Niagara Falls' Maid of the Mist boats planning early launch

 The Maid of the Mist tour boats at Niagara Falls are being readied for their earliest launch ever.

The famed boats that bring passengers from the New York shore to the base of the falls in the lower Niagara River will open the 2017 season on Saturday.

A similar attraction, operated by Hornblower, launches from the Canadian shore the same day.

The early opening comes after a winter that saw less ice form on Lake Erie, which flows into the Niagara River at Buffalo.

The previous earliest launch date was April 2, 2016.

Last year, 1.6 million people rode the Maid of the Mist boats during the tourist attraction’s 131st year.

The season runs through early November.

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