The Dynamic Presence of the Niagara Falls

Image: Photomanz /

Many sites around the world attract tourists in large numbers. Their attraction may be due to their history, charm, or the way they make us wonder at their presence. This well-known landmark has a dynamic presence with competition for its different attributes to be used for pleasure or industry. Have a look.

1. Niagara

Image: Ong.thanaong /

The Niagara Falls is world-famous and attracts millions of tourists yearly. It is a great display of nature’s power. And people visit this attraction to stare in awe at its power on display. It is hard to imagine how a man can halt the flow of this wonder. Read more.

2. The flow stops

Image: TDKvisuals /

But engineers stopped the flow of water over this powerful fall in June 1969. It was necessary for the effort to preserve it. That was the first time this world attraction had become silent in a thousand years. It showed man can interrupt the powerful force of nature. Continue reading.

3. The water stops

Image: Seumas Christie-Johnston /

The interruption of the flow gave engineers the chance to check the structure of the fall. It also gave visitors a chance to see a feat that had never been done before. But the stopping of the flow had other secrets that were hiding behind the flowing water and its mist.

4. The falls origin

Image: Diego De Munari /

The tale of Niagara Falls started some 18,000 years ago. Moving ice had cut paths into the future North American landscape. The ice melted and flowed into the Niagara River. The flowing water and the erosion it caused created much of today’s natural beauty. Among them was Niagara Falls. Read more about that.

5. Location

Image: Olesya Baron /

The Falls is on the border between the United States and Canada. And it is a most popular global attraction. There is no written record of when the falls became known. But the American Indians would have been the first people to be amazed by the beauty of the Falls.

6. Discovery

Image: James Wong Photos /

Samuel de Champlain a 17th century French Explorer heard of a waterfall. And for the first time in 1678, Europeans made note of Niagara. In that year, a priest, Father Louis Hennepin was on an expedition in the area then called New France. He saw the falls for the first time.

7. The name

Image: Javen /

Five years later Hennepin described his find in a publication he called A New Discovery. In that book, he used the name Niagara for the first time. This brought awareness of the presence of the falls among Westerners. The new discovery brought an increasing number of travelers to the area.

8. Development

Image: Yulia Kreyd /

The number of people traveling by railway to the falls increased in the 1800s. This led to the development of Niagara Falls as a tourist destination. A wide range of amenities was built to provide for the increased number of visitors to the falls. They included many honeymooning couples. Continue reading.

9. Tourism or industry

Image: Facto Photo /

But the potential for profits from this great attraction extended beyond local hoteliers. Industrialists also saw the value in the splendor created by falling water. That was by the end of the 19th century. They saw that they could use power from the falling water as energy for their factories.

10. Hydroelectricity

Image: Songquan Deng /

They built and started a hydroelectric power generating plant in 1895. It was the first such world facility. At first, it only sent electricity 300 feet. Then in 1896, Nikolas Tesla a famous inventor used alternating current to send it to Buffalo, New York. That was more than 20 miles away.

11. Benefits

Image: Adisak Photos /

Tesla’s alternating current motor was historic, and it is still used around the world today. And the falls still generate a significant amount of hydroelectricity to this day. Niagara Falls straddles both the United States and Canadian border. The two countries together host about 30 million tourists each year. Read more.

12. Water volume

Image: Romiana Lee /

At peak times six million cubic feet of water tumble over the falls every minute. But the amount of water is greatly reduced during the night. A 1950 treaty allows a diversion of the flow to power plants. At that time when it will affect the view and tourists least.

13. Altered volume

Image: Jeffrey Welt /

But the volume of water over Niagara Falls has been altered at other times over the years. In 2019, unusually cold temperatures froze the fall over in some places. And of the water flowing over the edge, much of it changed into clouds of vapor before reaching the bottom. Read more.

14. Three falls

Image: IHX /

But Niagara Falls really is made up of three separate waterfalls. There are the larger well-known Horseshoe Falls. That stretches across the United States border with Canada. Then there are also two smaller falls located on the U.S. side. They are the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. More about that in the next point.

15. Fading attraction

Image: Yulia Kreyd /

By 1965 Niagara Falls residents of the New York area began to worry. Their Falls were losing their attraction. They saw rock building up at the base of the fall. It seemed to be preventing the sheer water drop and affected the beauty of the Falls on the American side.

16. Fall erosion

Image: JoanneStrell /

The problem was featured in a front-page article of the Niagara Falls Gazette on January 31, 1965. It presented the view that continued erosion may destroy the American Falls. That spurred a campaign to save the attraction. The mission was to get the government to find a solution to the problem.

17. Efforts to save the falls

Image: Marina Swarre /

The authorities of both countries sought the help of the International Joint Commission. The body deals with issues involving shared waters. In the meantime, an effort was made to remove any detritus from above the falls. To do so they had to divert the water from flowing over the Falls on the American side.

18. Saving the falls

Image: Galyna Andrushko /

A plan was activated on November 13, 1966. The gates of the International Water Control Dam upriver were opened to allow the water in. The flow of water to the hydro-generating stations was also increased. They got to full capacity. These actions reduced the water that flowed to the falls.

19. Work begins

Image: Imago / Xinhua

The reduced flow of water to the falls to a quarter for six hours. This allowed workers to go out to clear the debris. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look closer at the exposed bed and take aerial photographs. The effort made way for a bigger undertaking later.

20. Stopping the flow

Image: Imago / Imaginechina-Tuchong

Two years later, the IJC started the American Falls International Board. The board determined that to stop the erosion it had to find a way to completely dewater the falls. The undertaking went to a group of USACE engineers who began to work on a plan to bring this about.

21. The cofferdam

Image: Imago / Christian Offenberg

The officials settled on a temporary structure called a cofferdam. It is a dam constructed in a body of water to dry out a part of it. But for the Niagara River, it would be a barrier across the river. They contracted Albert Elia Construction Company for the undertaking. Read more about that.

22. Starting the rescue

Image: Vladimir Lukin /

What a beautiful photograph. It just looks fantastic. The company had to search the riverbed after drying it out. They also had to remove boulders from the falls and install a sprinkler to keep the rock moist. The effort was to remove the obstruction and anything that distracted from the beauty of the falls.

23. Lifeline needed

Image: Imago / Cavan Images

The work started on June 9, 1969. But they connect Goat Island to the mainland with a lifeline. It would save anyone who might fall into the river and over the falls. By June 12, 1969, the dam was completed by 12,000 trucks dumping 28,000 tons of material. The American Falls stopped flowing.

24. Impact on tourism

Image: Imago / ZUMA Press

Some residents worried that the effort would affect tourism. But others thought the dried-out fall would be an attraction. There was a visitor decline. But those who visited were rewarded with a great view of the dried-out river. They also found coins on the riverbed which they snapped up with delight.

25. Disturbing find

Image: vintage_genes /

But there was also a disturbing find beneath the American Falls. The remains of a man and woman were found. The man had jumped in above the American Falls the day before the water was stopped. Police officers searching the riverbed then found the woman’s body. It was badly decomposed.

26. Unknown woman

Image: vintage_genes /

The woman’s identity and the events leading to her end at the fall’s bottom of the falls. But she was wearing a wedding band with the inscription, “Forget me not.” These were only two of many who lost their lives there. And it was surprising that more bodies were not found.

27. Deaths at the falls

Image: Ryan Morgan /

Many have fallen over the falls through years and it is estimated that about 40 die there each year. Some deaths are suicides while others are accidental. Some accidental deaths are from several daredevils who try to survive a jump from the fall. Although few have done so with success.

28. Successful Stunt

Image: Imago / United Archives International

Annie Edson Taylor, a 63-year-old teacher, is among the few successful attempted jumps. She made a jump in 1901 protected in a wooden barrel and survived. When she emerged from the barrel, she warned that no one should try her stunt again. Others have tried with varying successes. More in the next point.

29. Other stunts

Image: Imago / Xinhua

Another successful plunge was by Karel Soucek, a Canadian stuntman, in 1984. He went over the falls in a barrel and survived but died the next year in Texas trying to repeat his stunt. In 1990 Jesse Sharp, an American tried the falls with a canoe but was not seen after.

30. Nature’s power

Image: Imago / ZUMA Wire

For those watching the draining of the American Falls, the body below the falls reminds us of nature’s power. But it could not deter the work started. The authorities removed the remains of the bodies and continued their work. They had to remove the loose rocks from the waterfall’s surface.

31. Working on the falls

Image: Imago / ZUMA Press

To do that, workers in cages hung from cranes over the edge of the falls. The engineers used a sprinkler to moisten the shale on the waterfall’s face. Workers were also drilling 180 feet into the top of the American Falls to test the rock. Surveyors also charted the fall’s surface contours.

32. New feature

Image: Olga Bogatyrenko /

A walkway was built for visitor’s safe walk on the riverbed. This attraction opened on August 1, 1969. The walkway was popular, but it did not bring visitors to the expected levels. A study of the talus deposit at the bottom of the falls showed that cleanup will be harder than hoped.

33. Challenges

Image: Creative bee Maja /

The engineers found the talus vital support for the cliff face and could not remove it. So, the next plan was to build a permanent dam to raise the water level to hide the offending rock. A dam would greatly weaken the American Falls, so they left the talus visible.

34. Mission accomplished

Image: Javen /

Over a six-month period, teams stabilized the falls using, bolts, cables, and anchors. They also installed sensors to give alerts of an imminent landslide. These were efforts to preserve the waterfall for future generations. With the work completed in November 1969. The cofferdam was destroyed, and the American Falls restored.

35. Conservation

Image: ValeStock /

The 1969 Niagara Falls was quite different from what it was centuries before. Because of industry in the area, Conservation was already considered by the 1800s. The start of the 20th century saw a large amount of water diverted. It went to power plants and reduced the falls’ beauty. Read more about that.

36. Industry wins

Image: Elena Berd /

The industrialists claim their plants were helping to conserve the falls. They believed their reduced water flow will prevent the annual erosion rate of the falls. Both the US and Canada wanted to be continued industrial activity. So, they agreed that industry was not affecting the flow of the falls. Continue reading.

37. Managing the flow

Image: Cyril Charpin /

The two countries agreed they would divert up to 75 percent of the water. They would do so in the evenings and during winter. At times when visitors peak the reduction would be 50 percent. Also, experts altered the Horseshoe Falls. They created the illusion of a more powerful water flow.

38. Reduced flow

Image: Diego De Munari /

The diversions are still in existence. And tourists only see some of the water that should be flowing over Niagara Falls. But the cascades remain one of the most popular attractions in the world. But there is another plan to stop the flow of water over the falls again. More in the next point.

39. The Bridges

Image: Imago / Panthermedia

The Niagara Frontier State Park Commission in 2016 announced a plan. It would be drying out the American Falls again. The two-century-old stone bridges linking the mainland to Goat Island had deteriorated beyond repair. So, the bridges must be replaced and to do so they must stop the water again.

40. Plan deferred

Image: Khoa Nguyen Dang /

A 2019 plan to build another cofferdam was deferred due to funding issues. Officials say the project is still in the works. They believe social media will make this plan a greater boost to tourism than before. They are also likely to discover the bodies of those who died there, after 1969.