Visiting Goat Island on the Niagara River

What a beauty spot is this group of islands and islets! It is only half a mile long and contains but seventy acres. But where in all this universe does one's fancy take such long aerial flights or the mind become conscious of such grandeur and power? You seem to wander in fairyland where the wild throng of many voiced waters are telling aloud, "Nature's industry to create beauty and usefulness." Lower and sweeter the voices, too, are rising like musical incense to the Creator, pouring out their passionate songs which tell of joy and enthusiasm in silvery cataracts of melody, pitched in a higher key, yet not unlike Niagara. You hear the cardinal's rich flute-like song of "What, what cheer!" ringing from a wild grapevine. Again he seems to say "Come, come here!" Whether it be an invitation to all mankind or just a message to his coy mate you know he learned it from the same teacher as Niagara, and their voices are alike full of rarest melody. The leisurely golden chant of the wood thrush, where the misty spray and cool shadows enfold you, seems like a spirit voice speaking audibly to you, and the song- sparrow sends his sweet wavering tribute to tell you he, too, enjoys the shady nooks of Niagara.

Here if we could only interpret aright are still small voices speaking of divine love and infinite beauty, just as audibly as the more powerful voice of Niagara.

At the edge of Goat Island are numerous rocks where you may get a remarkable view of the rapids; "and the forest invites the lover of trees to linger long amid its dim-lighted aisles, where he will find for his vivid imagination an ideal place for reverie."

On inquiring why Goat Island is thus named you will perhaps be told that it was once owned by a man who pastured several animals on it; among them a goat, which perished during a severe winter. Any one visiting the Falls during the winter, when a cold wind sweeps across the island, can readily see how they "got this man's goat."

The earliest description of the Falls is that by Father Hennepin, a Franciscan monk, who with LaSalle visited it in 1678 and published this account of it: "Betwixt Lake Ontario and Erie there is a vast and prodigious column of water which falls down after a manner surprising and astonishing, inasmuch that the universe does not afford a parallel. 'Tis true--Italy and Switzerland boast of some such things; but we may well say that they are sorry patterns when compared to this of which we speak. At the foot of the horrible descent, we meet with the Niagara river, which is not above a quarter of a league broad, but is wonderfully deep in some places. It is so rapid above the descent that it violently hurries down the wild beasts, while endeavoring to pass it to feed on the other side, they not being able to withstand the force of the current, which invariably casts them headlong about six hundred feet high.

"This wonderful downfall is composed of two cross streams of water, and two falls with an aisle sloping along the middle of it. The waters which fall from this horrible precipice do foam and boil after the most hideous manner imaginable, making an outrageous noise more terrible than that of thunder." One can easily see that the imaginative and excitable Frenchman is under the spell of the great cataract.

But let us return to the island and follow the path that winds among the trees until Stedman's Bluff is gained. Your reverie is broken by the news that you are near this point. You go hurriedly now and your speed is accelerated by hearing the noise of the falls.

"Crowds of people fill the cool woodland paths; dark evergreens and aged beech trees form a leafy screen on which the sunlight falls, making a trembling, shifting mosaic as the branches open and close in the passing breeze." The air is filled with melody and redolent with the breath of the pine that is mingled with various wild flowers. Here one is impressed with the awe he feels while treading the dim aisles of some vast cathedral. Your attention is diverted for a brief time by a species of flower unknown to you. You pause long enough to recognize it, then hurry on scarce noting the livid green of the waters going to their fate, swiftly and with unbounded freedom, as if glad to escape some pursuing demon of the watery underworld. One almost feels sad as he watches the waters dash in utter helplessness over the awful precipice.