The Niagara Escarpment was formed over 400 million years ago, and those 400 million years of history are visible in the layers of rock along the escarpment walls. These rocks layers are basically a timeline, showing how the escarpment has eroded and changed over time.
One thing this erosion has resulted in, is the creation of an amazing gorge, which hosts a series of waterfalls, the most famous of which is the thundering waters of Niagara Falls. But all along the entire Niagara Escarpment, are a series of slightly lesser known waterfalls, not quite as grand as Niagara Falls, but beautiful none-the- less.
The Variety of Waterfalls
Plunge: water falls vertically and loses contact with the bedrock in the process.
Horsetail: the falling water maintains some contact with the bedrock, and the crest of falling water gets wider as it drops.
Cataract: a big, powerful waterfall.
Multi Step: a series of waterfalls that are all around the same size and that each have their own pool.
Cascade: water falls down what looks like steps made by rock.
Segmented: a waterfall that has distinct flows as it falls
Punchbowl: water falls in a constricted form, but spreads out when it reaches the pool.
*these are just some of the types of waterfalls.
Positioned beside a picturesque mill, this waterfall is one of Niagara’s lovelier hidden gems. There are actually two waterfalls at this location, though one of them requires more of a commitment to hiking if you want to see it. Upper Decew Falls is a tall waterfall that is approximately six metres wide. The water falls into a pretty pool, where it then continues downstream until it reaches Lower Decew Falls, which is a significantly smaller waterfall.
This spot is perfect for hiking as the Upper Falls sits adjacent to an entrance to the Bruce Trail. The Upper Waterfall can be viewed from the top of the escarpment, but if you decide to hike the trail, be cautious at all times, as the trail has a steep drop on one side.
The mill itself is an industrial heritage site and features a working gristmill, a turbine shed, a sawmill, a blacksmith and carpentry shop and a historic home. All buildings are owned by the City of St. Catharines and are maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers. Come May, the mill is open for tours on certain days.
Decew Falls is a great waterfall to visit if you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Niagara Falls and want to get a little more in tune with nature.
This set of waterfalls is located in Jordan, and is another of Niagara’s beauties. The flow varies greatly according to the season (same goes for the rest of the Niagara Escarpment waterfalls), so spring is probably the best time to visit. There is a charge to park here, but the hiking is lovely and the Falls itself is a beautiful sight to see. The Falls is located within the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area and is home to two waterfalls, the upper and the lower. Marked paths will guide you to areas where you’ll be able to view both waterfalls. While you are there, you’ll also be able to explore a village of early 19th century buildings, which include a historic home, privy/tool shed, smoke house, a barn, grist mill, and church. It is a really interesting area to explore for both the historical and natural aspects.
This is another beautiful site that is perfect for hiking, and there are marked trees that lead hikers through different paths. Parking is available at the Rockway Community Centre, which is located on Pelham Rd. In addition to the large falls, there is also the middle and small falls further downstream.
This waterfall takes a little bit more of a hike to reach, but you’ll end up with a good view and a secluded location. It is located within the Louth Conservation Area, and parking is available on Staff Ave.
This area contains both an upper and lower falls that are located in the Beamer Memorial Conservation Area, on the corner of Mountain and Ridge Roads.
If you would like to find out more information about all the waterfalls on the Niagara Escarpment, check out http://gowaterfalling.com. There are maps available so you can plan out a drive from waterfall to waterfall. Many of the falls are within hiking distance of each other, so if you are up for a day full of hiking, you can reach many waterfalls by foot.
Due to it’s unique geological history, the Niagara Escarpment is basically a cliff that runs from Tobermory to Niagara, and any water that is trying to make it’s way to Lake Ontario or Georgian Bay, needs to fall off the escarpment somewhere along the way. Luckily for us, this history has resulted in nature taking quite a picturesque route.