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.
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.
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.
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.