The Maid of the Mist boat tours at Niagara Falls is one of the most famous boat rides in the world. The boats are launched from docking stations on both the American and Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge. Regardless of what side your journey originates from each boat takes you to the base of the Horse Shoe Falls less than 100 yards from the powerful cascade of water,
Each passenger is fitted with a blue plastic poncho to protect them from the heavy mist at the base of the Falls. The trip takes about 20 minutes as the captain takes each load of passengers first past the American Falls then to the center of the gorge approaching the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
The Maid of the Mist boat tour was first launched in 1846 as a ferry service between the Canadian and American sides, pre-dating by two years the construction of the first Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge at the site. The ferry service lost business when the bridge opened, and by 1854 it had become a tourist attraction instead, served by a new and more luxurious boat.
In 2012 the contract for the operation of the Canadian side Maid of the Mist was granted to the Hornblower Cruises Company out of San Francisco. The American side operation will continue to be operated by the Glynn family as they have since 1971, but a new docking station is being constructed at the former site of the Schoellkopf Power Plant down river.