by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Yes, that is what I did recently. Last week, my wife and I pulled into Fox Boyz Marina in Youngstown just to look around, and we watched the Village of Youngstown guys repairing a part of the launch ramp that appeared to be breaking off into the river. I think Fox Boyz Marina owner Mike Fox was 'overseeing' the job to make sure they did it right, but truly, they had the best of the best there figuring this job out, and didn't need more advice. Fox is the operator of Niagara Jet Adventures, a new business that runs out of his Youngstown marina.
Fox came over to my car and said, "Hey Mark, I have a group of outdoor writers coming in about an hour, and they are going up into the gorge for a trip. How about jumping aboard and coming along as a guest?" I looked, at him, squinting one eye, doubtful I would go, and then said, "Thanks, but no thanks, Mike, but I sure do appreciate the invitation." He said, "C'mon, don't be a chicken, what are you, scared?" Then he went on to say, "It's not like you think. It is a nice smooth ride, and you won't get wet." Then he went on to say, "Geez, my mother even went up in the gorge a couple of times. The very first time she was a little shaky, but the second time she was walking around taking pictures and everything." Mike went on to elaborate "how beautiful it is up in through there" and how "you will see things you never saw in your life." I was thinking, gee whiz, now I can see Niagara Falls and the gorge rim from the bottom up instead of the top down all the time.
The picture you see is of Fox's nephew, Billy Fox, and you can see the falls from the bottom up in the background. On this trip, "Miss Jane," of The Dory in Youngstown, was the photographer. When you have out-of-town guests, instead of just showing them the Falls from the top down, take them on a Niagara Jet Adventures cruise so it can be seen from the bottom up. That's probably why the Maid of the Mist cruises have been so popular for well over the past 100 years, but its passengers never get to see the beauty of the entire gorge, especially in its fall colors. They only see the falls. You see the whole gorge on the jet boat. Plus, you don't get wet on those cold days unless you want to. Fox's jet boats have an uncovered area at the back where you can get a soaker or two if you want. Your choice.
I don't think I was scared to go on the jet boat. I know oodles of others that rant and rave about the journey through the gorge, how safe it is, how safe you feel, and just the plain beauty of it.
Many years ago when I was much younger, I did my share of venturing down in the gorge, scaling the path at the foot of Ashland Avenue at Whirlpool Street, and all that stretch in there, and it was nice. At the time, I took the beauty of the gorge for granted. Same thing fishing in the Devil's Hole and Whirlpool Park areas - no camera, only a visual memory, lots of wildlife, and the vision of slipping into that fast water and being the subject of a massive search party.
Some people will remember back when the American Sportsman TV show was on one of the major channels, they did a show filming kayakers venturing from the Falls area down through the Rapids, and to the Lewiston docks. I took my old Kodak Super 8 movie camera halfway across the Whirlpool Bridge to capture some of this adventure. It was wild. While looking through the camera peephole, filming a kayak, it disappeared. I then looked with both eyes and couldn't find the person or the kayak. I thought oh no, there's a casualty, and just as I looked again, the kayak and driver popped up about 200 feet to the right and about 200 yards downstream. Luckily, there were no casualties. Those rapids, I am told, can go as high as 20 feet in the air and cause a lot of turbulence a small boat could never maneuver.
A few years later, someone came into town with a pipe dream and figured he could start a tour business shooting those rapids with big rubber rafts powered by huge horsepower motors. He did a few experiments to see if it could be done. He was successful, but when it came time to take people on the very first trip, over it went, dumping the passengers into the river. A huge search and rescue party entailed. As far as I can remember, everyone was rescued with only minor injuries. Needless to say, the business adventurer packed his bags and his ideas and left town.
There is another adventure in the history books about when the Maid of the Mist boat company sold its original boat to a company in Canada. They had to deliver it from the Falls to the docks at Queenston, Ontario, a 3-mile journey, through what is considered the most "dangerous whitewater in the world." This happened 1861. Despite the smokestack being ripped off the steamboat when it passed under the old Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge, the 72-foot ship made it, but just barely. The captain and crew were paid $500 for their efforts. This was the first time anyone ever accomplished such a feat. It was the last time, too.
Niagara Jet Adventures is nothing like that. All of its boats have been manufactured by a highly reputable company, tested, and inspected by the United States Coast Guard. They are operated by licensed, highly trained pilots, and your safety is assured. There are too many things in this world we take for granted, and this could be one of those if you don't do it now. Make a phone call to 855- 652-8687 to find out more, or visit www.niagarajet.com. The Dory on Main Street in Youngstown is a ticket agent; you can stop there for more info, too. "Miss Jane" is a "frequent flier" on the Jet Adventure and can tell you all that you want to know.
One thing fishermen should know, which has been said repeatedly, is all boats will leave a wake, even a sailboat of any size. These jet boats leave nearly none, sometimes less than fishermen's boats.
I would encourage anyone in this readership to take the time to see and do something that will leave you thrilled and excited. Don't forget your camera, and leave your wetsuits at home! People spend thousands to see the Grand Canyon, but there is nothing like that right in your own backyard. We have Niagara Falls, and you can see it from the bottom up!
•Fireflies, or lightning bugs, have been on my mind lately, because in the last several years they have been slowly disappearing -- at least from my neck of the woods. Just this year alone, when out at night, in any one sitting we might spot 10 to 15 of them sending out their Morse code signals. That's on a good night. If anyone else is seeing a drastic decline, let me know. I'll ask the Department of Environmental Conservation and see what they say.
•I know a young lad that fishes a lot, and he learned a lot from his elders. Now, when he sets out by himself to do some angling, he is so good at it, the fish just tremble when he approaches. He learned well. Take a kid fishing and teach them the joys of it!
So Smart Sez: Don't leave your fresh-caught fish hanging on a stringer over the side of your boat, or in the water if fishing from shore. Toss them in a cooler with ice. Fish spoil fast, and they will stay fresh and be more enjoyable to eat when cooled.