Cross an encyclopedia with a travel guide and the result might be this compilation of historical and nonsensical events which have taken place at or near Niagara Falls. Donaldson begins with the Falls' creation (according to diverse estimates, between 6,000 and 60,000 years ago) and moves to the Indians -- complete with their yearly sacrifice of the loveliest ""maid"" to the ""mists"" -- and to the explorers, the first of whom was ""probably"" Champlain's aide Etienne Brule in 1608. Although ""partition of the continent"" was settled in 1796 when Britain ceded its forts on the American side of the river, the U.S. tried land and sea attacks in 1812, and border tension arose again in 1852 with the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, based on the life of black preacher Josiah Henson who had helped runaway slaves enter Canada. Donaldson credits William Forsyth with starting tourism in the 1820s, bringing visitors by stagecoach and running ferry rides near the Falls. Soon came ""Blondin the Great,"" walking a tightrope across the gorge, and the daredevils in barrels (first in 1886); the harnessing of the Falls for electricity; and the auspicious honeymoon of Napoleon's brother -- now a tradition that 15,000 couples follow each year. Finally, Donaldson describes today's typical tourist traps, and even throws in nearby chemical-laden Love Canal. A soggy, circumstantial mix of explorers and exhibitionists.