In geological time, Niagara Falls is quite young. The formation of the falls began at the end of the Ice Age. Large torrents of water were released from the melting ice, draining into what is now the Niagara River.
Native Americans living in the Niagara region were most likely the first people to behold the power of Niagara Falls. The first European to document the area was a French priest, Father Louis Hennepin. During a 1678 expedition, he was overwhelmed by the size and significance of Niagara Falls. When he returned to France, Hennepin published an account of his travels in "A New Discovery." The book brought Niagara Falls to the attention of the western world for the first time and inspired further exploration of the region.
The development of the rail system in the 1800s opened Niagara Falls to throngs of visitors and made it a prime destination for travelers from all over the world. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte’s young brother, Jerome, honeymooned with his American bride at the falls. He is sometimes credited with starting Niagara Falls’ honeymoon tradition.
The late 19th century development of hydroelectric power and heavy industries made Niagara Falls attractive to new immigrant groups especially from eastern and southern Europe. The Italian community in particular plays an important part in the life of the city and an informal "Little Italy" still exists.