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Century-old power tunnel opens at Niagara Falls in bid to boost Ontario tourism industry

Visitors are flocking to Niagara Falls over the Canada Day weekend to catch a glimpse of water cascading from a view that until now has been hidden from the eyes of the public.

A century-old, 2,200-foot-long water tunnel located nearly 200 feet below the surface of the Niagara Parks Power Station leads to a viewing platform at water level. It provides unobstructed panoramic views of the Horseshoe and American Falls.

“It really is the light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19. People can get out and enjoy living and exploring again,” Kim Viney, the senior director of business development with Niagara Parks, told Global News during a tour.

Opened officially on July 1, the tunnel is at the forefront of the visitor experience at the Niagara Parks Power Station by providing a subterranean glimpse of the vast underground infrastructure of the building.

After entering the power station, visitors are whisked down a 180-foot-deep elevator shaft with glass doors, turning back time on the historic trail race tunnel.

Once they reach the bottom, they are greeted by a massive, brick-lined tunnel. This is where the 2,200-foot journey begins. This tunnel is where the power station’s spent waters flowed through the engineering marvel on its way back to Niagara River. Now, instead of raging waters, visitors are greeted with a concrete path accessible to all.

The journey through the tunnel is one that engages all of the senses. The farther visitors venture on, they can begin to smell moisture in the air and hear the thundering sound of the falling water.

They are finally greeted by the raging waters of the Niagara River as they emerge from the tunnel onto a brand-new viewing platform perched just above the water.

“We started this project in earnest a week before the world shut down in March of 2020, and we had to make a heart-felt decision whether or not we were going to continue or put it on hold,” Viney said.

The project received a $25-million loan from the Ontario government, funding designed to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on Niagara’s $2.4-billion tourism industry.

Instead of folding to these challenges, Viney said Niagara Parks decided to double-down and keep 500 employees working through the first year of COVID. She said the project was completed on time and on budget.

“This has been a very challenging time for the tourism sector, but today the Niagara Region will begin to reopen its world-class attractions and start down the road to recovery,” then-Ontario Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod said in a 2020 statement.

Meanwhile, as visitors took in the tunnel and the falls from the new vantage point for the first time, many were heard admiring the stunning view that met their eyes.

“As you round the corner, you start to hear the rumble and see the light. It is both eerie and beautiful at the same time,” a visitor said.

The attraction is open daily and staff said it is currently expected to be open year-round. More information, including ticket pricing, can be found on the Niagara Parks Power Station website.

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