Niagara County is a county in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 216,469. The county seat is Lockport. The county name is from the Iroquois word Onguiaahra; meaning the strait or thunder of waters.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,140 square miles (3,000 km), of which 522 square miles (1,350 km) is land and 617 square miles (1,600 km) (54%) is water.
Niagara County is in the extreme western part of New York State, just north of Buffalo and adjacent to Lake Ontario on its northern border and the Niagara River and Canada on its western border.
The county’s primary geographic feature is Niagara Falls, the riverbed of which has eroded seven miles south over the past 12,000 years since the last Ice Age. The Niagara River and Niagara Falls, are in effect, the drainage ditch for four of the Great Lakes which constitute the world’s largest supply of fresh water. The water flows north from Lake Erie, then through the Niagara River, goes over Niagara Falls, and then on to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, eventually emptying into the North Atlantic Ocean. Today, tourists and visitors to the Falls see a diminished flow of water over the Falls, since a portion of the flow has been diverted for hydroelectric power purposes. Both the American and Canadian side of the Niagara River have massive electrical power plants.
The spectacular Niagara Gorge is the path Niagara Falls has taken over thousands of years as it continues to erode. Niagara Falls started at the Niagara Escarpment which cuts Niagara County in half in an east-west direction. North of the Escarpment lies the Lake Ontario plain, which is a fertile flatland used to grow grapes, apples, peaches and other fruits and vegetables. The grape variety Niagara, source of most American white grape juice but not esteemed for wine, was first grown in the county, in 1868. Viticulture, or wine culture has begun to take place, with several wineries below the escarpment. This has helped to improve the depressed economy of the region. To further capitalize on economic development, the state has created the Niagara Wine Trail.
As of the census of 2010, there were 216,469 people, 87,846 households, and 58,593 families residing in the county. The population density was 420 people per square mile (162/km²). There were 95,715 housing units at an average density of 183 per square mile (71/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 90.70% White, 6.15% Black or African American, 0.94% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.40% from other races, and 1.21% from two or more races. 1.33% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 23.6% were of German, 18.1% Italian, 11.3% Irish, 11.2% Polish and 8.3% English ancestry. 94.5% spoke English, 1.6% Spanish and 1.0% Italian as their first language.
There were 87,846 households out of which 30.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.30% were married couples living together, 12.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.30% were non-families. 28.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the county, the population was spread out with 24.70% under the age of 18, 8.50% from 18 to 24, 28.40% from 25 to 44, 23.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $38,136, and the median income for a family was $47,817. Males had a median income of $37,468 versus $24,668 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,219. About 8.20% of families and 10.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.00% of those under age 18 and 7.30% of those age 65 or over.