About this Web Site
by Mark Harris. Online since 1999. In print ©2003, ©2011.

Web Site Iterations
This is the fifth version of this web site. The first was called "Waterfalls of Southern Ontario" and was built in 1999. The second version (the green one) was called "Waterfalls of Ontario" and was prepared in 2003 to support the release of book. The third edition received 19,700 hits to the home page between Feb 1, 2011 and May 24, 2012. (at this time I wasn't counting hits to individual sub pages).

The fourth edition was prepared because I wasn't happy with the third version. It relied almost solely on Google Earth. It was a good idea, but too many people commented that they didn't like it. At the same time, I had learned about CSS and a few other tricks. So I returned to the use of individual pages for each waterfall.

This was also the first version where I broadly included photographs donated by users. This was in response to my inability to get out to as many waterfalls as I used to. And by that time, the proliferation of digital cameras meant that there was no shortage of great waterfalls out there… many of which are way better than mine!

This new edition (the fifth one!) kept a similar theme and feel as the fourth. Aside from a few more development tricks (I'm no developer!), the big new change was that the site was designed to work well on mobile devices. These didn't even exist for the first two versions, but my hit counter was showing that a growing number of users were accessing the site on their phones and tablets. This helps you to easily take this site into the field.

My Earlier Days of Waterfalling
As a physical geography student at Brock University in the early 1990s, I took regular class field trips to waterfalls along the Niagara Escarpment. They were just minutes from campus, and made great, low-cost natural laboratories. At this point, we hadn't even heard of the "world wide web", and I was only using a $30 point-and-shoot camera. (Digital cameras basically did not exist at this point)

By 1999 I had finished my Masters degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, but hadn't yet started to work full time. So like many young adults, I decided to travel. But I didn't have any money, and so instead of Europe, I travelled Ontario. My destinations were waterfalls. By this time the web was much more widespread. I had also received my grandfather's old SLR camera, and was now taking much better amateur photography. (Digital cameras were still very expensive and topped out at about 2 megapixels!)

My interests in databases, photography, and local ecotourism merged when I decided to create my first web page in 1999 called "Waterfalls of Southern Ontario." (see above). That site featured a few dozen waterfalls and some scans of my best waterfall pictures.

Shortly after, I found a number of waterfall web pages constructed by other people. Scott Ensminger had already been working on the Western New York Waterfall Survey for at least 10 years. He had listed something like 700 waterfalls! Wow! This got me thinking that there could be this many in Ontario. But there were no lists readily available.

At that time, the few printed works on area Waterfalls were either academic in nature, or focused exclusively on Niagara Falls. One of the best was Colossal Cataract, published by SUNY in 1981. (much of the book is now online from Google Books).

In 2000, Jerry and Mikal Lawton published "Waterfalls. The Niagara Escarpment" It was a great resource, and showed me that there was wider interest about the subject in Ontario. I highly recommend that you seek out a copy. Scott Ensminger had also prepared a limited-run book called "Niagara's Sisters" that included waterfalls in the Niagara Peninsula.

As more and more waterfall web sites were discovered, I worked with a few others to create the Waterfalls Web Ring. The webring soon had several dozen participants and was actually featured in an article in the New York Times on June 13, 2002. I also helped to set up "WaterfallTalk" which was an early discussion list for waterfalls around the world.

The book comes on the scene
In 2001, my web page was discovered by Firefly Books. They had a photographer (George Fischer) working on waterfalls and wanted someone to write 'educated captions'. I offered them a lot more, and two years later, our book was published.

To support the book, the web page was completely redesigned and renamed as "Waterfalls of Ontario". I now featured links to well over 100 waterfalls, and listed several hundred more that I had yet to visit.

Over the next few years I received several hundred email messages in response to the book and web page. People were loving it! And they were providing me with lots of new and corrected information. As the web continued to expand, more and more Ontario waterfall pictures were being uploaded to both personal web sites and photo sharing sites.

In 2004, our first son was born. In 2006, our second was born. All waterfalling activity stopped! Even if I had had the time or the energy, waterfalls are not good places for toddlers. I was also busy writing "Ontario's Historic Mills" with George Fischer, which was published by Boston Mills Press in 2007.

Enhanced popularity and a new book
During my hiatus from the waterfall world, two very important things happened. Most important was that a group in Hamilton began to very aggressively promote the "City of Waterfalls". People like Joe Hollick and Stephen Head had been working on area waterfalls for a number of years. When Chris Eckland entered the scene around 2008, they formed the City of Waterfalls website, which quickly became one of the most comprehensive and heavily used online waterfall communities in the world. A municipal effort occurred around the same time, and a Facebook group attracted over 12,000 members, and weekend waterfall walks were attracting up to 100 people. So too were evening "illuminations", where they would light up the waterfalls at night with literally millions of candle power' worth of coloured floodlights. Waterfalls in Ontario (well, at least in Hamilton) were now big news!

The second factor thing that changed waterfalling in the late 2000s was the continued development of the web. Online mapping systems like Google Earth (and associated Google Maps) made it easy for anyone to explore the world from their armchair. I still shake my head wondering what my early power-exploring days would have been like if I had had access to this amazing resource. Just as important was that it allowed anyone to upload their own photographs to a map for everyone to see. I discovered many dozens of new waterfalls this way, and learned so much due to the exploratory work of others.

In the summer of 2010, I was contacted by Firefly Books. We had sold about 10,000 copies of our book! And they were out of copies. This was great news for a small regional title. The sales numbers weren't as impressive as was the fact that the book had maintained enough demand to remain on the shelves of major stores like Chapters for 7 years. (I have to think that our sales benefited somewhat in later years due to the interest generated by the Hamilton group).

Firefly wanted to do a reprint. When I asked if they would consider a second edition instead of a reprint, they said "Great, but you only have two months." With a full-time job and two young kids, my time was limited, but George and I were able to come up with enough new material to market a second edition. The new edition includes a new chapter on Northeastern Ontario and another on Hamilton. There were new maps and an all new waterfall inventory. The new book continues to sell well in 2014.

With a busy young family (I do recommend it!), my waterfalling opportunities are still limited. But a number of other people were doing a lot of exploring, and were posting a tonne of content to the web. People like Gord Collins, Steve Jones and Kit McCann were combing the province and visiting a bunch of falls that I had listed but never visited. And Joe Hollick, Chris Eckland and an army of volunteers and enthusiasts were "discovering" waterfalls in Hamilton that few people ever knew about.

Going Mobile
By 2013-2014 my web site was getting over 1000 hits per day on summer weekends. Emails and digital photos kept coming and book sales were still decent. I also got a new smart phone and found myself using it to browse the web more and more. Truth be told, this is because my kids were now old enough to kick me off the bigger screens in our house!

But this got me thinking… what would my web site look like on my new phone? Shoot! It looked like crap because it didn't fit. And my web counter was telling me that I was consistently getting about 10% of my traffic on small devices. Hmmm… if I thought that my page looked like crap, so too would those users. I read a few articles on responsive design and I was convinced that I could use my limited skills to make a web site that worked well on mobile devices. (I'm not claiming that this is anything fancy, but it works!).

So as I write this in June 2014, I'm behind schedule but finally revealing the new site. Too bad that I will forget 90% of how this works and will have to re-learn everything in a few years when I make the next major change. I'm not sure what the future holds. I would like to promote more interactivity with users to let people contribute easier. I also envision using more dynamic server approaches, where web pages are served on the fly from a database. But that was beyond my skill set at the time of writing.

The most important thing that I need to do though, is to expose and encourage my kids to get out and explore some of these awesome places. I'm 99.9% sure that I won't make waterfall fanatics out of them (maybe I could make action figures?). But waterfalls and the trails around them are great for family time. The waterfalls are generally free. Family time is priceless.

Mark Harris, London, ON. June 2014.

  Please Buy the Book!  
Published by Firefly Books in 2003 and in 2011. Buy it online from CHAPTERS.ca or AMAZON.com, or find it in a local bookstore near you.
(This web page is not affiliated with Firefly Books).

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  Warning / Disclaimer
You must read the warning / disclaimer page before relying on this web page.

  Mark Harris hereby notifies you that he makes no guarantee that it is safe to visit this waterfall.
  Mark Harris hereby notifies you that this web site does not give you permission to visit this waterfall or to trespass.

  The northern and eastern portions of the province (as well as the Bruce Peninsula) are "bear territory". Be prepared!

  Mark Harris hereby notifies you that he makes no guarantee that the directions provided on this web site are correct, safe and/or legal.

You are responsible for yourself!

© Copyright Mark Harris May, 2014. London, Ontario. With lots of help from visitors like you!