curious shapes; and great domes of ice, spray formed, start up from beneath each portion of the Falls: then the great green, blue, and brown mass of tumbling water is set off by the pure masses of crystalline white below, glorified by the glancing rays of light that catch them; to stand on the Canadian side, and look down deep below into the impenetrable spray-hidden void, tinged in sunlight by the rainbow against a pure white ground-these are sights, the feelings conjured up by which, memory can never lose.

Formerly Table Rock was considered the finest stand-point to view the great Horse-shoe Fall, but from gradual undermining this immense mass was precipitated below, some forty persons having only a few minutes previously been standing on it.

The old Terrapin tower, also, is no longer a principal object in the panorama of Niagara, having lately been blown down as considered unsafe. It occupied at once a singular and awful position, a mass of rock lying just on the brink of the great Horse-shoe Fall being its only support. The tumultuous mass of mad waters rushing headlong over on each side made it by no means a pleasant place for persons of a nervous disposition, but the view from the top of the tower, some forty feet high, was sublime, the rapids above coming rushing tempestuously onwards as if eager for the plunge into the gulf below, the great sweep of the Fall just below us and the steep banks of the river beyond altogether made this one of the most commanding points of view.

Our view, though giving but a distant view of the Falls, has been chosen as representing one of those wonderful winter combinations of ice and snow which the photographer has arrested by means of his camera.

The mass of spray rising in the air partly obscures the great HorseShoe Fall, the Terrapin tower standing out boldly against the sky. A portion of the American Fall is seen on the left side of the picture.

The following lines by Lord Morpeth will not be out of place here:-

"There's nothing great or bright, thou glorious Fall!
Thou mayst not to the fancy's sense recall-
The thunder-riven cloud, the lightning's leap,
The stirrings of the chambers of the deep;
Earth's emerald green and many-tinted dyes,
The fleecy whiteness of the upper skies;
The tread of armies, thickening as they come,
The boom of cannon and the beat of drum;
The brow of beauty and the form of grace,
The passion and the prowess of our race;
The song of Homer in its loftiest hour,
The unresisting sweep of Roman power;
Britannia's trident on the azure sea,
America's young shout of liberty!
"Oh, may the wars that madden on these deeps,
There spend their rage, nor climb the encircling steeps;
And till the conflict of their surges cease,
The nations on thy banks repose in peace!"

Descriptive Article by Walter B. Woodbury. Photographed by Bierstadt.

Source: Treasure spots of the world: a selection of the chief beauties and wonders of nature and art by Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885); Francis Clement Naish. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, Paternoster Row, 1875.