Endangered Species: Niagara's Maid of the Mist

Iconic tour boat company could soon be no more

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted May 24, 2012 9:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Maid of the Mist tour boats have been a part of Niagara Falls' history since the 1840s, shepherding everyone from King Edward VII to Marilyn Monroe to Pam and Jim to the base of Horseshoe Falls. And its days may be numbered. The Ontario government in February gave a California company the right to run tours on its country's side of the falls, reports the New York Times. That's ravaged the Maid of the Mist Corporation's revenue, but a larger problem looms: The company will also lose the land it leased from Canada in two years, meaning it will have nowhere to store its boats during winter.

The Times runs down the issues with all the alternatives: Rapids make it impossible to sail the boats elsewhere; there's no land route wide enough to bring boats inland; and to store them on the New York side would require construction that would take two years to finish—assuming a site could be decided upon, and assuming the company beats out any competing bids for it. Should it have to pause its service, its contract with New York could be declared void. And some think New York is on the receiving end of a shoddy deal: The Maid pays it just 10% of its revenue, which clocked in at $14.8 million last year. But others would be sad to see the company go: "It’s a pretty romantic name, you’ve got to admit," says one Florida tourist. Click to read about Niagara Falls' other woes.

In this April 21, 2005 file photo, a Maid of the Mist ship returns from the base of the Horseshoe Falls, as seen from a ship leaving Niagara Falls.   (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
In this June 11, 2010 file photo, tourists ride the Maid of the Mist boat at the base of the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls.   (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
Maid of the Mist's Senior Capt. Malcolm Bunting's passenger ship, left, is loaded with tourists ready to ride to the base of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
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