NIAGARA FALLS: the Cataracts

THE CATARACTS

 

 

 

 

 



"Niagara"  by Frederick Church - 1857
Niagara
Fr
ederick Edwin Church
  1857
oil on canvas
42" x 90"
the Corcoran Gallery of Art

 

 

To stand beside the Falls of Niagara and to hear the incessant roaring thunder and to feel the earth moving to the vibration of the sheer volume of water is to understand the grandeur and dynamism of Niagara Falls.

 

 

 

Niagara originates from the Neutral Indian name  "Ongniaahra"
meaning

"Thunder of Waters"

 

 

 

 

Niagara Falls is the third greatest waterfalls in the world in terms of  volume of water

Boyoma [Stanley] Falls - Congo - 17,000 m3/sec
Khone Falls - Laos - 11,610 m3/sec
Horseshoe Falls - Niagara Falls - 5,830m3/sec

 

 

 




 

 

INDEX

 

The Niagara River

The Niagara Gorge

The Horseshoe Falls

The American Falls

The Illumination Lights

The Whirlpool

Oddities

 

 




 

 

THE NIAGARA RIVER

 

 

 

The Niagara River has been cutting its way across the shelf of the rock between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie for about 12,000 years.

It seems a long time in terms of the human experience, but compared to the 500 million year old rocks of the Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Falls was born yesterday.

If we consider the Niagara Escarpment to be 1 Day Old, the Niagara River as we know it has only been in existence for  4 Seconds.

 

 

The Upper Niagara River Cascades

The Upper Niagara River Cascades

 

The Niagara River is 12,000 years old

The Niagara River is 35 miles (59 km) long and runs in a south to north direction from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

The Niagara River is a narrow passage of water joining two larger bodies of water and is actually a "strait".

 

A river is an outlet for a drainage area ordinarily called the river basin. Tributaries flow towards it and it is the means by which the whole region between water-sheds is drained. The Niagara River is not like this. It is not located between water-sheds and drains no large area. It receives no rivers of importance. For this reason it may be properly called a strait connecting two inland bodies of water.

 

The Great Lakes system is considered to be the area drained by the Niagara River. The area of the upper Great Lakes is 684,000 square kilometers (264,000 square miles).

Wind is the most important regulator of the Niagara River. Wind controls the water level and speed of the water. Southwest winds over Lake Erie increase the speed and the water level of the Niagara River. East winds across Lake Erie in contrast reduces the water speed and water level of the Niagara River.

The elevation difference between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario is 326 feet (99m).

 

The Niagara River has four distinct sections:

                                                                                1) the Upper Niagara River

                                                                                2) the Cascades and the Falls

                                                                                3) the American Goat Island Channel

                                                                                4) the Lower Niagara River

 

THE UPPER NIAGARA RIVER:

The upper Niagara River extends 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Lake Erie downstream to the Cascade Rapids. The Cascade Rapids begins 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) upstream of the Horseshoe Falls. Niagara Falls.

The maximum width of the Niagara River is 2580 meters (8500 feet) at Buffalo/Fort Erie. The river width narrows to approximately 460 meters (1500 feet) at Squaw Island located below the Peace Bridge.  Water flowing past the Peace Bridge can attain a speed of 8.18 miles per hour.

Downstream of Squaw Island, the river widens to approximately 610 meters (2000 feet) at a speed of 3.4 miles per hour.

From Lake Erie to Strawberry Island which is located 8 kilometers (5 miles) downstream of Lake Erie,  the river elevation drops six (6) feet.

At Grand Island, the river divides into the west channel (known as the Chippawa Channel) and the east channel (known as the American or Tonawanda Channel).

Grand Island, located upstream from the Horseshoe Falls, has an area of 70 square kilometers (27 square miles). It is the largest of the islands along the Niagara River.

The Chippawa Channel is approximately 17.7 kilometers (11 miles) in length and varies in width from 460 meters (2000 feet) to 1220 meters (4000 feet). Velocity of the water flow is averages 2 miles per hour. This Chippawa Channel carries 60% of the total river flow.

The Tonawanda Channel is 24 kilometers (15 miles) in length and varies in width from 460 meters (1500 feet) to 610 meters (2000 feet) in width. Velocity of the water flow averages 2 miles per hour.

At the north end of Grand Island, both the Chippawa and Tonawanda Channels merge to form the 4.8 kilometer (3 mile long) Chippawa - Grass Island Pool. The long term elevation of this pool is 171.16 meters (561.55 feet) above sea level. At the downstream end of the Chippawa - Grass Island Pool is the International Niagara Control Dam.

The International Niagara Control Dam is located approximately 1370 meters (4500 feet) upstream of the Horseshoe Falls. It has eighteen (18) control gates which are lifted or lowered in order to control the amount of water that flows over the Falls and to regulate the water level in the Chippawa - Grass Island Pool for hydro diversion. The water velocity is 4.4 to 4.8 feet per second (3.2 miles per hour/5.2 kilometers per hour).

Water is diverted from the Chippawa - Grass Island Pool for hydro-electric power generation. Approximately 123,490 - 162,000 cubic feet of water per second is diverted. This water feeds the following hydro-electric generating stations:

1. Sir Adam Beck Power Generating Station #1 & #2
2. Niagara Power Generating Station (Robert Moses)
3. Canadian Niagara Generating Station (Rankine Plant)

The water diverted for the Sir Adam Beck and Robert Moses power stations is returned to the Niagara River at Queenston - Lewiston.

The water diverted for the Canadian Niagara Generating Station is returned to the Maid of the Mist plunge pool at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.

From Lake Erie to the Chippawa - Grass Island Pool the river bed drops 2.7 meters (9 feet) in elevation.

The maximum depth of the upper Niagara River is 12 meters (41 feet) at the International Railroad Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie.

There are eight  major islands in the Upper Niagara River. They are: (in order from Lake Erie to Niagara Falls)

1) Squaw Island (American)
2) Strawberry Island (American)
3) Beaver Island (American) - 40 acres
4) Grand Island (American) - 17,381 acres
5) Tonawanda Island (American)
6) Buckhorn Island (American) - 146 acres
7) Navy Island (Canadian) - 316 acres
8) Goat Island (American) - 70 acres

 

THE CASCADES AND THE FALLS:

Downstream of the International Niagara Control Dam, the river descends 15 meters (50 feet) through a series of rapids and cascades. The Cascade area is divided into two channels by Goat Island. These channels carry the flow of the water to both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls.

The water level located upstream of Niagara Falls is 561 feet (171m) above sea level.

The average depth of the Niagara River upstream of Niagara Falls is 15 feet (4.5m).The deepest area of the Niagara River upstream of Niagara Falls is approximately 27 feet (8m).

Since the International Control Dam was built, the cascades or rapids located just upstream from the Falls is on average just 2 feet (0.6m) to 3 feet (0.9m) in depth

The rock strata located upstream of the Horseshoe Falls tilts 20 feet (6m) towards the Canadian shoreline in 1 mile (1.6 km).

From eastern end of Goat Island to the crest of the Horseshoe Falls there is an elevation drop of 55 feet (16m) forming a series of rapids.

The rate of water flow over the Falls prior to hydro diversion was in excess of 220,000 cubic feet per second. Current flow rates of water over the Falls are as follows:

 

April 1st - September 15th (8 am to 10 pm) = minimum 100,000 cf/s

September 6th - October 31st (8 am to 8 pm) = minimum 100,000cf/s

All Other Times = minimum 50,000 cf/s

 

cf/s = cubic feet per second

 

Ninety percent (90%) of the total amount of water flows over the Horseshoe Falls while ten percent (10%) of the total amount of the water flows over the American Falls.

Thirty-seven million (37,000,000) gallons of water per minute are flowing over the Falls when the rate of flow is 100,000 cubic feet per second.

The long term average water flow of the Niagara River is 205,000 cubic feet per second. The daily rate of water flow is subject to vary from day to day.

Each day, approximately 164,000 cubic feet of water per second is diverted upstream of the Falls for hydro-electric power generation.

Since the early 1900's, water diversion for hydro-electric generation has reduced the volume of water flowing over the Falls. This diversion has caused the plunge pool at the base of the Falls to drop by approximately 15 feet (4.6 meters), and in turn increasing the height of the Falls by the same amount.

 

THE AMERICAN GOAT ISLAND CHANNEL:

The American Channel is created by Goat Island which divides the flow of the Niagara River. Only 10% of the total river flow follows this channel. It is 3,000 feet (914m) long, extending from the eastern tip of Goat island to the American Falls. It is located between Goat Island and the American mainland. The width of the channel at the eastern tip of Goat Island is approximately 800 feet (244m). At the American Falls, the channel widens to approximately 1,100 feet (335m). The upper rapids are created by an approximate 60 feet (18m) descent in the river bed over this short distance. The American Channel has many small islands which are scattered along its course. The names of these islands are:

Bird Island
Brig Island
Chapin Island
Crow Island
Green Island (formerly Bath Island)
Luna Island
Robinson Island
Ship Island


THE LOWER NIAGARA RIVER:

The Niagara Gorge extends from the Horseshoe Falls for 11 kilometers (7 miles) downstream to the beginning of the Niagara Escarpment at Queenston - Lewiston.

The Niagara Gorge has five identifiable sections: (in order from most current to earliest)

1) Upper Great Gorge
2) Whirlpool Rapids Gorge
3) Lower Great Gorge
4) Old Narrow Gorge
5) Lewiston Branch Gorge

The average river flow at Queenston between 1860 - 1998 was 207,760 cubic feet of water per second.

The minimum width of the Niagara River is 76 meters (250 feet) at the Niagara Glen.

The width of the Niagara River at Niagara On the Lake is 915 meters (3000 feet).

The depth of the Niagara River downstream of the Falls varies from place to place as follows:

 

at the base of the Horseshoe Falls - 46 meters (150 Feet)

at the Whirlpool Bridge - 65 meters (215 feet)

at the Whirlpool - 38 meters (126 feet)

at Queenston - Lewiston - 30 meters (100 feet)

 

Each day it is estimated that the Niagara River carries over 80,000 tons of dissolved minerals and sediments towards Lake Ontario. It is equivalent to 1,600 railway freight car loads.

The Whirlpool is a basin which is 518 meters (1700 feet) long and 365 meters (1200 feet) wide.

 

To learn more about the Falls of Niagara visit the Origins of Niagara Falls section.

 

 

 




 

 


THE NIAGARA GORGE

 

 

 

FOR THE PAST 12,000 YEARS THE HYDRODYNAMIC FORCES OF NATURE HAVE BEEN CREATING A MAJESTIC ART WORK CALLED

THE NIAGARA RIVER

AND

FALLS OF NIAGARA

 

 

 

The Niagara River Gorge which commences at its place of birth in Queenston - Lewiston has eroded approximately 7 miles (11 km) upstream to the site of the Horseshoe Falls.

The river water did not cause the gorge to be as wide as it is today. Most widening has been caused by erosion and weathering resulting in rock falls.

 

 

There are five (5) identifiable sections of the Niagara Gorge. They are:

 

UPPER GREAT GORGE is the section located nearest the Falls. It has an average width of 365.5 meters (1,200 feet). The Niagara River from the base of the Horseshoe Falls descends only 1.5 meters (5 feet) to the upper reaches of the Whirlpool Rapids. This section of the river is known as the Maid of the Mist Pool is navigable for the most of its entire length. It is this section which the Maid of the Mist Tour Boats ply their services. is the section located nearest the Falls. It has an average width of 365.5 meters (1,200 feet). The Niagara River from the base of the Horseshoe Falls descends only 1.5 meters (5 feet) to the upper reaches of the Whirlpool Rapids. This section of the river is known as the Maid of the Mist Pool is navigable for the most of its entire length. It is this section which the Maid of the Mist Tour Boats ply their services.

 

 

The Upper Great Gorge

A view of  the Upper Great Gorge

 

 

WHIRLPOOL RAPIDS GORGE is the section located north of the Whirlpool International Bridge and  the south of the Whirlpool. It has an average width of 228.5 meters (750 feet wide). This portion of the gorge is world   famous for its rapids. The width of the Whirlpool Rapids Gorge narrows to approximately 150 yards (137m). The rapids generated here are amongst the wildest and most formidable in the world (class V-VI).

The depth of the Whirlpool Rapids is 10.7 meters (35 feet) and the speed of the water at the Whirlpool Rapids is 35.4 kilometers/hr (22 mph). The speed is the result of the narrow width of the gorge as well as the rapid descent of the river. The descent is 15.8 meters (52 feet) in less than 1.6 kilometers (1.2 miles). Water in the Whirlpool Rapids flow towards the American shoreline causing extensive erosion.

Since the early 1950's, because of water diversion for hydro generation, the water level of the Whirlpool Rapids has dropped 12 - 25 feet (4-8m). Today less than fifty (<50%) percent of the original maximum amount water flows through this portion of the river.

 

 

The Whirlpool Rapids Gorge

A view of the Whirlpool Rapids  & Gorge looking South from the Whirlpool

 

 

LOWER GREAT GORGE (DEVIL'S HOLE) is the section located just north of the Whirlpool. Approximately 7,000 years ago this part of the gorge was the site of  twin falls in the area of the Niagara Glen   before becoming a single waterfall once again as the waters of Lake Erie began drainage through the Niagara River system. Here, the Niagara Gorge is only 250 feet (76m) wide. The Lower Rapids (Devil's Hole Rapids) are located here. The rapid descent of the river - 14 meters (47 feet) in less than one third of a mile contribute to a white water rapids (class III). A portion of this section of rapids is called the "Devil's Hole" for its sudden elevation drop of 16 feet (5m).

 

 

The Lower Rapids Gorge (Devil's Hole Rapids)

A view of the Lower Great Gorge looking North from the Whirlpool towards the Old Narrow Gorge and the Hydro Generating Stations

 

 

OLD NARROW GORGE is the section located near the Hydro Generating Stations just South of  Queenston -  Lewiston. It is the birth site of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge 12,000 years ago. This portion of the river is navigable but the strong current and Hydro Generating Stations create inherent hazards.

 

 

The Old Narrow Gorge

A view of the Old Narrow Gorge looking North towards the birthplace of Niagara Falls

 

 

LEWISTON BRANCH GORGE is the section which extends from Queenston - Lewiston northward to Lake Ontario. The elevation drop from the end of the Lower Rapids (Devil's Hole Rapids) to Lake Ontario is approximately 1.5 meter (5 feet). This section is navigable.

 

 

The Lewiston Branch Gorge

A view of the Niagara River along the Lewiston Branch Gorge looking South towards the Niagara Escarpment
at Queenston - Lewiston

 

 

The shape of each section of the Niagara Gorge has been molded from the differing amounts of water that once flowed at variable speeds during the retreat of the last ice age and from erosion.

The depth of the gorge is variable up to 300 feet (91m) in depth (including water depth).

 

 

The Whirlpool Rapids

A view of the Whirlpool Rapids from the Great Gorge Adventure Boardwalk

 

 

 




 

 


THE HORSESHOE FALLS

 

 

 

The Horseshoe Falls and the Maid of the Mist

The Horseshoe Falls

 

 

 

The crest line of Niagara Falls was not described as horseshoe shaped until 1721.

One hundred (100%) percent of the Horseshoe Falls is located in Canada.

The speed of the Niagara River at the crest of the Horseshoe Falls is along the flanks is 8 miles (32km/h) per hour at a flow rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second. The speed of the water at the apex (centre) is 13.6 miles per hour (22km/h) at a flow rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second.

The height of the Horseshoe Falls is 53 meters (173 feet) to the plunge pool at the base of the Falls.

The crest line of the Horseshoe Falls is 2,200 feet (670m) in width. The crest line of the Horseshoe Falls is 500 feet (152 meters) above sea level.

The water depth at the base of the Horseshoe Falls is 184 feet (56m).

Behind the Horseshoe Falls is a rock shelf approximately 20 feet (6m) in width, however because of the sheer shale cliffs on either side and because of the volume of water falling, access is not possible.

Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. each day, the volume of water flowing over the Falls is at its maximum rate.

In one second, a total of 600,000 gallons of water flows over the width of the crest line of the Horseshoe Falls.

 

 

The Table Rock Front in 1862

An historical view of the Table Rock circa 1862 in Queen Victoria Park

 

The depth of the Niagara River just north of the Horseshoe Falls is 56.6 meters (185 feet) deep, however rock talus fills in a portion of the bottom to within 22 meters (72 feet) of the surface.

Prior to Hydro water diversion beginning in 1956 and 1962, the depth of the water in at the apex (center) of the crest line of the Horseshoe Falls was 10 feet (3m). Currently this depth averages 2-3 feet (1m).

The Scenic Tunnels located in the Table Rock Complex at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls will take visitors down an elevator approximately 170 feet (51.8m) to two tunnels leading to the base of the Falls. One tunnel is 150 feet long (46m) and leads to an outdoor observation deck to the north side of the Horseshoe Falls. A second 240 foot (73m) tunnel leads to a portal view behind the Horseshoe Falls. Each tunnel is 7 feet (2m) in height and 4.5 feet (1.4m) wide. The tunnels were built in 1888 and for many years were known as "the Cave of the Forty Thieves".

In January 1818 at 9 p.m. a large section of rock measuring 160 feet (49m) by 30 feet (9m) broke away from the Horseshoe Falls.

Near midnight on March 29th 1848, Niagara Falls ran dry. A South-West gale blowing off of Lake Erie caused ice to jamb and dam up at the mouth of the Niagara River causing the water flow over the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls to be reduced to a trickle. The water flow was not returned until approximately forty hours later, when a wind shift broke apart the ice jam. On  March 31st 1848, the river flow returned to its normal rate.

On January 19th 1887, a section of rock measuring 160 feet (49m) by 60 feet (9m) collapsed from the Table Rock into the gorge below. This was the collapse of the original Table Rock.

The most dramatic change to the Horseshoe Falls occurred on January 10th 1889. A gale force wind caused much more water than usual to be forced over the crest line of the Horseshoe Falls. This extra weight caused a large section of rock to fall from the apex (center) of the horseshoe. The depth of the water flowing over the flanks of the crest line immediately dropped 15 inches as the water began flowing towards the fractured center.

On January 8th 1891 at approximately 9 p.m., a large mass of rock again fell from the apex of the Horseshoe Falls changing the shape of the crest line from an angle at the apex to a horseshoe shape.

In 1953 - 1954, a series of coffer dams were built around the Horseshoe Falls stopping the water flow over the crest to enable remedial work to be carried out once the crest line dried out. Twenty-four thousand cubic yards of rock were excavated from the flank of Goat Island. Sixty-four thousand cubic yards of rock was excavated from flank of the Table Rock.

Substantial rock falls occurred at Table Rock in 1828, 1829, 1850, 1862, 1887, 1889 and 1891. In 1935, the remainder of Table Rock which posed a safety hazard was blasted away.

 

The remnants of the original Table Rock

the original Table Rock as it exists today

(the Table Rock was approximately 200 feet (61m) long with a 60 foot (18m) overhang) 

 

Goat Island separates the Horseshoe Falls from the American Falls.

 

 

TERRAPIN TOWER

In the 1820's, Peter and Augustus Porter were owners of the American Falls and all their surrounding lands including Goat Island. As a tourist attraction, they built a wooden pier extending 300 yards from Goat Island to a series of half submerged rocks known as the "Terrapin Rocks". It is these turtle shaped rocks which led to the current name of Terrapin Point.

In 1833, the Porter brothers built a 45 foot (14m) tall tower structure with an observation deck at the end of this pier. This tower stood for approximately 50 years before erosion rendered the structure uninhabitable. It was subsequently demolished.

The Terrapin Tower was built on the precipice of the Horseshoe Falls at Terrapin Point in 1833.
The structure was 45 feet (14m) tall and 12 feet (4m) in diameter. It was described as rude circular structure built from stones found in the vicinity.

Inside the tower, was a winding stairway that was ascended by many thousands of visitors from every part of the world over a 40 year period from 1833 to 1873.  A small balcony at the top of this tower provided visitors with a spectacular view of the Falls and the gorge below.

In 1873, the tower was blown up with gun powder not because it was dangerous but because it might prove to be an attraction contrary to the interests of a company that had purchased land adjacent to Prospect Park.

In many historical photographs, drawings and paintings, Terrapin Tower can be seen located along the crest line of the Horseshoe Falls nearest Goat Island.

In 1955, the area of the Terrapin Rocks was drained and back filled to create an artificial viewing area while smoothing the flow of water over the Goat Island flank of the crest line. Today tourists view the Horseshoe Falls from this area.

 

To learn more about Terrapin Tower, visit the History of Towers section.

 

In 1969, a major crack was discovered in the rock formation at Terrapin Point. For safety, this observation area was closed to members of the public until 1983 when 25,000 tons of unstable rock was blasted away by members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Rainbows can be seen at the Falls in the early morning as the sun rises and in the late afternoon as the sun begins to set. The sun at these times reflects the water from the rising mist.

 

 

The crestline of the Horseshoe Falls

A view of the Crestline of the Horseshoe Falls  from the Table Rock observation area

 

 

To learn more about the Falls of Niagara visit the Origins of Niagara Falls section.

 

 

 




 

 

 

THE AMERICAN FALLS

 

THE AMERICAN FALLS (Rainbow Falls)

&

THE LUNA FALLS (Bridal Veil Falls)

 

 

The American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls

The American Falls  & Bridal Veil Falls

 

The American Falls is also known as the Rainbow Falls.

The Luna Falls is also known as the Bridal Veil Falls or Iris Falls.

One hundred (100%) percent of the Bridal Veil Falls/Luna Falls and the American Falls are located in the U.S.A.

 

 

The American Falls from Prospect Point

The American Falls from Prospect Point

 

 

The Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls has a total crest line of 1,100 feet (326m) in width and has a height of 182 feet (56 meters).

 

The height of the American Falls is 182 feet (56m) from the crest line to the river level. This height is deceptive when considering the massive amount of rock talus at its base.

The talus (broken rock ) at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls reduces the uninterrupted fall of the water to as little as 70 feet (21m).

 

The crest line of the Bridal Veil Falls/Luna Falls is 56 feet  (17 meters) in width. It is located immediately south of the much larger American Falls but separated from the main waterfalls by a thin strip of land known as Luna Island. The crest line of Bridal Veil Falls is 508 feet (155 meters) above sea level.

The crest line of the American Falls (Rainbow Falls) is approximately 950 feet (290 meters) in width. The depth of the water at the crest is approximately 2 feet (0.6 meters). The crest line of the American Falls is 510 feet (155 meters) above sea level. The speed of the river flow at the crest of the American Falls is 6.8 feet per second (4.6 miles per hour/ 7.4 kilometers per hour) when the flow is at 100,000 cubic feet per second.   

In one second, a total of 150,000 gallons of water flows over the width of the crest line of the American Falls.

The Bridal Veil/Luna Falls is the site of "The Cave Of The Winds" tourist attraction. A guide takes tourists to the base of the Niagara Gorge and onto a series of wooden decks below the Falls. The closest deck is known as the hurricane deck and is located only twenty-five feet away from the cascading water falls. The hurricane deck is named because of the wind and water being generated by the Bridal Veil/Luna Falls.

 

CAVE OF THE WINDS

The original "Cave of the Winds" was a real cavern located behind the Bridal Veil Falls. It measured approximately 130 feet (40m) high, 100 feet (30m) wide and 30 feet (9m) in depth. During the early 1900's there was a pathway that tourists could take to the cave which was located behind the Falls. It was quite the popular spot. The Cave of the Winds was first called "Aeolus' Cave" after the fabled Greek God of Winds. Unfortunately what forces of nature had created over thousands of years was also responsible for its demise through water erosion. In 1954, one of the greatest rock falls occurred at Prospect Point. This rock fall had altered the appearance of the Cave of the Winds forever. Coupled with smaller but similar rock falls at Terrapin Point, the entrance to the cave became too dangerous for tourists. The overhanging ledge of dolostone which protected tourists entering the Cave of the Winds from the water of the Falls was in serious danger of collapsing. As a result, the original Cave of the Winds was destroyed by a controlled dynamite blast in 1955.

 

An observation tower is located at Prospect Point just north of the American Falls. At approximately two hundred and eighty (280) feet (85m) in height from the base of the gorge, this tower provides an excellent viewing platform and also houses an elevator that transports tourists to the Maid of the Mist dock below. In 1998, the State of New York announced that this tower would be replaced in the near future for a structure more adapted to the scenic beauty of the Falls.

The American Falls (Rainbow Falls) is most famous for rainbows. Rainbows quite often appear in the morning as the sun rises in the eastern horizon and shines through the veil of mist generated from the falling water.

 

 

The American Falls in 1969

a photograph of the de-watered American Falls in 1969

 

 

In 1969, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) carried out a study of the rock formation at the crest of the American Falls. A cofferdam was constructed of rock and fill extending from the mainland to the head of Goat Island, cutting off the flow of water to the American Falls. The dam was completed and the water flow of the Falls were shut off on July 12th 1969 and remained that way while inspections were carried out. The coffer dam was removed beginning on November 25th 1969, and by midnight of November 26th 1969 the full water flow over the American Falls were restored. In 1974, the seven year study and deliberation came to an end. Several possibilities were recommended to alter to state of the cosmetic appearance of the American Falls. One proposed the removal of the rock talus from the base of the Falls while one proposal suggested let nature and erosion take its course. The Falls were left to the forces of nature through erosion.

Currently, the rate of water flow over the American Falls is insufficient for the natural erosion of the rock talus at the base.

During the late winter of 1931, a rock fall occurred at the crest of the American Falls. It is estimated that 76,000 tons of rock fell into the gorge.

On July 28th 1954 at 4:05 p.m., a large rock fall took place at Prospect Point ( a famous landmark from which tourists viewed the Falls) just north of the American Falls. An estimated 185,000 tons of rock plunged to the base of the gorge.

 

 

 

The 1954 rock fall at Prospect Point

An historical photograph of the 1954 rock fall at Prospect Point

 

 

 

Luna Island separates the Bridal Veil Falls/Luna Falls from the American Falls. It is approximately 50 meters (164 feet) in length and 97 feet (30 meters) wide.

Luna is a Latin word for "moon" and refers to the coloured Lunar Bow (as in rainbow).

 

FRANCIS ABBOTT
the Hermit of Niagara

Francis Abbott was known as the Hermit of Niagara. Abbott arrived at Niagara Falls in June of 1829. He began living in the forest on Goat Island. The island had only one small log cabin that had been previously erected an occupied by a pioneer family before the island was purchased by Peter and Augustus Porter. The cabin had since been abandoned. Abbott had asked the Porter's for permission to live on Goat Island but this request was denied. Despite this lack of permission, Abbott took up residence in  the cabin. For the next two years, Abbott was the sole resident of Goat Island. He became a part of folklore with his daily activities among the tourists. Quite often, Abbott would entertain the tourists by performing balancing acts on the wooden pier leading to Terrapin Tower. Abbott died by drowning on June 10th 1831. At approximately 2 p.m., Abbott was witnessed by a passing ferryman to enter the water below the American Falls after neatly folding his clothes on shore. It appeared that Abbott was bathing. The ferryman saw Abbott go under the water surface and not come back up. A search for Abbott that day continued for several hours without success.

On June 21st, 1831, the body of Francis Abbott was recovered from the Niagara River near Fort Niagara eleven days after he disappeared. The original headstone is unreadable now. It was knocked over at some point and was neglected. It read:


Francis Abbott, the Hermit of Niagara
Died June 10, 1831
He died in his 28th year

 

It is unknown whether his death was suicide or accident.

Found chiseled into a rock on Luna Island possibly by Abbott was the inscription:

"All is Change, Eternal Progress, No Death".

 

 

 

The American Falls & Luna Island

A view of the American Falls & Luna Island

 

 

 

To learn more about the Falls of Niagara visit the Origins of Niagara Falls section.

 

 






THE WHIRLPOOL

 

 

 

The Niagara River Whirlpool

The Niagara River Whirlpool

 

 

 

The Whirlpool is a natural phenomenon created approximately six thousand years ago by the combination of the immense flow of the Niagara River and erosion which resulted in the course of the river making a dog leg turn in direction. As the Falls eroded, it came upon a buried gorge which had been filled in with glacial silt and debris. This buried gorge followed a path perpendicular to the receding Falls. As a result, the path of the Falls took the course of least resistance and began following the path of the ancient glacial buried gorge. 

It is a large circular pool of water located 5.3 km (3.2 miles) downstream of the Falls. The water at this point makes a right ninety degree turn in its course. The restricted width of the narrow gorge creates a rate of flow equal to the great rapids of the world.

When the water flow is at its greatest during the daytime, the water flow actually pushes straight past the actual turn and enters the whirlpool where the water follows the contour of the circular edge of the whirlpool and loops counter clockwise back to near where it entered the whirlpool. At this point, the exit flow of the water passes underneath (underpass) and intersects the water entering the whirlpool as it exits north towards Queenston and on to Lake Ontario.

Between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. each and every day, the Sir Adam Beck and Robert Moses Hydro Generating Stations begin drawing their maximum allowed water diversion reducing the rate of water flow over the Falls to 50% of the normal rate of flow. As a result of this reduced volume of water flow (less than 62,000 cubic feet per second), the currents in the Whirlpool reverse direction to clockwise. As the water now enters the Whirlpool it follows the contour of the circular edge of Whirlpool rotating clockwise and exits through the northern channel towards Queenston.  The Whirlpool water flow was reversed for the first time in its history on November 15th 1961 with the increased water diversion. Since that time the Whirlpool was 5 -8 feet (1.5-2m) lower than its usual summer depth. Read more about the Niagara River Water Diversion Treaty.

The depth of the Whirlpool is 125 feet (38m).

The width of the Whirlpool is approximately 1,650 feet (502m) in diameter.

 

 

The Whirlpool Elevation

during the day time is 253 feet (77m) above sea level.

during nighttime is 251 feet (76.5m) above sea level.

The Whirlpool water elevation varies 3 feet (0.9m) in height between daytime and nighttime from November 1st to March 31st.

The Whirlpool water elevation varies 11 feet (3.35m) in height between daytime and nighttime from April 1st to October 31st.

 

 

 




 

 


ODDITIES

 

 

Each year at least a dozen people come to the Falls in order to commit suicide by jumping into the water just above the crest of the Horseshoe Falls.

Ninety percent of the persons who take the plunge over the Horseshoe Falls survive the initial fall only to die of drowning at the base.

During the filming for the simulation ride "Ride Niagara" , a series of eight barrels each weighing in excess of 100 pounds and carrying movie cameras were floated over the Horseshoe Falls. Of the eight barrels, only two sustained notable damage. The remaining barrels sustained no damage.

Although a number of stuntmen in barrel type contraptions have successfully challenged the Falls, an equal number of these daredevils have also died while attempting to conquer the mighty cataracts.

Roger Woodward was the first person to survive the trip over the Horseshoe Falls in July of 1960. Woodward was a 7 year old boy who wearing only a life jacket survived the Falls after being thrown into the water after a boating mishap. He was rescued by the Maid of the Mist tour boat. In 2003 Kirk Jones became the second person to survive the journey over the Horseshoe Falls wearing only the clothes on his back.

Nine out of ten bodies are recovered on the Canadian side.

When the massive volume of water which plunges over the Horseshoe Falls per second reaches the base of the Falls, it creates a cushion of air bubbles similar to an air mattress. A light weight buoyant object may act as a surf board and be cushioned in its fall as it reaches the base of the Falls. This layer of air bubbles has a tendency of pushing the buoyant object outwards from the base of the Falls.

If the object falls to the base of the Horseshoe Falls gets trapped behind the Water Falls, it will in all likelihood remain trapped.

 

 

 




 

 

 NIAGARA FALLS THUNDER ALLEY NAVIGATOR


INFORMATION INDEX


 


HISTORICAL ARCHIVE

 


PICTURES & SLIDESHOWS

 

SITE MAP

 

Date last updated: February 20, 2012
 

 

 

 

The preceding locations and facts about them are but a few of many famous sites & attractions to be found in Niagara Falls. The best of it is FREE to see...so think of Niagara Falls when planning your next vacation. If you have questions of a current or historical nature about the Niagara Falls area or suggestions feel free to e-mail Rick at:
niagarahistory@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU FOR VISITING THE

 

NIAGARA FALLS - THE CATARACTS
(the Falls)


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