Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, May 6, 2008 - Business & Economics - 337 pages
15 Reviews
Americans call Niagara Falls a natural wonder, but the Falls aren't very natural anymore. In fact, they are a study in artifice. Water diverted, riverbed reshaped, brink stabilized and landscape redesigned, the Falls are more a monument to man's meddling than to nature's strength. Held up as an example of something real, they are hemmed in with fakery -- waxworks, haunted houses, IMAX films and ersatz Indian tales. A symbol of American manifest destiny, they are shared politely with Canada. Emblem of nature's power, they are completely human-controlled. Archetype of natural beauty, they belie an ugly environmental legacy still bubbling up from below. On every level, Niagara Falls is a monument to how America falsifies nature, reshaping its contours and redirecting its force while claiming to submit to its will.

Combining history, reportage and personal narrative, Inventing Niagara traces Niagara's journey from sublime icon to engineering marvel to camp spectacle. Along the way, Ginger Strand uncovers the hidden history of America's waterfall: the Mohawk chief who wrested the Falls from his adopted tribe, the revered town father who secretly assisted slave catchers, the wartime workers who unknowingly helped build the Bomb and the building contractor who bought and sold a pharaoh. With an uncanny ability to zero in on the buried truth, Strand introduces us to underwater dams, freaks of nature, mythical maidens and 280,000 radioactive mice buried at Niagara.

From LaSalle to Lincoln to Los Alamos, Mohawks to Marilyn, Niagara's story is America's story, a tale of dreams founded on the mastery of nature. At a time of increasing environmental crisis, Inventing Niagara shows us how understanding the cultural history of nature might help us rethink our place in it today.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies

User Review  - Goodreads

An interesting read about the history of Niagara Falls through the present. The author deftly exposes the truth behind Native American myths and explores the falls from every possible angle, from ... Read full review

Review: Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies

User Review  - Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book. It's very rambling and covers everything from tourism to the philosophy organizing museum exhibits to nuclear waste disposal during WW II, but at the same time it all ... Read full review


White Mans Fancy Red Mans Fact
Three Skipper the TwoLegged
Four The Other Side of Jordan
Five Free Niagara
Seven Sentiment in Liquid Form
Eight The Bomb and Tom Brokaws Desk
Nine Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Epilogue The Voice of the Landscape
Sources and Acknowledgments

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Ginger Strand was raised in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Her fiction and essays have appeared in many places, including The Believer, The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Carolina Quarterly. She has been awarded fiction residencies by Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference. She lives in New York City.