In the winter they play an integral part of The Festival of Lights, at which time thousands of Christmas bulbs light up the islands.
As early as 1794 a grist mill was erected on the eastern end of the islands. In 1801 ownership of the islands passed to area pioneers Samuel Street and Thomas Clark. The islands would soon become known as Clark Hill Islands. By the 1820’s the islands had become popular as a quiet picnicking area.
The islands, became accessible to the public in 1877 when Sutherland Macklem, a descendant of Samuel Street built a pair of suspension bridges to carry foot and carriage traffic. They now became known as Cynthia Islands.
The Niagara Parks Commission took ownership of Cynthia Islands in 1887 and renamed the islands in honor of Canadian Governor-General Lord Dufferin, who had been instrumental in establishing parkland along the Niagara River and to give visitors a reprieve from the carnival - like atmosphere along the “front”.
In 1902, the Ontario Power Company began construction on their lower river power facility, which required river water to be drawn from a point just east of the islands. This new water diversion reduced the flow of water to the islands taking away from the aesthetic appeal.
In an agreement between the Power Company and the Niagara Parks Commission, excavation was begun in 1905 to compensate for the water diversion and a series of waterfalls, cascades and bridges were built. By 1918 the Islands once again took on a more natural appearance.
During World War II the islands were closed for security reasons. At the turn of the century public bathing was popular on the islands and continued to be a popular pastime until the early 1990’s when swimming and diving were prohibited due to safety concerns.