Review: Journey Behind the Falls

A short video of the Journey Behind the Falls experience along the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls. From its initial formation some ten thousand years ago during the Wisconsin glaciation through its erosion during the following millennia, this location has showcased the raw natural power of the planet. After its formation, this spot has also awed and amazed first the native inhabitants of the region, and then from 1604 on, European explorers and tourists. Today, in 2017, Niagara Falls is not just a regional tourist attraction, but a well-known and sought after world-wide tourist destination. Unlike many other natural wonders, however, Niagara Falls straddles an international border (Canada - United States) and has a number of distinctive attractions for visitors; some with history; and some that are for the more adventurous.

 The Journey Behind the Falls experience offers excellent views of all three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls as a whole.

The Journey Behind the Falls experience offers excellent views of all three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls as a whole.

Before going any further, it is worth noting that while “Niagara Falls” refers to the location, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls is actually three separate waterfalls - Horseshoe Falls (~2,600 feet long, located on the Canadian side), American Falls (~950 feet long, located on the American side) and Bridal Veil Falls (~150 feet long, also located on the American side). And while visitors to the region can explore the Cave of the Winds on the American side (near Bridal Veil Falls), Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian side offers a longer, more expansive underground tour of the area.

The most impressive views to be found in Journey Behind the Falls are of Horseshoe Falls.

In this respect, Journey Behind the Falls offers an attraction that combines a large amount of adventure with almost complete accessibility for any traveler. This attraction is operated by Niagara Parks, which also operates most of the major attractions available on the Canadian side of the falls along a fifty-six kilometer zone. Unlike many of the attractions in those zone, Journey Behind the Falls is also a spot with rich human history, which features tunnels that are over one hundred and thirty years old that have been walked by hundreds of thousands of people or more. While the tours through these tunnels have seen many iterations over the years, in 2017, they are now a self-guided walk that descends by elevator some one hundred and fifty feet to an observation platform some thirteen stories below the crest of Horseshoe Falls, and also provides visitors with the opportunity to walk six hundred and fifty feet (1/3 the total distance) behind Horseshoe Falls. 

To access the viewing platforms, visitors must traverse underground tunnels that are over one hundred and thirty years old. 

Directions/Cost. Located at 6650 Niagara Parkway, L2E 6T2, the Beyond the Falls attraction is centrally located at the Table Rock visitor center, which is the main viewing area for Horseshoe Falls, and the main hub for activities (and the WEGO bus line) for the Canadian side of the falls. While parking is available nearby ($22.00 CD/~$18.00 USD), visitors can also park further away and either take the WEGO bus lines or walk to this location from either the United States or in Niagara Falls, Canada. Even though this attraction is open year-round, during the summer months, it is difficult to find parking nearby as the day progresses, especially during holidays. Visitors to the area should therefore plan accordingly, and be prepared for crowds and traffic jams. As of 2017, the attraction costs $17.30 CD for adults (13 and up), and $11.25 CD for children aged 6-12. Children five and under are free, but do need tickets. The ticket for this attraction can be lumped into a larger package, which provides somewhat of a price break, but may not be for every traveler due to time constraints.

The Great Falls Portal is located some 650 feet along the 2600 foot length of Horseshoe Falls, and is a great spot to view the power of the waterfall.

Review/Tips. First and foremost, if you are traveling to Niagara Falls, you should be aware that since Louis Hennepin described the falls in 1677, it has been a popular tourist destination, and remains incredibly popular today. It is unrealistic to expect that during the summer months that it will not be crowded, or that there will be lines. With that in mind, if you are interested in going on this attraction, you will want to obtain tickets as soon as possible, even though it is open from 9 a.m. through 11 p.m. daily. As an example, when I visited, I was in line to buy tickets at 9:55 a.m., and could not obtain a ticket time earlier than 1:00 p.m. Separately, the worst part of this attraction is the line to get in. Again, as an example, when I visited, my ticket time was 1:00 p.m. At that time, I queued up in line, and waited in my designated time/line for some 35 minutes before I reached the elevator to descend. While the process moved smoothly and efficiently, if you have small children, general tourist impatience, or time constraints, this is something that you should be aware of.

 

Also, in terms of disclaimers, while it should be obvious, I’ll state it anyways: if you feel uncomfortable riding elevators down underground, or being in tiny, confined tunnels with people, or getting wet, this is not the attraction or experience for you. You should keep a smile on your face, and stay above ground. Keeping all this in mind, from the point one exits the elevator, some one hundred and fifty feet below ground, the Beyond the Falls Attraction truly shines. From this point, one is left to explore the tunnels at one’s leisure. To the immediate right from the elevator, a tunnel stretches out to two viewing portals that are behind Horseshoe Falls - Cataract and Great Falls. As over 2,800 cubic meters of water crashes over the falls every second during the summer months, these viewing points are not designed to showcase views, but the power of the falls. With that in mind, the two-story viewing platform at the base of Horseshoe Falls is the spot to see amazing views.

From this point (through the left tunnel from the elevator), one has expansive views of all three waterfalls, but is closest to the raw power of Horseshoe Falls. From this distance, words such as “amazing”, “spectacular” and more seem to fall short, but are still more than appropriate for the views that are present. From the platforms, one can also see down the Niagara River toward the Rainbow Bridge. This is also the area where one is most likely to “get wet”, which is only natural given the power of Horseshoe Falls. While the attraction does provide one with a yellow poncho (biodegradeable), there are few places to utilize it before the observation point. Further, if one really wishes to stay dry, there are even spots along the platform where one can avoid some, if not most of the spray from the falls. In my opinion, however, this is a once-in-a-lifetime spot and location to visit - be prepared to keep essentials dry, but enjoy the moment of getting wet at Niagara Falls. Finally, while there is no set time limit that one can stay underground, generally, most people take around an hour to explore the area. For me, even though it was busy, this was a must-visit experience along the Canadian side of Niagara Falls due to the views and the experience as a whole, and something that as a traveler, one should experience if they visit the area.