Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world, in all four seasons. In fact, the Falls has a unique appeal in the cold of winter that is absent in summer months-the ice bridge. If you happen across an old Niagara Falls post card or news article from the late 1800s and it mentions a trip across the bridge in winter, there is a good chance they are talking about the ice bridge.
In fact, the tourism industry surrounding the ice bridge at Niagara was so well established, it included an assortment of wooden curio shops, food vendors and souvenir stands placed strategically along the ice bridge that forms across the Niagara River below the Falls. As a result, tourists to the Falls in the winter would travel by incline railway to the base of the Falls where their ice bridge adventure would begin in earnest.
The Niagara Falls Gazette of February 1899 depicts the icy scene. “On the mountain were a number of young ladies and gentlemen enjoying the sport it affords in coasting. No sleigh or board was needed. Crawling up its huge side to the top was a hazardous trip, but the trip down was an exciting one.”
“Continuing on (over the river) the first booth, or rather teepee, was run by James Callan. Attired as he is, in his Indian costume, he attracts many to his hut and few go away without purchasing some of his wares. James Le Blond, stuck about the middle of the (ice) bridge, placed his shanty which he calls the “Clifton House.” Eatables and drinkables of all kinds are sold here, along with a good warm “hot dog” as they are called.”
“From the top of a large mound, M. Davis greets you with a smile and asks you to have your picture taken right on the bridge with the Falls as the background. All receiving a sample of his work are satisfied and as you are then on or near the Canadian side of the river, you turn and retrace your steps along the ice flow.”
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094