Horseshoe falls with bird

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario--Even if you've never been here, you almost certainly can recognize Niagara Falls with just a glance. At once massive, majestic, awe-inspiring, and thunderously loud--not to mention the "wettest place on Earth"--this famous waterfall is also one of the largest power generators on the planet.

As part of Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman crossed the Rainbow Bridge and took in the falls from the Canadian side. What he saw, and what millions of others see every year, is truly one of Earth's most impressive natural features and among the most productive.

Horseshoe Falls, which is seen here with steam rising high above it like an ash cloud from a volcano, is 170 feet high, 2,200 feet wide, and responsible for 90 percent of the flow of Niagara Falls. Between April and October each year, 100,000 cubic feet of water flow over Horseshoe Falls per second. During the rest of the year, the flow is about half that.

Its partner in crime, American Falls, is 180 feet tall but just 1,060 feet wide. It is responsible for the other 10 percent of the total flow.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Niagara River with steam

A view of Horseshoe Falls and the Niagara River that leads up to it, as seen from a 14th floor hotel room on the Canadian side of the border.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Niagara Power Project

When it was turned on in 1961, the Niagara Power Project, seen here, was the most powerful hydropower facility on the planet, according to the New York Power Authority.

Today, it is still New York state's largest power generator, producing enough power--2.4 million kilowatts--to light 24 million 100-watt lightbulbs simultaneously. In 2006, the power authority finished modernizing and upgrading its main plant, the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, at a cost of $300 million. Each of the plant's 13 turbines was replaced--work that is hoped will sustain the system for another 50 years.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Fishing pier

Adjacent to the Niagara Power Project's dam, the New York Power Authority has set up a fishing pier accessible by the public.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Turbine moving

One of the 13 new turbines for the Niagara Power Project is hauled slowly toward the facility.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Turbine installation

The new turbine is installed inside the Niagara Power Project facility.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Unit 13 rotor

The new rotor for the 13th new turbine, at the Niagara Power Project.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Overhead

An overhead look at the dam of the Niagara Power Project, one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in North America.

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Photo by: New York Power Authority / Caption by:

Over the Horseshoe

Water rushes over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, as seen from the 14th floor of a hotel on the Canadian side of the border.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Churning water

It's nearly impossible to convey how powerful the force of the water is.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

American Falls and Rainbow Bridge

A view of American Falls and Rainbow Bridge, which connects the Canadian side of the border with the American side, as well as the roiling water of the Niagara River below Horseshoe Falls, as seen from the 14th floor of a hotel on the Canadian side.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

American Falls from above

The fact that this image of the American Falls was shot from at least a mile away and from the 14th floor of a hotel on the opposite side of the river gives a sense of the size.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Welcome Center and Horseshoe Falls

The welcome center at Queen Victoria Park, alongside Horseshoe Falls, is seen in the foreground, with crowds of people standing along the edge of the Canadian side of waterfall, the largest in North America.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Maid of the Mist

For many visitors to Niagara Falls, one of the highlights is a ride aboard the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes poncho-wearing riders deep into the mist of the main falls.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Ponchos

On the Canadian side of the falls, a group of tourists wearing signature yellow ponchos stands and soaks in the view, and the mist, of Horseshoe Falls.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Maid of the Mist

The Maid of the Mist, seen here with Horseshoe Falls in front of it.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Main falls

Horseshoe Falls, in all its powerful glory.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Horseshoe from New York

Tourists check out Horseshoe Falls from an overlook on the New York side of the Niagara River.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Rainbow

With the bright sun shining through it, the mist rising from Horseshoe Falls creates this rainbow, which changes in intensity from moment to moment.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge spans the Niagara River and connects the U.S. and Canada.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Down the tracks

The hill rising above Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is steep and long. Visitors can either walk up and down--or pay a small fee and take a rail car.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Skylon Tower

Skylon Tower, which rises high above the Niagara River on the Canadian side, is said to be the most famous element of the Niagara Falls area besides the waterfalls themselves.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Niagara Falls

A wide-angle view of the entire Niagara Falls.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:
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