Niagara Falls is high on the list of natural spectacles in North America, which is quite the feat because it’s a beautiful continent. It’s beauty is matched by it’s sheer power and it’s hard to overstate how powerful the falls actually are. Each minute over 160,000 cubic meters of water flow over the falls, which equals about 3,160 tons each second. It’s a lot of water and there are plans to stop it entirely in order to allow construction crews access to fix some bridges near the falls.
Given how much water roars over the falls each second it seems like an impossible feat, but it wouldn’t be the first time and it’s not nearly as insane as it sounds.
The falls have ceased to flow a number of times due to natural circumstances. The first such instance was recorded by multiple sources in Northern New York state in the spring of 1848. On March 31st the Buffalo Express detailed the ice jam that caused the stoppage stopped falls and its impact on the mills that depended on the river for their daily operations. The Buffalo Commercial Advertised detailed the events as well. The news reports are shaky at best, but they are in line with the weather and climate patterns of the area.
Reports detailed strong winds which helped freeze the river in numerous locations, ultimately leading to a significant enough ice jam to stop the flow of the river for over 24 hours. If it had not been corroborated by numerous personal journals and a report from a army cavalry squad on patrol, it might be hard to believe, but it wasn’t the first or the last time the falls would come to a trickle.
Reports as early as 1812 reveal similar occurrences. On multiple occasions in the early 20th century the falls froze significantly enough for people to question whether they were flowing or not. It was not until the 1960’s when the Army Corps of Engineers brought the falls to a trickle in order to study the rock outcroppings surrounding the falls that mankind exercised its power to bring the falls to a trickle.
In 1969 the Corps constructed a series of dams which brought the falls to a halt. This gargantuan undertaking was done all to allow a study to be conducted on the rocks at the mouth of the falls in order to determine whether or not they could be removed from the falls without catastrophic consequences. Ultimately the corps decided to leave the falls alone, but it was not a decision they made lightly, I mean, they stopped an entire waterfall.
Now the state of New York is debating whether or not they should do the exact same thing. Instead of studying the rocks around the falls they will work to save two historic bridges surrounding the falls which are two of the prime viewing locations from the American side. The state considered restoring the current structures impossible and decided instead to build a new bridge. The exact structure of the new bride is still to be determined, but regardless building the bridge in the current location will be far easier if the 3,000+ tons of water passing by each second could just stop for a moment.
Lucky for New York the Army Corps of Engineers proved it can be done. And the state of New York is looking to do it again, three, five, maybe eight years down the line according to a New York state park spokeswoman.
Most surprising of all, it would be a relatively small part of the plan to reconstruct those viewpoints, coming in at only $3 million of the projects $27 million dollar budget.