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American, Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls: A Primer

Did you know that Niagara Falls isn’t one waterfall — but three? Here’s what to know about each Niagara Falls waterfall.

Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in North America, and certainly the most well-known of our chutes thanks to its history (America’s oldest state park!), its role in Hollywood and its easy access. Some are surprised to learn, however, that there are actually three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

The largest: Horseshoe Falls

Also known as “Canadian Falls” since 90 percent of it lies on the Canadian side of the river, Horseshoe Falls is located between Terrapin Point on Goat Island and Table Rock in Canada.

  • Height: 188 feet
  • Crestline: 2,200 feet
  • Flow: 90% of the river’s total flow makes its way over Horseshoe Falls. That’s about 681,750 gallons per second.
  • Best viewing spot: Maid of the Mist or Terrapin Point

The second largest: American Falls

Unlike Horseshoe Falls, American Falls is completely on the U.S. side of the river, located between Prospect Point and Luna Island. If you look at the base, you’ll see a large talus (rock pile), which has been formed by the tumbling bedrock the flow has pushed over the Falls. To analyze the rock pile, engineers “turned off” the falls in 1969 by diverting the river.

  • Height: It depends. Because of the talus, the height of American Falls ranges from 70 to 110 feet. If you were to measure from the top of the falls to the river, rather than to the top of the talus, that would be 188 feet.
  • Crestline: About 1,000 feet.
  • Flow: Depending on how much is being siphoned off for hydrolelectric power, about 75,000 gallons per second. This is about 10% of Niagara Falls total flow.
  • Best viewing spot: Prospect Point, the Observation Tower or the Crow’s Nest.

Smallest: Bridal Veil Falls

Separated from American Falls by Luna Island, lacy Bridal Veil Falls is the smallest of the three falls. However, it’s the easiest one to get close to: the Cave of the Winds tour takes you right up to its base!

  • Height: 181 feet
  • Crestline: 50 feet
  • Flow: Its volume isn’t determined separately from American Falls.
  • Best viewing spot: Luna Island, or on the Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds.