Niagara Falls

The Maid Of The Mist


a history





The Maid of the Mist Tour Boat

A view of the Maid of the Mist passing in front of the American Falls







As early as 1834, small boats were utilized to transport people across the Niagara River. This would remain the only method available until 1848 when the first International Suspension Bridge was completed. It was between 1834 and 1848 that the Maid of the Mist I was launched to take up the service of ferrying people across the river in a much larger boat to the satisfaction of the people who had serious reservations about the safety of using the much smaller boats.

The Maid of the Mist I was launched on May 27th 1846. this boats ferry service was short lived when the first International Bridge was completed. Following completion of the bridge, most people transited the Niagara River by was of the bridge instead of the ferry. The Maid of the Mist had to take up the role as a tourist sightseeing service to remain viable.

On July 14th 1854, the Maid of the Mist II was launched. It was much larger than the first. This boat was a steam propelled paddle wheeler with a single smoke stack.

In 1861, because of a financial crisis and the coming American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at action to a Canadian firm on the condition that it be delivered to Lake Ontario. There was only one way to get there and that meant taking the boat downstream through the Great Gorge Whirlpool Rapids and the Whirlpool. This trip was undertaken by Captain Joel Robinson and two crew members on June 6th 1881.  To read more about the exploits of Captain Robinson refer to the Daredevils Hall of Fame section.

The Maid of the Mist III was launched in June of 1885. It was 70 feet long and much more elegant.

The Maid of the Mist IV was launched in 1892 on the American side of the Niagara River.

On April 22 1955, a fire of unknown sources caused two Maid of the Mist boats to burn at the Canadian docks.

On July 28 1955 a new Maid of the Mist boat was launched to replace those boats destroyed by fire. This boat was christened "Maid of the Mist V". It was built entirely of steel.

In June of 1956, the sixth boat in the Maid of the Mist fleet was launched. It was christened Maid of the Mist II.




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Pictures of
the Maid of the Mist

Courtesy of Larry Stroobandt
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On June 9th 1960, the Maid of the Mist II was instrumental in the rescue of seven year old Roger Woodward who had accidentally gone over the Horseshoe Falls. In 1983, the Maid of the Mist II was sold. Today it continues service as a Missionary ship on the Amazon River. Refer to Daredevils Hall of Fame section to learn more of Woodward's accident and the subsequent rescue.

In 1971, the Maid of the Mist Corporation was purchased by James Glynn of Lewiston, New York.

In 1976, Maid of the Mist IV was launched. This boat could carry 200 passengers. The Maid of the Mist IV is 72 feet (22m) long and has a beam of 24 feet (7m).

On June 6th 1983, the Maid of the Mist V was launched into service. It was built of steel construction and could carry 300 passengers. This boat became the ninth boat launched during the history of the Maid of the Mist Company.

In 1990, the Maid of the Mist VI was launched into service. The all steel double deck boat is capable of carrying 600 passengers at a time.

On Friday May 30th 1997, the first section of the new Maid of the Mist VII arrived on a flatbed trailer to the Maid of the Mist docks. The first piece of the hull measuring 31 feet long by 12 feet wide by 13.3 feet high weighed 27,730 pounds. Over the following weeks the new boat was delivered in 14 separate pieces including 8 additional pieces of the hull. When assembled and welded together the new Maid of the Mist VII was 80 feet long, weighing 145 tons and will capable of carrying 582 passengers. The Maid of the Mist VII replaced the smaller Maid of the Mist III which is being used only on a standby basis.

The new Maid of the Mist VII was officially launched into service on Friday July 11th 1997. This vessel was originally built at Cartier Construction in Belleville, Ontario.

The dock is located at the edge of the Niagara River at the base of Clifton Hill.




The Maid of the Mist at base of Horseshoe Falls

A view of the Maid of the Mist in turbulent waters at the base of the Horseshoe Falls




The water elevation at the Maid of the Mist docks:

during daytime is 327 feet (100m) above sea level.

during nighttime is 321 feet (98m) above sea level.

The difference of water level at the Maid of the Mist docks between daytime and nighttime is 6 feet (2m) in height.




The Maid of the Mist dock facilities (Ontario)

The Maid of the Mist  dock facilities (Ontario)




Legend of the Maid of the Mist


The most famous legend in Niagara Falls is that of the Maid of the Mist, the Thunder God Hinum and the origin of the Falls of Niagara. This legend originated with the Neuter Indian Nation which occupied the Niagara District when the first French priests came to their villages to preach Christianity.

The story goes that Indian tribes were dying of an unknown cause. Each year the Indians were sending canoes filled with fruit over the Falls to appease the God Hinum and his two sons who the Indians believed lived behind the Falls. When the Indian luck did not improve, they felt that their God was not satisfied. Consequently they began sacrificing their most beautiful Indian maiden each year but still their luck did not improve.

One year, Lelawalo, the daughter of the Chief of the tribe was sacrificed to the spirit of the Falls. She was placed into a canoe filled with food and sent on her way over the mighty cataract. Legend says that this Indian maiden was caught in the arms of the God's sons. Recalling that she had been sent to her death, the Indian maiden agreed to take one of the sons as her husband with one condition.

One of the sons relented and told her that there was a poisonous snake that lived at the bottom of the river would get hungry once a year and crawl to the where the Indians were and poison their water. The Indians would drink the poisoned water and die. After burial, the snake would return to consume their bodies.

The Indian maiden convinced the youngest son of the God to allow her to go back to the tribe one more time to tell them what the snake was doing and how to kill them with spears. One night when the snake returned , the Indian braves were waiting and speared the snake. The snake crawled back to the edge of the Falls and died with its body shaped like a horseshoe.

Legend has it that the shape of the Falls became horseshoe shaped from the body of the snake. It is said that it remains to this day, showing that the Gods are still protecting the Indians against evil spirits.




The Maid of the Mist at the Horseshoe Falls

The Maid of the Mist at the base of the Horseshoe Falls


To learn more about the early history of Niagara Falls,
please visit the Chronicles of our Early Settlers section




The Early History
of the
Maid of the Mist


selection from the Chronicles of our Early Settlers section



The Front Cover of an Early Maid of the Mist brochure

courtesy of Sarah Dorn


In 1807, Christian Dow speculated about the possibility of man crossing the Niagara River below the Falls as he watched wild ducks swimming back and forth across the span of the river.

The location of Indian ladders down the gorge wall at the site of the current Maid of the Mist dock are seen in early guide pamphlets. Until 1795, when Mrs. Simcoe (Governor John Graves Simcoe's wife) visited, the ladders were the only way down the gorge embankment. In her diary, she wrote: "Mr. Pilkington was desired to place ladders to form a stairway down the bank".

Mr. Pilkington did arrange the ladders in a stairway fashion but it was still a very daring and dangerous undertaking.

In 1818, William Forsyth built a stairway at the former ladder site to facilitate access to his row boat ferry service which Forsyth was planning to operate.

In 1818, William Forsyth along with American hotel owner Parkhurst Whitney, began the first row boat ferry service crossing the Niagara River below the Falls. Forsyth did so without at first obtaining government permission.

Parkhurst Whitney built the first stairway down the bank of the Gorge on the American side.

When Forsyth finally asked for government permission, Thomas Clark strongly objected to Forsyth's aggressiveness, and used his influence to lobby politicians to prevent Forsyth from obtaining the ferry service lease.

With the support of Thomas Clark, Christopher Boughner was granted the government lease to operate the ferry service. The lease was to begin on December 25th 1820 for seven year period.

William Forsyth was outraged at the government decision to grant Boughner the ferry lease. To further infuriate Forsyth, Boughner built a stairway to the ferry dock adjacent to Forsyth's stairway.

Forsyth knew that Boughner had a number of debts. Forsyth went about buying up all of Boughner's debts until Forsyth became Boughner's sole creditor. Forsyth began applying pressure to have Boughner pay his debts knowing full well that Boughner could not.

Boughner finally caved into Forsyth's pressure and gave up his rights to the ferry service to Forsyth in exchange for Forsyth canceling Boughner's debts. After fourteen months, Boughner was out of the ferry business while William Forsyth was in business again.

Thomas Clark was very angry over how Forsyth had forced Boughner to give up his ferry service to Forsyth.

On December 21st 1821, Thomas Clark wrote a letter to the Government of Upper Canada outlining what Forsyth had done to Boughner in order to take over the ferry service. Clark recommended that the government revoke Forsyth's ferry lease and award it to someone else.

On January 23rd 1822, acting on the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, the ferry service lease of William Forsyth was rescinded for non-payment of the quarterly fee that had not bee paid to the government.

On April 30th 1822, the government granted the ferry service lease to George Milmine. He was allowed to operate the service for a three year term.



The inside page of an Early Maid of the Mist brochure

courtesy of Sarah Dorn


On April 15th 1825, Thomas Clark and Samuel Street applied for and granted a twenty-one year lease. The granting of their lease hinged on their commitment to build a carriage road down the side of the gorge to the ferry landing. Their lease expired in 1846. The road to the ferry landing cost $5,000 and was paved with cobblestone. It had a hairpin turn during the descent. This turn was until several years ago, still as it was when built by Clark and Street. Modernization has now eliminated this turn.

In 1825, the stairway on the American side was replaced with a spiral stairway built by the Porter Brothers, who owned the American Falls at the time.

Augustus and Peter Porter applied for and were granted the rights to operate the American ferry service. The Porter brothers attempted to blast a road along the gorge wall approximately 100 feet north of the American Falls. The road was never completed because rock falls and washouts forced the Porter brothers to abandon their plans.

The Porter stairway remained in operation until 1844 when the stairway was augmented by an incline railway cut into the gorge wall. The new incline railway was  water powered.

The crossing time with a large rowboat took eight minutes. Fares ranged from 18¾¢ in summer months and 25¢ in the winter months.

During the 1840's, more than forty rowboats were plying their trade on the lower Niagara River. Rowboats were now being employed in taking tourists upstream to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls. Throughout the period of rowboat use, there are no records of any accidents.

On November 6th 1845, Adam Fralick was granted a ferry license. He was restricted to operating his ferry service 2.5 miles downstream of the Falls.

On January 11th 1850, management of the ferry service was given to the Customs Branch of the Inspector Generals Office.

On April 29th 1853, Gilbert Mickmicken was awarded the ferry lease.

In 1846, the Niagara Falls Ferry Association received its charter from the State of New York to operate a steamboat ferry service.

In May 1846, an awkward looking large steamship with two smoke stacks was launched. It was christened "Maid of the Mist". This 100 ton ferry was commanded by Captain Filkins and Captain George Synes. The ferry operated from a dock located just south of the Railway Bridge.

In 1848, the Falls View Suspension Bridge was completed. Ferry service across the Niagara River became obsolete overnight. It was now quicker, easier and cheaper to use the bridge to cross the Niagara Gorge.

In order to remain in business and to keep it profitable, the Niagara Falls Ferry Association began using the "Maid of the Mist" to take tourists on trips past the base of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.

On January 9th 1851, the Maid of the Mist sank in twenty feet of water while moored at its Bellevue wharf. The cause was attributed to the build up of heavy snow. The Maid of the Mist was re-floated. It had sustained little damage. It remained in service until 1854.

On July 14th 1854, the new "Maid of the Mist" was launched. The new boat was a steam driven paddle wheel boat measuring 72 feet (22m) long and 17 feet (5.18m) breadth of beam. It had an eight foot (2.4m) draught and was powered by a 100 horsepower engine. This ferry was commanded by Captain Joel E. Robinson. Passengers were given oil skin coats and caps to keep them dry. This Maid of the Mist made its last trip in the Fall of 1860.

On June 6th 1861, after the Maid of the Mist had been sold, Captain Robinson and a crew of two, sailed the Maid of the Mist through the Great Gorge Rapids on route to Montreal. It was a perilous journey but successful. Captain Robinson retired after the trip through the rapids. (see Daredevils Section)

From 1860 to 1885, there were no steamboat ferries in the Niagara River below the Falls.

In 1883, a replica of the Maid of the Mist ferry boat was sent through the Great Gorge Rapids with no one on board as a publicity stunt.

By 1868, there were now two suspension bridges in operation across the Niagara Gorge.

In 1878, the railroads began bringing tourists back to the Falls in large numbers. This spurned the building of a new Maid of the Mist steamboat ferry.

In 1884, R.F. Carter and Frank Le Blond of the Village of Clifton invested $10,000 into the building of the new Maid of the Mist.

The third Maid of the Mist was built at the dock on the Canadian side. It was launched into service in 1885. A sister ship was built on the US side.

In 1894, the International Railway Company built a passenger incline railway down the embankment on the Canadian shore.

In 1906, the American incline railway was changed from being water powered to electrical power.

In 1938, the great ice jam that destroyed the Honeymoon Bridge threatened to destroy the two Maids of the Mist tour boats. Both survived, only to be destroyed by fire on April 22nd 1955. The fire was started when a spark from a welders torch ignited.


April 22, 1955


Niagara Falls Fire Chief Dies-Boats Damaged

Both Maids of the Mist are Razed - Chief Collapses Fighting Fires


Fire Chief John C. Shapton died in the Greater Niagara General Hospital at 12:35 pm following a heart seizure suffered 90 minutes earlier while he was directing firefighting operations at the Maid of the Mist landing where the fire almost completely destroyed the two Maids of the Mist mounted on their winter births.


Shapton, age 59, was rushed to the hospital by his son Thomas, also a city fireman after collapsing at the dock where the firemen were pumping water from the Niagara River.


Chief Shapton was the only full-time chief in the history of the fire department. He had heroically led the battle from the time the fire started at approximately 10:15 a.m.. Fire swept through the two vessels in 10 minutes time feeding on a tar canvas covering. Only the hulls were still intact. Frank Le Blond, president of the Maid of the Mist Steamship Company estimated the replacement value at $350,000. Inspectors from the Canadian Steamship Comapny after examining the damage stated that both maids may be able to operate in the summer. At first both boats were believed a total loss but inspectors found that only the upper sections of the boats burned in the flash fire. In event that both boats cannot be fixed, Mr. Le Blond will attempt to secure several launches to operate with.


The fire started in the starboard corner of the large boat when workmen were working with torches. It was first spotted by Thomas Masson, he's a carpenter who suffered cuts and a sprained arm fighting the fire. Wilford Storm another employee suffered bruised ribs. Twenty-eight men were working on the two vessels when the flames broke out. The fire spread rapidly and fed on the tar canvas on both boats.


No accidents or injuries have occurred on the Maid of the Mist except when one of the vessels was disabled when a drift log fouled it's propellers. Captain Malloy signalled Captain Carter for assistance and got a line aboard from the other Maid and towed the crippled boat back to the American side.


1916-  Two other accidents were recorded. On September 21st, when the Maid of the Mist ran aground beside Goat Island. The captain ordered the passengers to put on life preservers and prepare to launch lifeboats but the boat pulled itself free from under its own power.


October 2nd 1916 on the last trip of the year when a propeller shaft broke near the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. The captain ordered the anchor cast. Passengers were taken to Goat Island but the crew remained on the boat all night until it was removed the next morning.


April 23rd 1955 - Maids of the Mist to sail again. The new looks Maid of the Mist to sail the summer. They will be launch type vessels without upper structures.


April 26nd 1955 - Steamship inspectors approve rebuilding of Maid's of the Mist. Le Blond estimates it will cost $150,000. They have abandoned the idea to operate without upper deck because it is not financially viable. With main deck large vessel can carry 140 people and the small boat can carry 100 people.


April 30th 1955 - New Maid of the Mist will sail in Niagara. A contract signed by Frank La Blond, president of the Maid of the Mist Company and the Russell-Hipwell Shipbuilding Company of Owen Sound for the construction of the new Maid. The single decker will cost approximately $100,000. It will be prefabricated and moved into the Niagara gorge in sections. Le Blond hopes to have the new vessel in operation in August.


May 11th 1955 - Maid operation will resume in a months time. A steel hull made in Holland and moored at Hamilton Harbour for two years was skidded down into the gorge Tuesday. The hull was moved and lowered into the gorge lasting ten hours. A deck and wheelhouse will be constructed immediately. Ship will have a 35 passenger capacity with two diesel engines and be 40 feet long and weighing eight tons.


June 1st 1955 - Operate new Maid by mid-June. Forty foot steamer nears completion powered by two - 100 horsepower diesel engines.


June 13th 1955 - Launch of the little Maid into the Niagara River.


July 11th 1955 - The first of big Maid's moving into the gorge. The first of four sections that will be welded together. The vessel will be 65 feet long and have a 100 person capacity. It will be the first of two ships to be built.


July 12th 1955 - Word has it that wood from the two burned out Maids of the Mist will be turned into wooden nickels. it is a promotional stunt by Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce. Fifty thousand wooden nickels will be made.


July 29th 1955 - The new Maid of Mist was christened and is ready for service. Thousands of citzens witnessed the launching ceremonies of the Maid of the Mist 3.


August 4th 1955 - The new Maid of the Mist 3 begins regular sailings.


August 17th 1955 - The wooden nickels are on sale.






In less than one month after the fire, a forty foot yacht was brought down to the ferry dock along the service road on the Canadian shore. This boat was named the "Little Maid of the Mist".

The Maids of the Mist tour boats need to be taken out of the water before November 1st each year. Ontario Hydro reduces the water level on that date so that the boats would be not be able to reach their winter cradles

Since 1971, the Maid of the Mist Tour Boat Company has been owned by the Glynn family of Lewiston, New York. It is an American Company however the boats are registered from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.


The American dock of the Maid of the Mist Tour Boat

The Maid of the Mist Tour Boat facilities at the base of the Prospect Point Tower (New York)



*the Maid of the Mist cannot be launched into the waters of the Niagara River until after April 1st of each year. The presence of ice in the river may delay the date of the launch.




The New Era
of the
Maid of the Mist





Lifting the Maid of the Mist VI and the Maid of the Mist VII onto Winter Dry Docks

The First Time
Lifting the Maid of the Mist VI and the Maid of the Mist VII onto Winter Dry Docks - Niagara Falls USA
October 31st 2013


Preparing to lift the Maid of the Mist boats onto winter dry-docks

Preparing to lift the Maid of the Mist boats onto winter dry-docks - Niagara Falls USA
October 29th 2013

The entire Liebherr Crane, weighing nearly 160 tons, will be used to lift the Maid of the Mist boats out of the Niagara River
 for storage at its new docking site during the winter months. The crane is anchored 70 feet (21.3m) into the bedrock.




The Maid of the Mist, which has operated tour boats at the base of the Falls since 1846 and owned by the Glynn family since 1971, lost its Canadian contract in 2009 when the Niagara Parks Commission (Ontario) elected to reopened the Glynn's tour boat contract to open bidding as a result of lawsuits and public scrutiny of the company's no-bid contract.

The Maid was outbid by Hornblower Cruises and Entertainment, a California-based cruise operator, and lost its storage facilities located on the Canadian side of the gorge along with the right to operate in Ontario. Hornblower gained rights to the site at the beginning of 2014.

That process netted the deal with Hornblower, a 30-year contract Canadian officials estimate will generate more than $500 million in revenue to the parks governing body, or $300 million more than it received in its previous agreement with Maid of the Mist.

With no storage facilities on the American side of the gorge, the company was in danger of losing its ability to operate the attraction and it's ultimate extinction following a legendary and colourful history.

The Maid of the Mist had an existing lease with the State of New York signed in 2002, which allows the company to run boat tours from the American side of the lower Niagara Gorge. The Maid of the Mist lease on the American side of the Niagara River expires in 2043.

In 2012, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo joined the Glynn's in announcing an amendment to the Maid of the Mist's existing 40-year contract that was signed in 2002. This amendment will add the State of New York take in an additional $105 million over the course of agreement and see the Maid of the Mist Tour Boat Company spend an additional $32 million to convert the historic Schoellkopf Power Station site into a dry dock facility for the boats and to enhance the historic aspects of the site to create another attraction for visitors.

In 2012 Maid of the Mist faced closure in the absence of storage space for its boats on the New York side of the river. Governor Cuomo struck a deal to keep the boats running and produce increased revenues for Niagara Falls State Park. The Maid of the Mist Corporation agreed to invest $32 million in the former Schoellkopf Power Station site near the falls to make it suitable for the winter storage and maintenance of its boats. Under the memorandum, the company agreed to increase its license payments to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, totalling $105 million over 30 years—three times the revenues that were projected for the 30-year period when a contract was initially approved in 2002.

The Maid of the Mist Company will build two new electric catamaran-style vessels Maid of the Mist vessels. Both will be able to carry about 520 passengers each.The catamaran hull is welded 5086 H116 aluminum, and is 27.5 m (90 ft) long and 10.4 m (34 ft) wide, with a 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in) draft, and can carry 500 people. Each boat has 316 kWh batteries powering 400 kW motors.

Designed by Propulsion Data Systems, the new totally integrated vessels are currently under construction by Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisc. In mid-May, the modules will be transported to Niagara Falls and lowered onto the Maid of the Mist dry dock and maintenance facility for assembly. Following completion of construction, launch and certification, the new vessels will be placed into service.

ABB will supply a comprehensive integrated power and propulsion solution for the new-build vessels, including lithium-ion battery packs and an onshore charging system, enabling sustainable operation with maximum reliability.

Powered by ABB’s zero-emission technology, the two fully-electric vessels will take tourists to the heart of the Niagara Falls, undisturbed by engine noise or exhaust fumes. Batteries will be recharged for seven minutes after each trip to 80% capacity, allowing for maximum efficiency and battery life. A ride is 20 minutes

Each of the vessels will be powered by a pair of battery packs with a total capacity of 316 kWh, split evenly between two catamaran hulls. Having two fully independent power systems on board will increase the resilience of operations by creating a redundancy.

The vessels will charge between every trip while passengers disembark and board. Shoreside charging will only take seven minutes, allowing the batteries to power the electric propulsion motors capable of a total 400 kW (563 HP) output. The power setup will be controlled by ABB’s integrated Power and Energy Management System (PEMS), which will optimize the energy use on board.

The hull of the new vessels features an icon of the electricity symbol within a water droplet surrounded by a turbine with Niagara Falls in the background. The color scheme is environmentally-friendly green combined with the blue of the water.

The new vessels are named after Tesla, the genius inventor whose lifelong dream had been to harness the energy of the natural wonder of Niagara Falls.



Ship Building

the New Maid of the Mist Being Built


Maid of the Mist III – built 1970 sold 1992 NLD 1998 Hike Metal Products, Wheatley ON
Maid of the Mist IV – built 1974 scrapped 2013 Hike Metal Products, Wheatley ON
Maid of the Mist V – built 1983 scrapped 2013 Hike Metal Products, Wheatley ON

Maid of the Mist VI (1990) - will be retired from service when the new vessels begin operating
Maid of the Mist VII (1997) - will be retired from service when the new vessels begin operating



the New Maid of the Mist

















Date last updated: December 28, 2020





The following locations and facts about them are but a few of many famous sites & attractions to be found in Niagara Falls. The best of it is FREE to think of Niagara Falls when planning your next vacation. If you have questions of a current or historical nature about the Niagara Falls area or suggestions feel free to e-mail Rick at






a history