The Niagara Whirlpool is a natural whirlpool formed along the Niagara River in Niagara Gorge, downstream from Niagara Falls. It is in-between the Canadian (Ontario) and US (New York) borders. It is as deep as 38 meters, or 125 feet. The average depth is 10.7 meters or 35 feet. The speed of the whirlpool water is approximately 35.4 km/hr or 22 mph. You will find two provincial/state parks located alongside the Niagara whirlpool – the the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve in Canada, and the Whirlpool State Park in the USA.
How was the Whirlpool in Niagara Falls Formed?
The whirlpool rapids formed approximately 4,200 years ago, caused by upstream erosion in the Niagara Escarpment. There is a huge volume of water flowing from Niagara Falls which is crushed into Great Gorge and in turn that becomes the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids. A vortex (or whirlpool) is created, and then the water continues into Lake Ontario. The water in the whirlpool naturally spins in a counterclockwise direction. This changes with the “reversal phenomenon”, which happens every night at 10:00 PM when water is diverted to the Niagara hydro power station. At that point the whirlpool flow reverses direction until the morning.
Niagara Whirlpool Aero Car
The Whirlpool Aero Car, which is also known as the Spanish Aero Car, is located on the Canadian side of the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids. The aero car was first introduced for use in 1916, and upgraded in 1961, 1967, and 1984. This passage by the Niagara Parks Commission in 1991 is located near the entrance:
NIAGARA SPANISH AERO CAR
Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852 – 1936) was an ingenious Spanish engineer. Among his creations were algebraic machines, remote control devices, dirigibles and the world’s first computer. The Niagara Spanish Aero Car was designed by Leonardo Torres Quevedo and represented a new type of aerial cable way that he called “transbordador”. Officially opened on August 8, 1916, it is the only one of its kind in existence.
But it’s also safe! The Aero Car has many safety features including a rescue car. It is so safe however, that the rescue car has never even been used besides for training purposes (that is in over 100 years of operation).
The view includes the erratic rapids of the whirlpool, the beautiful nature surrounding the Niagara River and hikers/fisherman from both the Canadian and US side. For a full ride, the car goes across the US-Canada border 4 times. You can take your phone with you for the ride and this makes for a great photo opportunity. The line up for the cable car ride is normally very long so it’s not always realistic to take the ride – especially on a one day tour. However, it makes for a beautiful photo opportunity!
How to get to the Whirlpool Rapids
If you’re travelling to Niagara Falls on your own, you can search for the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids on your GPS (or call an Uber). If you’re staying in Toronto, it is recommended to book a Niagara Falls tour. Queen Tour Niagara Falls Tours will take you on a guided sightseeing trip that includes a stop at the famous Niagara Whirlpool Rapids. You might not have time to ride the cable car while on a tour (or on your own sometimes) because sometimes the line can take hours – but that’s okay because you can enjoy an ideal vantage point to see the whirlpool rapids. Ask your tour guide for advice on the best spots for photos! Learn more about travelling on your own from Toronto VS taking a Niagara tour here.