A jet boat ride on the Niagara River

Stuart Forster visits the Niagara Falls region of Canada and enjoys the thrill of zipping along the Niagara River on a jet boat operated by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.

The hull of our jet boat slaps down against the churning surface of the Niagara River. Jolting forward I glance up to see curled fingers of white water hanging in the air above me. The jet boat’s engine grinds and whirs, counteracting the prodigious power of the fast-flowing waterway. Then the airborne water unfurls, like a time-lapse video sequence of an opening fern, slapping me in the face.

Though its summer, the water feels surprisingly cold. Like all the passengers aboard the vessel, I’m wearing a yellow cape under a red life jacket and was expecting to get wet. Some of the water finds its way under the hood and trickles down my back.

A collective cheer from fellow passengers makes me look around. Some people burst into laughter. We’ve just completed a 360-degree spin that demonstrates both the power of the jet boat and the skill of our captain.

A jet boat docked at the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours jetty at Queenston Boat Ramp.
A jet boat docked at the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours jetty at Queenston Boat Ramp.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

Prior to boarding, at Queenston Boat Ramp, the tour leader said we’d get soaked. Consequently, I was warned against bringing my camera and now understand why.

Do we want to do that again, asks our tour leader. Yeses roar back in unison. We accelerate, spin again then speed along the river.

The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, Canada
The Horseshoe Falls.

We dip through rapids on our way upriver. A few kilometres upstream the Niagara River crashes down over the Horseshoe Falls on its way from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. I also got a good soaking yesterday while viewing the iconic waterfall from the deck of a ship operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The Voyage to the Falls cruise provided spectacular views plus an opportunity to sense the power of the Horseshoe Falls.

Looking towards the Horseshoe Falls from an observation platform accessible through the Journey Behind The Falls.
Looking towards the Horseshoe Falls from an observation platform accessible through the Journey Behind The Falls.

Unsurprisingly, several hydroelectric power stations have been constructed along the Niagara River. We’ve already passed generating stations named in honour of Sir Adam Beck, to our right, on the Canadian side of the river. On the American side, to our left, we saw the concrete enormity of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant.

Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant seen from the opposite bank of the Niagara River.
Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant seen from the opposite bank of the Niagara River.

Riding the Niagara River

White water gushes to our right. Raging higher than the boat, the flow of the water reminds me of the wind-whipped North Sea during a storm. The captain navigates close to the centre of the river, skilfully picking a line around the Devil’s Hole Rapids. The rapids share their name with the state park on the US riverbank.

The boat’s engine sounds like its working hard. Between spurts of water I catch glimpses of walkers in the woodland on the Canadian side of the river. They appear to be moving faster than us was we fight the flow of the water. Up and down we bob before bursting into clear water and zipping along the river.

Viewing the Horseshoe Falls from the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls.
Viewing the Horseshoe Falls from the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls.

Glancing up I spot a cage hanging above us from cables. People wave from within. It’s the Whirlpool Aero Car, a cable car that has been crossing Niagara Gorge since 1916.

Over on the Canadian side of the deep gorge rocky outcrops on the stratified cliffs remind me of the ledges that Wile E. Coyote runs off, hanging momentarily in the air, after being outsmarted by Road Runner in cartoons. Fallen boulders and stones are piled at the foot of the stratified rockface.

The captain shows more of his skill then the tour leader announces it’s time to turn back. Let’s see what it’s like to ride the rapids heading down river. Holidays, after all, are all about going with the flow.

The Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours jetty at Queenston Boat Ramp on the Niagara River.
The Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours jetty at Queenston Boat Ramp on the Niagara River.

Further information

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours operates tours from three locations, including Queenston Boat Ramp (the starting point for the experience I describe here) and Niagara-on-the-Lake. The GPS on my hire car defaulted to the company’s Niagara-on-the-Lake address. Make sure you head to the right location!

See the Niagara Falls Tourism website for information about things to do in and around Niagara Falls, Canada. Beyond viewing the waterfalls, there’s much to do in the region. I spent three days in the area and it could have — should have — been significantly longer. As a lover of good food and wine, I enjoyed touring and dining at the Two Sisters Vineyard plus the tasting menu with paired wines at Peller Estates’ Winery Restaurant. A real highlight was donning a helmet to zip around tracks and lanes on an electric scooter from eSkoot Niagara.

The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.
The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.

The Ontario and Destination Canada websites also have information about the region’s tourism attractions.

Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, which is based in North East England and available for travel commissions worldwide.

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Use Pinterest? Pin this and return to read about riding one of the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours on the Niagara River.
Use Pinterest? Pin this and return to read about riding one of the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours on the Niagara River near Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.

6 Comments

  • Kathy Taylor

    August 14, 2019 at 22:05 Reply

    Whilst I’d done some of this years ago, your article has fired up my wanderlust and I plan to return.

    • Stuart Forster

      August 17, 2019 at 15:35 Reply

      I’m really pleased to hear that. Enjoy your trip.

  • Paul Healy

    August 16, 2019 at 08:12 Reply

    Sounds like a bit of an adrenalin rush. I think I did something similar in New Zealand – it was quite a memorable experience! I’d love to see more of Niagara one day, such a beautiful part of the world.

    • Stuart Forster

      August 17, 2019 at 15:38 Reply

      It is indeed; it’s well worth a visit (I spent the afternoon at a winery after the jet boat ride).

  • Janis

    August 16, 2019 at 14:40 Reply

    This is certainly something different to do at Niagara Falls, it sounds like great fun, if not a little damp.

    • Stuart Forster

      August 17, 2019 at 15:32 Reply

      It certainly was a fun way of viewing the riverbanks.

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