Niagara - Niagara Gorge

Niagara, New York, US


Niagara Gorge

Usual Difficulty V+ (for normal flows)
Length 7 Miles
Avg. Gradient 65 fpm

Big-ol' Boof

Big-ol' Boof
Photo of Karl Gesslein boofs onto the Maid of the Mist taken 10/21/01

River Description

Ain't no legal putin on this here stretch of water. 'Tis a pity.
Lat / Longitude data are very approximate.

Niagara Gorge Background

The New York State Department of Parks, by regulation, prohibits launching a boat from park property, which is the only feasible access from the US side to the rapids above the whirlpool. The old regulation provided for the issuance of permits and it was that regulation that boaters exploited to gain access in 1987. Subsequently, the regulation was modified to adopt an absolute boating prohibition above the whirlpool. American Whitewater was unsuccessful in our challenge to that regulation. There have been some efforts to secure legislation or a revised regulation that would permit limited access, but, to date, they have been unsuccessful.

History of river-running in the Niagara Gorge: Captain Joel Robinson navigated the first Maid of the Mist steamer through the rapids on June 6, 1861, as he had a date to sell the craft if he could get it to Lake Ontario. In those pre-hydro days, the flow was 250,000 cfs.

In 1976, two intrepid entrepreneurs began commercial rafting in the Gorge. This enterprise came to a halt when a raft flipped on their twelfth run. There were four drownings.

In October 1982, for a taping of The American Sportsman, Chris Spelius, Don Deedon, Carrie Ashton, and Kenneth Lagergren managed a run (watch the video).

In October 1987, permits were issued for four groups. The first included Pete Skinner, Bob Baker and his brother Al, Bob Glanville, Gibbs Johnson, Chris Koll, John Maxwell, and Marty McCormick. One had Skinner and Maxwell joining Nolan Whitesell's open boat. Another included Risa and Woody Callaway; and the last group included Spelius and Davey Hearn. (This from a report in the Nov/Dec 1987 AW Journal.) Access was then denied, and there has been no resumption.

Pete Skinner wrote up a run of the Gorge in First Descents: in Search of Wild Rivers (Cameron O'Connor and John Lazenby, eds., Menasha Ridge Press, 1989).

Since then the gorge has been semi-legally run numerous times by various crews. Legal access requires some local knowledge...

Here and Now Trailer

Ben Marr in 2014

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is unrunnable, but people are always wondering about it and asking questions about it. So here goes:
In 1990, Jesse Sharp attempted to run the Falls in a C-1. His effort resulted in a very public disaster. Here's a link to the AW accident report in the AW Safety Database.
Photos of his run can be accessed by clicking here. Type "Jesse Sharp" in the search box. (They say he ran it in a kayak, but he was in a Perception Gyramax C-1.)

The "First Descent" of Niagara Falls is credited to Annie Edson Taylor, a schoolteacher who dropped over the Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901. Click here for one of the many versions of her story. Many daredevils have followed; most have survived, but many have not. On July 9,1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the Falls (in a PFD) following a boating accident. He miraculously survived; read about it by clicking here. On October 22, 2003, Kirk Jones survived a swim over the Falls. Read an interview with him here. Since then, two others have survived being swept over the Horseshoe Falls. These miraculous survivals, of course, are exceedingly rare exceptions to the rule that Niagara Falls is deadly.


Western New York Area Reaches

Beaver Meadow Creek                     Canadaway Creek (1.)                                      Canadaway Creek (2.) 

Canaseraga Creek                           Cattaraugus Creek                                           Cattaraugus Creek, S. Branch 

Cazenovia Creek, W. Branch (1.)    Cazenovia Creek, W. Branch (2.)                     Chautauqua Creek 

Clear Creek, N. Br.                           Conesus Creek                                              Eighteenmile Creek 

Eighteenmile Creek, S. Br.                Ellicott Creek                                                    Genesee (Letchworth) 

Honeoye Creek                               Keshequa Creek                                            Little Chautauqua Creek 

Murder Creek                                  Niagara                                                             Oak Orchard Creek 

Oatka Creek                                    Rushford Lake Outlet                                       Sugar Creek 

Twentymile Creek


Google Map of New York Whitewater

New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-06-09 14:07:18

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 11 2007 (4388 days ago)
Jake GaechterDetails
If you ever ran the falls you might as well run it in a barrel. At that hight it does not matter
what you are in, kayak, tube, raft, ducky... (that would be interesting to watch). You are going to
get torn out of your boat on or before impact and if you are lucky they might find your body. Jesse
had guts but that is just suicidal.
September 17 2006 (4504 days ago)
x (1)
Video of First Legal Descent of the Niagara Gorge

<a href="">Video Link</a>, <a href=
"">Story Link</a>
September 23 2004 (5228 days ago)
Just got back from a touristy visit of the falls, and had to look at the gorge of course. From
under the bridge you have about a half mile long rapid. A few guard holes on the top right, but you
pretty much want to be in the middle. From there, no more holes. Just huge water. Lots of massive V
waves, that cycle, build and explode from time to time. A lot of the run is going to be about luck
and timing. All the rest is just hitting your roll and not even thinking about taking a swim. There
is a slight lull between the first rapid and whirlpool. From the scout whirlpool would be best
taken left to right. You definatley DO NOT want to be on the left at the bottom or you will get
slurped by one of the most evil whirlpool boil thangs you have ever laid eyes on. Around the corner
from whirlpool is one more wave train and then some smaller rapid. According to the park, the
gradient is 54 feet per mile and the run is 1.6 kilometers.

As a side note, the rapids above the falls would be a hoot, but missing the last eddy would
re-define "SUCKS".

If you are ever stupid enough to run the falls, the mad dash from the canadian side would be the
way to go. You can get a car with in 100 feet of the water, and only have to hop a 4 foot tall
fence. From there, peal out and you'll have about 75 feet of fast moving flatwater before the
bottom drops out.