Located just feet from the impressive Horseshoe Falls,  this tiny series of islands offer visitors the chance to experience the Niagara River’s rush just a short distance upstream from Niagara Falls. I was lucky enough to visit Three Sisters Islands this autumn and found walking just a few feet above the Niagara River cascading channels awe-inspiring. 

Three Sisters Islands is in Niagara Falls State Park,  Niagara Falls, New York. Positioned alongside Goat Island, Three Sisters Islands, are less than a half-mile upstream from the Horseshoe Falls brink and only 340 feet from the US / Canadian international border. 

Three Sisters Island has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. Even before the first European settlers came to appreciate the beauty of the tiny islands, Native Americans had frequently traveled to the area to pay their respect to the God of Thunder.

A Quick Walk Out to the Islands

Visiting Three Sisters Islands is free, as is Niagara Falls State Park. It is just a short distance to venture out onto the three little islands. You will find the entrance to the path just a short walk down from the main viewing area at Terrapin Point.

 The walking path was reconstructed during the modernization of the park started in 2012. As a result, the path is broad, and all but the furthest point on the third Island is accessible.  

A stone footbridge marks the entrance to Three Sisters Islands. Walking across the first bridge, you will find a tranquil stream and a tiny waterfall.

 As you continue on the path, you will cross over three small channels of the Niagara River. The roaring water reminds you of the incredible power of the falls. Interestingly, you may be only looking at 1/2 of the Niagara River’s potential water flow. 

 An engaging perspective of Niagara Falls is had as you cross the final bridge to the outermost Island. In addition, a perfect photo opportunity of the Niagara River tumbling down the last few thousand feet before going over the falls is available while on the bridge. 

Visit the Old Rock

Walking down the stairs, you will notice several large boulders on the river bank just beyond the guard rails. Notice how shiny a spot is on the rock. Before the reconstruction of the path, tourists could walk right up to the river. They would rub their hand on the stone as they stood inches from the rapids.  

As Lauren Hubbard notes in her article, The Luckiest Places in the World to Visit, Tourists tend to touch certain objects hoping for good luck. Clearly, this bolder at the tip of Three Sisters Islands has been touched by thousands, if not millions of people, since people began to visit Niagara Falls hundreds of years ago. 

The rock is now out of reach, but it is fun to imagine how many people stood at the brink of the river and rubbed it. 

Wishing Stone at the tip of Three Sisteres Islands
Note the smooth sheen on the bolder located on Three Sisters Islands. This shiny spot is from people rubbing the rock over time. The stone is beyond the new guard rails.

The rushing waters are majestic and powerful, but it is not all it seems. The United States and Canada signed an agreement in 1950 that allowed up to 50% of the Niagara Rivers volume to be diverted to hydroelectricity bypassing Niagara Falls.

At night and during periods of lower tourism, up to 75% of the river is diverted upstream and sent to the generating plants.

Today’s visitors to Niagara Falls can only imagine the river’s actual power before the hydroelectric plant development.

Three Sisters Island Was Originally Named Moss Island

As the European settlers arrived in the Niagara Frontier, Three Sisters Islands was known as Moss Island.   Due to the constant mist from the falls, an extraordinary amount of moss developed on the landforms rocks.  

In the late 1880s, botanists began studying the unique plant life around Niagara falls. The researchers noted that Goat Island, specifically Three Sisters Islands was home to individual plants, trees, and ferns not commonly found in Western New York. 

The unique plant life thrives by combining the constant spray of mist from the falls, the limestone exposure, and the diversity and combination of plant life not usually found together. 

The Buffalo Museum of Science has created a  comprehensive index of this topic that can be found here

Originally called Moss Island, Three Sisters Islands was renamed in the 1800s for the three daughters of a local businessman

The Islands Get Their Current Name 

Some assume that the name for Three Sisters Islands originated from the area’s early inhabitants. The indigenous inhabitants of New York celebrated their staple crops of winter squash, maize (corn), and the climbing bean. These crops combined were known as the Three Sisters.  

However, Three Sisters Island is named after the daughters of a prominent business figure who lived in Niagara Falls. 

General Parkhurst Whitney was an Officer for the United States Army during the War of 1812. He established several local businesses, including a hotel in Niagara Falls.  

The Legend of the Island’s name comes from a story about the General taking his daughters on a walk to the Islands in the Spring of 1816.

The Spring of 1816 saw an unusual amount of Ice wash down the river from Lake Erie and accumulate around Goat Island.

An Ice jam a little bit upstream from the islands had stopped water flow through the two channels that separate Three Sisters Island from Goat Island. The normally raging rapids had been brought down to just a trickle in the two modest channels around Three Sisters Islands.

The General took his three daughters out onto the ice and walked them out to the furthest Island. 

General Whitney felt that his daughter’s journey was so special that he asked the then-owner of Goat Island to name the islands after his daughters.  

The current name of the three islands is now as follows. The first of the islands is named after Parkhurst Whitney’s daughter, “Asenath,” the second Island is named after his daughter, “Angeline,” and the third Island is named Celinda- Eliza.” after his youngest daughter. 

Not to forget their little brother, who did not make the journey,  the small Island just to the north is called “Solon.”

How To Get To Three Sisters Island


If you drive directly to the Three Sisters Islands, you will find about 40 parking spots at the Three Sisters Islands entrance. Some spots are reserved for handicapped and tour vans, and some spots have a 20-minute limit. However, the larger south parking lot is about 1/4 of a mile walk.

 Although the islands’ entrance does not have a street number, the driving directions can be found by entering “Goat Island Niagara Falls NY” into your GPS. This will get you onto Goat Island. Now follow Goat Island Road along the Island, and you will see the parking area for Three Sisters Islands.

Restrooms are located a short walk down the trail that runs next to the short-term parking area.

Niagara Scenic Trolley

The Niagara Falls Scenic Trolley has a bus stop at Three Sisters Island. This may be the easiest way to get to Three Sisters Island. 

You can ride the trolly all day for just a few dollars ($3 adults, $2 children – 2023 rates). The trolley stops at every attraction in Niagara Falls State Park. You can catch the trolly at any of the large parking lots or at many of the viewing areas around Goat Island.

Read More about the Niagara Scenic Trolley here :


Whether you bring your own bike or rent a “Reddy” bike, seeing Goat Island by bike is a great way to go. There is a bike rack next to the trolly stop at the Three Sisters’ footbridge entrance. Goat Island has a series of bike trails, and you can ride to many scenic areas on dedicated trails around the Niagara Falls State Park system.

Reddy Bikes are available at stations around the park


Walking to Three Sisters Islands is probably the most popular way most visitors get to the Three Sisters Islands. If you are already at the main parking lot on Goat Island or the main tourist area at Terrapin Point, Walking to Three Sisters Island is about a ten-minute walk.

Just follow the signs for Three Sisters Island found along the walking trail as you exit Terrapin Point.

Three Sisters Island is open year-round. However, during icy weather or times of ice flow, Park Police may close the pathway out to the Islands if walking hazards exist.