Niagara Whirlpool

The Niagara Whirlpool is a stunning natural whirlpool located in the Niagara River along the Canada–U.S. border between New York and Ontario. It is located downstream from Niagara Falls in the Niagara Gorge and boasts a depth of 125 feet. This breathtaking phenomenon formed around 4,200 years ago due to the upstream erosion of the Niagara Escarpment by the Niagara River. As the falls retreated upstream, they intersected with an ancient pre-glacial river bed inside Saint David’s Buried Gorge, resulting in the turbulent swirling of the river.

The whirlpool spins in a counterclockwise motion during normal flow, but when more water is diverted to the surrounding hydroelectric power plants, the whirlpool direction often reverses. Alongside the Whirlpool are two state/provincial parks: Whirlpool State Park on the U.S. side and Niagara Glen Nature Reserve on the Canadian side. Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Whirlpool Aero Car, which travels between two points on the Canadian side and briefly enters U.S. territory four times during the trip. This antique cable car offers unforgettable views of the Niagara Whirlpool and the river’s Class 6 rapids as it soars 3,500 feet across the Niagara Gorge.

The Niagara Whirlpool has been a popular tourist attraction since the late 1800s, with local developer Samuel Colt constructing an inclined railway to take visitors from the top of the Niagara Gorge to the bank of the whirlpool rapids below. In 1913, a group of Spanish businessmen approached Niagara Parks with the idea of building a new cable car that would take visitors across the Niagara Whirlpool. The Whirlpool Aero Car, designed by famed Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo, has been soaring the Niagara Gorge since 1916.

The construction of the aero car required significant excavation on both sides of the gorge to house the machinery chambers, avoiding interfering with views of the river from the surrounding area. The carriage itself was built overseas and shipped to the site where it was installed onto a cable spanning over 500 meters across the swirling waters of the river below. In 2023, the Whirlpool Aero Car underwent refurbishments, with the lower section of the car restored with brand-new mechanical parts, a non-slip floor, roof, and fresh paint. The iconic yellow arch, designed by Leonardo Torres-Quevedo, was replaced with an identical arch, preserving the stunning original design.

Today, over 100,000 individuals ride the Whirlpool Aero Car annually, marveling at the breathtaking Niagara Whirlpool and the river’s mesmerizing natural phenomena. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Niagara Whirlpool for yourself.