Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls State Park's overlook of the American Falls, with the Horseshoe Falls in the distance
Type State park
Location Prospect Street & Old Falls Street
Niagara Falls, New York[1]
Coordinates 43°05′N 79°04′W / 43.08°N 79.07°W / 43.08; -79.07Coordinates: 43°05′N 79°04′W / 43.08°N 79.07°W / 43.08; -79.07
Area 221 acres (0.89 km2)[2]
Created 1885 (1885)[3]
Operated by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Visitors 9,011,709 (in 2014)[4]
Open All year

Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Reservation
Location Niagara Falls, New York
Built 1885
NRHP Reference # 66000555[5]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL May 23, 1963[6]

Niagara Falls State Park is located in the City of Niagara Falls in Niagara County, New York. The park, recognized as the oldest state park in the United States, contains the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and a portion of the Canadian Falls, also known as the Horseshoe Falls.


Postcard from 1898 showing view of the American Falls from Goat Island

Prior to being protected as a state reservation, the lands surrounding Niagara Falls on the American side were largely controlled by private interests, and public access to the falls was limited. An early champion of the falls' surroundings was landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who began advocating for the preservation of the falls in the 1860s. In 1879, at the behest of the New York State Legislature, Olmsted and State Surveyor James T. Gardner helped prepare a special report on the falls' conditions, which argued for increased public access to the falls and recommended that the state purchase lands for that purpose. The report was followed by a publicity and petitioning campaign that helped bring the issue to the public's attention.[7]

Olmsted and others formed the Niagara Falls Association in 1883, a group that aimed to lobby New York to acquire and protect the falls from private exploitation.[7] Their efforts succeeded later that year when, on April 30, 1883, a bill authorizing the "selection, location and appropriation of certain lands in the village of Niagara Falls for a state reservation" was signed into law by then-governor Grover Cleveland.[8][9] The act led to the establishment of the Niagara Reservation in 1885.[3][10] New York State Assemblyman Thomas Vincent Welch figured prominently in getting the bill signed, and served as the first Superintendent of the Park for 18 years from its inception until 1903.

Niagara Falls State Park is claimed to be the oldest continuously-operating state park in the United States[11][note 1] and the first established via eminent domain.[3]

The impetus to protect the falls and improve their accessibility to the public was international; early lobbying for the park's creation was bolstered by similar plans that were proposed for the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Although plans for an international park did not come to fruition, work toward the establishment of an Ontario provincial park began in 1885. The Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park, today known simply as Queen Victoria Park, was eventually created in 1887.[10]

The Niagara Reservation's early design was accomplished by Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux. The team completed their designs in 1887, with a focus on improving public access while preserving the natural and scenic elements of the landscape, to the exclusion of commercial and resort-style attractions.[7]

The Niagara Reservation was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1963.[6][13] It is a major contributing element to the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.[14]

A $44-million refurbishment of the park's facilities was completed in 2003. Work focused on improvements to the park's observation tower, visitor's center, bridges, trails, and other infrastructure.[11]

In 2007, Niagara Falls State Park was named as the 10th most beautiful spot in America by The Today Show.[15]

Park facilities

Niagara Falls State Park visitors center

In addition to facilitating views of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Canadian Falls, the park overlooks the Niagara Gorge and allows access to the Maid of the Mist tour boats, Cave of the Winds, Goat Island, the Prospect Point Observation Tower, a statue of Nikola Tesla, and the IMAX movie Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic which is shown at the Niagara Adventure Theater.

The park also offers a museum, food concession, a movie theater, a gift shop, fireworks, hiking and nature trails, picnic tables, recreation programs, and fishing. The Top of the Falls Restaurant, located on Goat Island overlooking the Horseshoe Falls, is also available within the park.[16]

Discovery Pass

Visitors to Niagara Falls may purchase the Discovery Pass, a guest pass that allows entrance to several attractions at a smaller price. As of 2016, the ticket provides admission to the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, the Niagara Adventure Theater, the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, and the Aquarium of Niagara. The ticket also provides discounts for Fort Niagara, and entitles the holder to free gifts at Artpark and the New York Power Project Power Vista.[17]

See also


  1. Although claimed as the oldest state park in the United States, Niagara Falls was not the first state-managed park.[12] For a discussion of earlier state parks, see History of state parks in the United States.


  1. "Niagara Falls State Park". NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  2. "Section O: Environmental Conservation and Recreation, Table O-9". 2014 New York State Statistical Yearbook (PDF). The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. 2014. pp. 671–674. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "Niagara National Heritage Area Study Report". National Park Service. 2005. p. 26. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  4. "State Park Annual Attendance Figures by Facility: Beginning 2003". Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  5. National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  6. 1 2 "Niagara Reservation". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-17.
  7. 1 2 3 Carr, Ethan (2014). "Olmsted and Scenic Preservation". Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America. Western New York Public Broadcasting Association. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  8. "Chapter 336: An act to authorize the selection, location and appropriation of certain lands in the village of Niagara Falls for a state reservation and to preserve the scenery of the falls of Niagara". The General Statutes of the State of New York for the Year 1883. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Company. 1883. pp. 155–157. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  9. Natural Heritage Trust; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; New York State Council of Parks & Recreation (1975). Fifty Years: New York State Parks, 1924-1974. Natural Heritage Trust. p. 10.
  10. 1 2 "Niagara Falls Park System". Seventeenth Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York. American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. 1912. pp. 278–284. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  11. 1 2 "Governor Announces Completion of Multi-Million Dollar Improvement at Scenic Niagara Falls State Park". NYS Office of the Governor. June 24, 2003. Archived from the original on October 3, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  12. Edmondson, Brad (2001). "Publication #72 - Environmental Affairs in New York State: A Historical Overview" (PDF). New York State Archives. pp. 7–9. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  13. Richard Greenwood (January 16, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Niagara Reservation" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-22. and Accompanying aerial photo, undated. (477 KB)
  14. "History and Culture". Niagara Falls National Heritage Area. National Park Service. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  15. "Niagara Falls State Park Named to Today Show's List of America's Beautiful Spots". July 12, 2007. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  16. Hufnagel, James (July 17, 2012). "Top of the Falls Dining Experience Falls Short". Niagara Falls Reporter. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  17. "Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass". Niagara Falls, USA Discovery Pass. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
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