Niagara Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America. It has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, provides 4.4 gigawatts of energy to the region, and a staggering 3,160 tons of water flow over the Falls every second. The Niagara Falls State Park is also the oldest state park in the United States.
The Falls are such an awe inspiring sight that it attracts roughly 30 million people visitors and tourists to the Falls every year.
Can Niagara Falls Really Be Turned Off?
In the winter of 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers needed to conduct a geological survey of the rock face of the falls and clean up the area a bit. They were going to assess if it was worth cleaning up the rocks and rubble on the American side. So they did what anyone would do. The shut the falls off.
How did they accomplish this? They built a series of coffer dams to reduce the flow of water to the tiniest trickle. Coffer dams are made of welded steel and are usually used in the construction and repairs of bridges and oil rigs.
After the engineers shut the dam off and surveyed the Falls, it was determined that the cost of removing all the rubble would be to great so the corps decided not to pursue the project beyond a slight freshening up.
- It’s not the only time Niagara falls was dry. In 1848, an ice jam up the river caused the Niagara to stay bone dry for nearly 48 hours. Some people took it as a sign the world was ending and attended special services at local churches.
- The first person to cross the Falls by tightrope in 116 years was Nik Wallenda who did it in 2012. Wallenda made the attempt after receiving permission from both the US & Canadian governments. However, Wallenda wasn’t given any special favors and had to carry his passport with him during the attempt to present it to the border guards at the Canadian side of the falls.
Irving H. Tesmer. Colossal Cataract: The Geologic History of Niagara Falls. SUNY Press. 1981
Vanderwilt, Dirk (2007). Niagara Falls: With the Niagara Parks, Clifton Hill, and Other Area Attractions
“Nik Wallenda makes historic Niagara Falls walk“. CTV News.