Light Pollution Ruins Natural Niagara Falls

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie – it could be because you were outside enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience this week. The moon was 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than it normally is.

A “supermoon”, as its called, occurs when the moon is simultaneously full and at its perigee (when its orbit carries it closest to the earth). If you didn’t see it, don’t despair, next month’s full moon, on Dec. 14, will also be pretty super as it will still be really close to us. But you’ll have to wait another 18 years, until 2034, until the next supermoon comes around.

 Imagine what Niagara Falls would look like illuminated by the natural light of a supermoon.

Imagine what Niagara Falls would look like illuminated by the natural light of a supermoon.

We thought it would be amazing to view this rare celestial event over another natural wonder – Niagara Falls – but it’s difficult to do since the falls are lit up with artificial spotlights every night, this month of November until midnight. In fact, the falls are lit up every night of the year by giant spotlights, which are being presently upgraded for the first time in many decades to high tech LED jobs with the brightness of a million supermoons. Nothing says appreciation for a natural wonder like Niagara Falls in the light of a supermoon, or plain old full moon for that matter, than overwhelming the spectacle with blazing artificial spotlights – and don’t forget, fireworks!

Got to have fireworks, too, because without multicolored spotlights and fireworks, nature by itself kind of sucks. Supermoons, 12-thousand-year-old waterfalls – it doesn’t get more boring than that.

Who needs the moon when you've got 50 million candlepower spotlights?

Who needs the moon when you’ve got 50 million candlepower spotlights?

With the tourist muggings that took place in Niagara Falls State Park earlier this year by a roving band of thugs – who haven’t been caught yet – most people probably think it well-advised not to venture into the park after midnight just to see it lit up by the moon, super or otherwise.

Of course, with the ugly and obtrusive Observation Tower, or “bridge to nowhere” as locals call it, just yards away from the cataracts, and the immediate area cluttered up with coin-operated binoculars, acres of paving stones, Delaware North’s sprawling food service plaza, parking lots, ziplines, helicopters, tacky manicured rock gardens and Tesla’s misplaced sculpture, any semblance of nature or a natural wonder in the immediate environs of the falls is long gone.

New York State Parks, the Albany agency that owns and operates Niagara Falls State Park and collects nearly $20 million annually from parking lot and Maid and Delaware North contract fees alone in what was supposed to be Frederick Law Olmsted’s wild and natural preserve, has a department in charge of highlighting the natural aspects of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge, as well as other area parks, called “Niagara Region Park Interpretive Programs”. However, like the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation (NTCC) and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, in the run-up to and during the tourist season, Park Interpretive Programs spends the bulk of its on-line social media effort, newsletter space and press releases on promoting cash cow Niagara Falls State Park and its money-making attractions such as James Glynn’s Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds and similar tourist traps.

During the tourist off-season is when you see outreach from these outfits that actually has anything to do with nature, such as what Niagara Region Park Interpretive Programs put on Facebook the other day concerning some islands in Buffalo that have been restored to wildlife habitat using NYPA relicensing money. State Parks had about as much to do with restoration of those islands as the city of Buffalo has to do with the Power Project – opting to spend $25 million of its relicensing money, in the form of Greenway grants, on upgrading Niagara Falls State Park instead – but it’s something to post to Facebook to pick up the slack when nobody’s riding the Maid.

We think it would be a great idea if, on Dec. 14, State Parks turned off the artificial lighting for just an hour so that park visitors, naturalists, photographers and others could enjoy the Falls as it looks under a supermoon. Now that would be something. Imagine bundling up your kids – or grandkids – leaving the video games and smart phones at home, and going to view, at a reasonable early evening hour, the spectacular waterfalls illuminated by a breathtaking moon. In a society in which we seem to be getting more divorced from nature, especially the children, that could be a great way to both educate and make some lifelong memories.

An 1833 woodcut depicting the Leonids meteor shower of that year over Niagara Falls.

An 1833 woodcut depicting the Leonids meteor shower of that year over Niagara Falls.

Donati's Comet of 1858 is featured on an antique stereoscope slide of that era.

Donati’s Comet of 1858 is featured on an antique stereoscope slide of that era.

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