Saturday, August 3, 2013

Whirlpool State Park (Blog Hike #429)

Trail: Whirlpool Scenic Overlook Trail
Hike Location: Whirlpool State Park
Geographic Location: north of Niagara Falls, NY
Length: 0.7 miles
Difficulty: 0/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: July 2013
Overview: A short, nearly flat loop hike featuring the world’s largest river whirlpool.

Directions to the trailhead: Near the Canadian border, take I-190 to SR 104/Robert Moses Parkway (exit 25B).  Follow signs for Robert Moses Parkway and enter south on Robert Moses Parkway.  Drive Robert Moses Parkway 2.7 miles to Whirlpool State Park on the right.  Turn right to enter the park, and park in the large paved parking area in front of the interpretive center.

The hike: For my introduction to the Niagara Falls area parks, see the previous hike.  Located 2 miles downstream from Niagara Falls, tiny Whirlpool State Park protects 109 acres on a peninsula that overlooks a large whirlpool in the Niagara River.  Overlooks on the rim give spectacular views of the whirlpool and surrounding rapids.  Those overlooks are linked together by the Whirlpool Scenic Overlook Trail, and adding sections of some adjacent trails allows you to form a short, easy loop.  Although the whirlpool draws some crowds, this area is not nearly as crowded as the main falls area.
Niagara River gorge whirlpool
            Start by walking through the breezeway of the interpretive center and angling right, heading slightly downhill toward the rim on paved trail through a mowed-grass area.  In only 0.1 miles, you arrive at the rim and your first view of the huge whirlpool.  The whirlpool formed when the ancient St. David’s Gorge, which ran northwest from here through present-day Ontario, filled with glacial sediment during the most recent ice age.  The rerouted Niagara River slowly washed away the glacial sediment to create the wide whirlpool.  This erosion process continues today, and what remains of the ancient gorge can be seen at the far end of the whirlpool.
            Leave the first overlook by turning left and following the Whirlpool Scenic Overlook Trail upstream with the gorge and a metal railing on the right.  On my visit, recent heavy rain had caused parts of this trail to cave due to erosion, so take care where you step up here.  At the next overlook, point #4 on the interpretive signs, you can see a cable crossing the whirlpool.  A cable car built by the Niagara Spanish Aerocar Company uses this cable to take passengers over the whirlpool; it has been doing so since 1916.  Both ends of the cable are in Canada, so you will have to cross the border if you wish to ride the cable car.
Eddy basin
            Continuing along the rim, you soon reach the last overlook, labeled as point #5 on the interpretive signs.  This overlook gives a great view of the eddy basin, a wide point in the river just upstream from the whirlpool.  Past the last overlook, the trail continues upstream.  At 0.4 miles, the asphalt turns to gravel and the mowed grass area turns to meadow as you exit the developed area of the park.
Hiking along the Rim Trail
            0.5 miles into the hike, a mowed-grass connector trail exits left for the Robert Moses Recreation Trail, our return route.  The gravel trail continuing straight follows the rim for another 1.5 miles, so you can keep going along the rim further if you wish.  I was hiking on a hot, sunny day, so I chose to cut over to the Robert Moses Trail at the first opportunity.
            The paved Robert Moses Recreation Trail uses a closed section of the parkway that bears the same name.  The road and trail are named for Robert Moses, a famous city planner in the New York metro area during the early and mid 1900’s.  Turning left on the Robert Moses Recreation Trail, a short walk on the wide, sunny paved trail returns you to the Whirlpool State Park entrance.  Walking through the picnic area will return you to the parking lot and complete the hike.


  1. hello!! Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post. Keep up the good work friend. Glad to be part of your net community.
    Whirlpool for health

    1. Disclaimer: the link in the comment above leads to a Belgian spa company; it has nothing to do with this park.