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The royal beginnings of the lights at Niagara Falls

The tradition of iluminating Niagara Falls began with a royal visit in 1860

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — As many of us will be making our way across the border to The Winter Festival of Lights on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls this holiday season, we look back on their beginnings. In this year that we marked the passing of a queen, it is only fitting that we remember the royal beginnings of the lighting of The Falls.

We know how spectacular they are, during the day they're a wonder of nature. At night, they're a wonder of the senses, a luminescent spectacle that draws visitors from near and far. 

"I always say that folks should see the Falls at different points of the day. At sunrise, during the day with sunset, and of course, at night when we light the falls up every night," says David Adames, C.E.O. of Niagara Parks. 

The Niagara Falls Illumination Board was established in 1925. The board consists of representatives of the cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York, Ontario Power Generation, New York Power Authority, Niagara Parks Commission and New York State Parks. Whereas they've made huge improvements to the lighting technology over the past 97 years, including a new LED system installed in 2016, which improved efficiency by nearly 50%, the idea of a lightshow cast over the cascading waters of Niagara goes back much further than that.

"The first time The Falls were ever lit was for a very special occasion back in september of 1860, when the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's son, visited Niagara Falls," Adames said.

It was a new era for enjoyment of this wonder of the world, and also a new era for Canada. This was the first royal visit to British North America which would soon become the sovereign nation of Canada in 1867. 

"So the Falls were lit up in flares, so there was this notion to light up The Falls over time. So it was done periodically, then more formally starting in the 1920's," Adames said. 

While the idea has remained the same, the technology, of course has made it an amazing experience fit for a king. And you still have plenty of time to take in the sites of the seasons, The Winter Festival of Lights along the Niagara Parkway runs through February 20th, along with the nightly lighting of the Falls themselves.

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