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Located about 2 kms south of the Falls is a series of man-made islands known as Dufferin Islands. Originally called Clark Islands the property was purchased by the Niagara Parks Commission in 1887, and renamed Dufferin Islands in honour of Canadian Governor-General Lord Dufferin. At the time the Parks Commission was developing land around the falls to build Queen Victoria Park.
As early as 1820 the area was known as"The Burning Springs" and next to the falls itself was the area's first tourist attraction. A small amount of natural gas was leaking from the ground along the Niagara River, just above the Horseshoe Falls. The owner of the property, Mr. M.J. Conklin, would place a barrel with a pipe protruding from the top, over the natural gas leak. A cork stopper was then placed in the pipe. The cork would then be removed allowing the gas to escape. The escaped gas, when ignited created a "burning spring". Visitors would pay Mr. Conklin a few pennies to view this natural phenomenom, making it one of the first tourist operations in Niagara Falls. In 1902 the Islands took on a different appearance when water was diverted by the Ontario Power Company, which required river water to be drawn from a point just east of the islands. A deal worked out between the Parks Commission and the Power Company resulted in the excavation of the site to a more natural landscape.
The area has always been a favourite picnic spot, a quiet oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the Falls District. Swimming was popular until around 2000 when it was banned due to liability concerns.
Today Dufferin Islands is a wonderful green space in the heart of Niagara Falls. In the winter the islands act as a backdrop for the Festival of Lights.
Dufferin Islands is also a great birdwatching destination in the winter. Parts of the park are closed off because of the light displays, however there are ample opportunities to still enjoy this park and the wildlife within during the winter season.
Parking and access to Dufferin Islands are free. Picnicing and barbecuing are permitted.