Niagara Falls Niagara

Winter Scene

Geography is not an indoor sport! Get out and explore New York State!


Physical Geography

Human Geography

Economic Geography

Regions of NYS

Old Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara controlled the mouth of the Niagara River for a century and a half. Its strategic location made it desirable by the French, the British, and the Americans.

Cobblestone School

Cobblestone Buildings are fairly common in Niagara Country. They were made from round stones from a lake that existed in the closing years of the Ice Age. Most buildings (like this schoolhouse in Childs) were constructed in the mid-1800s.


Niagara Frontier: 

The Geography of the Borderland

The term frontier is loaded with geographic connotations. One might be picture the Wild West, a scene of bloody conflict, or perhaps a region isolated from civilization. Western New York has, at different times of its history, qualified on all three counts. Today, the borderland is relatively peaceful, with relations with Canada on a more-or-less friendly basis. If we go back far enough, however, peace was only a promise. Native Americans fought each other. They fought the French and the British. The French fought the British. The Americans fought the British. American "patriots" fought American "loyalists." It wasn't until the 19th century before warfare became but a distant memory in the Niagara Country.

Why this became a borderland can only be explained from a geographic perspective. The boundary here is not an arbitrary line on a map, like a Mason-Dixon line, for example. The two Great Lakes - Ontario and Erie - are two formidable obstacles, and so is the river that connects them, the mighty Niagara. These obstacles help separate "us" from "them." After the American Revolution, it made sense for Loyalists to the Crown to settle on the other side of Niagara and form the future nation of Canada. And, of course, the patriotic rebels formed our own nation on this side of the border.

Control of this region was very important even before Columbus. The Haudenosaunee (or the Iroquois, as we know them) were in constant warfare with other native peoples (such as Hurons, for example). Controlling access to Niagara was critical to their survival. When the French and British fought each other over control of North America, this was a pivotal point. The Falls of Niagara presented the greatest challenge. If you were going west into Ohio or Michigan, you had to get by the cataracts. Control of the river from its source near modern Buffalo to its outlet in Lake Ontario 35 miles downstream was mandatory. Even when the French were driven out, and the United States was born, the turmoil did not end. The War of 1812 was largely contested here along the Niagara Frontier. The boundary became demilitarized, but unrest continued: the Underground Railroad, Irish rebels, Confederate sympathizers, Vietnam draft dodgers all found their way to this frontier.

When most Americans think about the Niagara Country, it is, of course, as the home to the Falls, the great geological wonder, the original American (and Canadian) circus playground. They may speak of the power of electricity, which ushered in the modern age for better or worse. And, sadly, they will refer to the Rust Belt, of cities and towns suffering the loss of factories and people. The fact that the Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls is a constant source of derision. All of these perceptions are part of the collage of Western New York, but there is much more.

Let us try to examine the Niagara Country more closely. Hit the road!

If you are going to travel through the Niagara Country, then follow this link to find out "What You Should See."


  Buffalo grain elevator

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