The city of Niagara Falls is located alongside the thundering Niagara Falls waterfalls on the Niagara River, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A major tourist destination since the 19th century, the city is the self-proclaimed honeymoon capital of the world. Its population in 2006 was 82,184.
The area was first settled by the Iroquois. In 1675, the French missionary Louis Hennepin became the first European to document the falls. United Empire Loyalists immigrated to the area in the latter part of the 18th century, creating the communities of Drummondville, Clifton and Elgin. These villages were unified and incorporated as the city of Niagara Falls in 1904. The population increased dramatically in 1963, thanks to the amalgamation with the adjacent Township of Stamford. A further increase came in 1970, when Willoughy Township, a portion of Crowland Township, and the village of Chippawa also joined Niagara Falls.
Tourism got underway when the first hotel was built in 1822, on Portage Road overlooking the falls. The Maid of the Mist boat began taking passengers to the base of the Horseshoe Falls in 1846 and has continued ever since. Transportation for both freight and tourists took off after a series of engineering feats, beginning with the first bridge built across the Niagara Gorge in 1848. Between 1849 and 1962, thirteen bridges were constructed across the Niagara River Gorge. Four of them remain.
The Great Western Railway arrived in 1853 and passenger excursions began in 1878. Tourism experienced a tremendous boom once automobile travel became more common after the 1920s. This encouraged attractions and accommodations in “strip” developments along the roadside, still visible in the city today
Today tourism and service activities predominate, with 26 percent of the workforce employed in tourism. Gambling became a huge business when it was legalized in the mid-1990s. Now the city's largest employers are the Niagara Parks Commission, Casino Niagara and the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort.