Niagara Falls - Thunder Alley

Frequently Asked Questions



  1. Do they shut off the Falls at night?
  2. Has the water at the Falls ever stopped flowing?
  3. How many people have gone over the Falls ina barrel?
  4. Is it against the law to be a daredevil?
  5. Does the Falls freeze in winter?
  6. Who owns the Falls and How big are they?
  7. Do Fish go Over the Falls?
  8. How much does Niagara Falls erode each year?
  9. Who was the first European to visit Niagara Falls?
  10. How is the boundary line determined at Niagara Falls?
  11. What is the foam in the water below the Falls?
  12. Why is the water at the Falls blue/green in colour?
  13. How do we get married in Niagara Falls?
  14. How did Niagara Falls get named ?





Do they shut off the Falls at night?


During the tourist season (April 1st to Oct 31st) by agreement of the Canadian/American Governments, the water flowing over the Falls is maintained at 100,000 cubic feet per second. This level of water flow is what 12 million visitors come to see each year. In order to provide this level of water flow over the Falls, Ontario Hydro and the New York Power Authority can only draw a reduced amount of water so as not to interfere with the amount of water going over the Falls.

After dusk each night during the tourist season, the water flow rate going over the Falls is reduced to only 50,000 cubic feet per second. This allows the Hydro Authorities to draw more water for hydro generation.

During the night time, both Ontario Hydro and the New York State Power Authorities pump massive amounts of water into their gigantic water reservoirs in order to top them up. Ontario Hydro's reservoir is 212 acres and is smaller than the American Robert Moses Hydro reservoir. During the daytime when the water flow is increased over the Falls for the tourists, the hydro companies draw the water from their reservoirs for hydro generation to make up for any water deficit.

This is a cycle which occurs every day.

The only difference occurs between November 1st and April 1st of each year (non tourist season). During this period, the water rate of flow is reduced to 50,000 cubic feet per second on a 24 hour basis. Hydro draws the rest of the water for hydro generation. The reduced water flow and the lowering of the water level is the reason the Maid of the Mist boat has to be out of the water by October 31st each year.

The hydro control dam is jointly owned by Canada/USA. It is operated by Ontario Hydro by agreement. The reason its on Canadian side is that the water flows towards the Canadian side (the river bed slants). The water being drawn for hydro is strictly regulated. Ontario Hydro and New York State Power Authority have scheduled water drawing times. When the Americans are drawing water, the gates on the dam are closed. This causes the water to be forced to flow towards the water intakes on the American side. At times when Ontario Hydro is diverting water, the dam assists in directing water to their intakes as well.

The normal long term average rate of water flow in the Niagara River is 212,000 cubic feet per second so even on a summer day, approximately 100,000 cubic feet of water per second are being drawn for hydro generation.


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Have the waters at the Falls ever stopped flowing?


Ever since records have been kept about the history of the Falls of Niagara, there have only been three occasions when the water flow over the Falls has been greatly reduced and/or restricted. They are as follows:

Unfortunately, news reports in 1848 were stretchy at best. The exact times that Niagara Falls ran dry was not specifically recorded. It however began near midnight on March 29th 1848 and the early morning of March 30th 1848. The full effect of the ice jam upstream at  the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Erie did not take full effect until well into the day of March 30th. The water stopped flowing for approximately 30 - 40 hours before the flow of water at Niagara Falls had returned to normal on the late evening of March 31st and/or early morning hours of April1st 1848.

Sources for the following account are attributed to:

Buffalo Commercial Advertised - March 30th 1848
Buffalo Express - March 31st 1848
The Iris of Niagara Falls, New York - March 31st 1848
Major R. Lachlan, speech to Royal Canadian Institute 1855

The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry - David Phillips
Globe & Mail news article - March 30th 1955


On March 29th 1848, papers reported that Niagara Falls ran dry. During a weather related occurrence, a south-west gale blowing off of Lake Erie caused ice to jam and dam up at the mouth of the Niagara River causing the water flow to be severely restricted. The water over the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls to be reduced to a trickle for approximately thirty (30) to forty (40) hours. The roar of the Falls fell silent. One of the first residents to notice the deafening silence was farmer, Jed Porter of Niagara Falls, New York. During the late evening of March 29th, he left home for a stroll along the river near the American Falls and realized the thundering roar of the Falls was absent. A closer examination revealed the amount of the water flowing over the Falls had been greatly diminished.

Residents awoke on the morning of March 30th to an eerie silence and realized something was amiss. People were drawn to the Falls to find that the water flow of the Niagara River had been reduced to a mere trickle. Thomas Clark Street, the owner and operator of the large Bridgewater Mills along the Canadian shore at Dufferin Islands was was awakened by one of his employees at 5 a.m. on March 30th reporting the mill had been shut down because the mill race was empty.

By the morning of March 31st, more than 5,000 people had gathered along the banks of the river. All the mills and factories dependant upon water power were stilled.

The river bed was quickly drying. Fish and turtles were left floundering on now dry land. A number of people made their way into the gorge to the riverbed. Here they saw articles that had been lay on the river's bottom that had been hidden for hundreds of years. Souvenirs picked up included bayonets, guns barrels, muskets, tomahawks and other artifacts of the War of 1812.

Other spectators were able to walk out onto the river bed that had only hours earlier been a torrent of rapids and would have resulted in certain death. It became a tourist and media event. People on foot, on horseback or by horse and buggy, crossed the width of the Niagara River. It was a historical event that had never occurred during recorded time and has never been duplicated since.

A squad of soldiers of the U.S. Army Cavalry rode their horses up and down the river bed as an exhibition.

Below the Falls, workers from the Maid of the Mist were able to venture out onto the river bed and blast away rocks which had normally been a navigation hazard to the Maid of the Mist boat since its inception in 1846. The gorge resonated with the sounds of many explosions as those rocks which normally would have scraped the hull of the boat were removed.

The sudden silencing of the roar of the Falls had caused much anxiety and fear amongst the residents and visitors. Some believed that this event was the beginning of a doomsday scenario. On the morning of March 31st the Falls remained silent. Many thousands of people attended special church services on both sides of the border.

With each passing hour, the level of fear and anxiety among the residents grew proportionately until the night of March 31st, when a loud low pitched growl and grown was heard coming from upstream. This announced and was quickly followed by the return of the normal flow of water along the Niagara River. A wall of water surged forward at surprising speed, covering again perhaps forever what had been exposed for but a brief historic moment in time. The return of the roar of the Falls, reassured the residents that all was going to be alright and that they could now breathe a huge sigh of relief and return to their normal activities.  

On the night of March 31st 1848, the wind shifted and the ice dam at the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Erie broke apart and the river flow returned to its normal rate.

The wind is probably the greatest factor which controls the water level in the Niagara River. Remember that a south-west wind 30-50 mph blowing the entire length of the Lake can easily raise the water level in eastern portion of Lake Erie 3-6 feet in several hours. Its very much like a storm water surge that we hear about during the onslaught of a hurricane however on a much lesser scale. This force pushes much more water into the river.

In latter part of March 1848, a gale force wind blowing from the south-west for several days before the ice dam occurred. On March 29th 1848, the weather was clear with an air temperature of 7 Celsius (46 Fahrenheit). The wind was blowing very strongly from the south-west. This wind which was blowing over the entire fetch of Lake Erie combined with massive amounts of Lake ice which was in turn pushed into the mouth of the Niagara River. So much ice that the River could not handle it all so it began to jam up at the entrance. The jam became so dense with hundreds of thousands of tons of ice, that it became a water dam which severely restricted the water.

On March 31st 1848, the temperature rose to 16 Celsius (64 Fahrenheit) and the wind shifted and strengthened that night causing the ice dam to break apart causing the return of the normal flow of water to the Niagara River.

The winter of 1847- 1848 was not unusually cold. Lake Erie's ice cover was not in excess of the usual 10 - 60 centimeters.

The Niagara River can only handle about 2% of the Lake ice so 98% remains in Lake Erie.

In 1953, the water over a portion of the Horseshoe Falls nearest the Table Rock Pavilion was stopped by the building of a series of coffer dams to allow for remedial work to be done to the edge of the Falls. This was done to allow a more even water flow and to slow the rate of erosion.

In 1969, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a series of coffer dams which stopped or rather reduced the water flow over the American Falls to a mere trickle. This was done to allow a study of the rock formations at the crest of the Falls and to study the feasibility of whether there was any possible way to remove the rock (talus) at the base of the American Falls. In the end, the engineers decided to let mother nature take its course.

Other than the two occasions when man has intervened by building dams to slow the water and on one occasion when nature has intervened, there is no way to turn the water off.


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How many people have gone over the Falls in a barrel?


The information source is from an article written by George Seibel prepared April 23rd 1986. Mr. Seibel was at the time a historian for the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario and the historian for the Niagara Parks Commission.

The article was entitled "A List Of Daredevils 1829 to 1985 Abridged".

Between 1901 and 1985, ten people went over the Falls in a ball, barrel or rig. Seven were successful while three died in the attempt.

Since 1985, five more persons have gone over the Falls. They include Dave Munday (1995), the duo of Peter Dibernardi and Jeff Petkovich (1989), Jessie Sharp in kayak (1990) and Robert Overacker in jet ski (1995). Sharp and Overacker died. Thus far 15 people have challenged the Falls of Niagara between 1901 and 1995. Five have died.

There have been an equal amount of persons who have announced their intentions to do so and not carried out their plans or unsuccessfully attempted and or aborted attempts but have not actually conquered the mighty cataracts.

All the daredevil challenges have been over the Horseshoe Falls. The rock talus at the base of the American Falls has precluded any successful trips thus far.

For more information, visit Niagara Falls Daredevils Hall of Fame


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Is it against the law to be a daredevil?


The Niagara Parks Commission and all of its properties and assets are governed by Provincial Statutes (laws). The Niagara Parks Act is this Province of Ontario statute which governs the operations and activities within the Niagara Parks.

This law is known as Ontario Regulation 829/90.

If you find a current book (Revised Regulations 1990) of Ontario Statutes, the Niagara Parks Act is located under regulation 829.

This regulation contains the code of conduct which is not tolerated within the Parks property by members of the public. In other words rules.

Section 6 reads:

" No person shall, within the Parks.

a) play any instrument

b) carry or display any flag or emblem

c) in military formation or in a band or procession, parade, march, drill, or perform any evolution, movement or ceremony

d) perform any other act that congregates or is likely to congregate persons; or

e) perform or attempt to perform any stunt or feat

without the written permission of the Commission."

The charge is a provincial offence - not an offence against the criminal code. It would be equivalent to getting a speeding ticket.

The charge is "Unlawfully perform or attempt to perform stunt or feat with the Parks"

The fine is "No Set Fine" This means there is no set fine and that the person charged has to go to court.

It is a summary conviction offence which carries a maximum $5000 fine or six months in jail or both.

The act is enforced by members of the Niagara Parks Police.


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Does the Falls freeze in Winter?


The Niagara River handles 212,000 cubic feet of water per second. The average depth is approximately 16 feet with a flow rate of 4 to 8 miles per hour. The Niagara River does not freeze over. The Falls of Niagara and the river below the Falls does not freeze either. The volume of water going over the Falls, the depth and speed of the water below the Falls also precludes freezing. The water will not be stopped or frozen solid.

The ice bridge however does form at the base of Falls and over portions of the Niagara River below the Falls. The ice bridge is formed in late December to the end of February and into mid March dependant on the weather.

Lake Erie which drains into the Niagara River is a large lake but rather shallow. By the end of December, the entire lake surface is frozen over. Although an ice boom has been put into place since the 1960's at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Erie. The boom holds back most of the ice but not all. When the ice goes over the Falls in volume the ice freezes to the edges of the gorge and builds upon itself until the river is covered in this giant layer of ice. This layer has grown to eighty feet thick in the past and currently 40 feet is not uncommon.

The Falls of Niagara still flows as does the water under the ice and the ice shelf seems to rise on layer of air that builds under the ice surface.

The American Falls have frozen over on six occasions since the keeping of records began. Each were attributed to ice jams that have actually curtailed the flow of the American Falls to mere trickles.

Unlike the Horseshoe Falls (which has never frozen over), the American Falls are susceptible to freezing because of the small amount of water flow. Normally the American Falls has a peak mean flow of 10,000 cubic feet of water per second. The winter mean water flow is reduced to less than 8,000 cubic feet of water per second. This minimal flow is barely sufficient to cover the rock face of the Falls. During harsh winters, ice frequently built up at eastern end of Goat Island causing an ice dam to reduce the water flow to the northern channel which feeds water to the American Falls. As a result water flow is restricted sufficiently that any remaining waters quickly freeze over.

The installation of the ice boom at the mouth of Lake Erie, the building of the International water control dam (which regulates water flow) and milder winters have all but eliminated the possibility of the American Falls ever completely freezing over in modern times.

The American Falls water flow was reduced to such an extent in 1909, 1936, 1938 and 1949 that it froze over.

On February 7th 1936, as a result of an ice jam at the eastern end of Goat Island the American Falls froze completely. The flow started to freeze on January 27th. The American Falls remained frozen for a period of 15 days before the ice dam upriver broke apart and returned the flow of water of the Falls to normal.

The American Falls today receives only 10% of the total water flow. In the early 1900's that flow was much less, perhaps only 5%. The low level of water flow was amplified because of the beginning of water diversion for hydro generation and the lack of a method to divert water towards the American shoreline. The riverbed above the Falls slopes towards the Canadian shore.

Long before the ice boom was utilized at the mouth of Lake Erie to hold back the lake ice, all the ice flowed through the Niagara River. The amount of ice flowing into the river depended upon winds blowing over the lake. West & south-west winds brought more ice flow into the river while east winds would lessen the amount.

The April 1909 ice flow was sufficient to dam off the flow of water at the eastern end of Goat Island. What water was left (a mere trickle) quickly froze. People were able to walk on the river bed just above the American Falls where there was normally water. It wasn't until the ice jam shifted and broke apart, that the water flow was returned to normal.

A second similar ice jam occurred in January of 1938. The ice jam was so substantial that it too cut off the main flow of water to the American Falls. Again the American Falls was reduced to a trickle and quickly froze. More importantly, it was this ice flow that caused the collapse of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge).

People are not allowed on the ice bridge.

The ice shelf is constantly growing, shifting and breaking up. In most winters the ice bridge can build and suddenly break up several times.

In 1997, the ice bridge was bigger than usual because several sections of the ice boom were knocked out in early winter during a storm.

The enormous amount of mist generated from the falling water creates a picturesque sight as it freezes on contact against anything it falls upon along the shoreline creating a crystallized winter wonderland.


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Who owns the Falls and How big are they?


The Horseshoe Falls, commonly referred to as "the Canadian Falls" is not located entirely in Canada. At the present time based upon data from the International Boundary Commission, about 350-400 feet (107m-122m) of the Horseshoe Falls crest line extending from the shoreline of Goat Island lies in American territory. As time goes on and erosion continues, the crest line will continue to be extended within the American border.

The majority of the Horseshoe Falls lies within Canadian Territory today. It used to be 90% Canadian and 10% American until remedial work done at the American end extended the land mass outward (essentially narrowing the Falls and covering that part of the American zone with earth). The American Falls is entirely in the USA (includes the Bridal Veil Falls as well).

The Horseshoe Falls has a water fall of 53 meters (173 feet) to the pool at the base of the Falls and is 2,200 feet (670m) in width.

The speed of the Niagara River at the crest of the Horseshoe Falls is 20-22 miles per hour (32-35km/h) at the apex. Ninety (90%) percent of all the river water flows over the Horseshoe Falls. 

The American Falls is also known as the Rainbow Falls which also includes the Luna Falls (Bridal Veil Falls).

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

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 (56m).

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 approximately 56 feet (17m) 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 the American Falls (Rainbow Falls) is approximately 950 feet (290 m) in width.


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Do Fish go over the Falls? and What kind of fish are found ?


The simple answer is  - yes they do. They do all the time and most survive the rigorous journey. The fish is for the most part is much better built to survive the journey than most humans. Firstly, they live in water and are much lighter and more pliable. The journey over the Falls is nothing more than a going down the a big elevator for the fish. The volume of the Falls creates a cushion of air bubbles and water mixture at the base that softens the the surface of the plunge pool at the base of the Falls. For the most part the fish is always in the water whether going over the Falls or not. Their bodies are built to absorb a tremendous amount of pressure before sustaining any related injury. The plunge pool at the base of the Falls is about 150 feet deep. The dangers for the fish rests with seagulls/terns who patrol the base of the Falls in large flocks looking for those unfortunate fish that are stunned by the fall and swim too close to the surface.

Obviously the journey over the American Falls is much more hazardous because of the dangers of being crushed against the rock talus at the base of the Falls. The Horseshoe is a relatively safe route for fish to travel because of the absence of the rock talus. Remember that 90% of all the water goes over the Horseshoe Falls.

Of all the fish that journey over the Falls, very few will perish. There is little doubt that this journey is very harsh and traumatic, however most are successful and survive only to run the gauntlet of fishermen along the river.

If you stand at the Falls, it is very rare to see a fish jump out of the stream of the water falls because of their immensity and volume. Remarkably, if one stands at the base of the Falls, very few dead fish can be found.

As a note of interest, several years ago a tourist was struck by a salmon while walking at the Cave of the Winds boardwalk. Luckily, the fish just grazed the tourist resulting in no serious injury. This tourist caught himself a salmon literally by hand and that's a lot harder and more dangerous than regular fishing. This tourist was able to take his catch home with him as a trophy.

Renown Niagara River expert, Wes Hill, confirms that fish indeed go over the falls and he estimated that 90% of them survived. He said he has seen them in the early morning. At times they will appear "stunned" from there trip over the falls, but revive after a few minutes and swim away. 

The sport fish of the Niagara River include Chinook and Coho Salmon, Smallmouth Bass, White Bass, Carp, Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Catfish, Muskellunge, Northern Pike  and Yellow Perch. The largest fish is the Lake Sturgeon. The lake sturgeon can reach a length of 7 feet and weigh more than 300 lbs. living over 50 years of age. In the Niagara Region there are approximately 94 species of fish. This region has the most diverse freshwater fish population in Canada.  Today , it is not uncommon to catch 20-30 pound salmon in the autumn.

There have been several recorded instances where water fowl swimming on the surface of the water in inclement foggy weather have been swept to their deaths over the Falls when they failed to recognize the dangers of the waterfalls ahead.

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How much does Niagara Falls erode each year ?


Accurate surveys of erosion of the Falls of Niagara began in 1842.

From 1842 to 1905, the average rate of erosion of the Horseshoe Falls was 1.16 meters (3.8 feet) per year.

From 1906 to 1927, this rate of erosion was reduced to .70 meters (2.3 feet) per year. This reduction coincided with the large quantity of water being diverted for hydro-electric generation.

Today, through increased water diversion and anti-erosion remedial steps, the rate of recession at the Horseshoe Falls has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be. Today it is estimated that erosion of the Horseshoe Falls is less than one foot per year.  In the future, through remedial efforts and further water diversion that the amount of erosion at the Horseshoe Falls has been projected to be reduced to approximately 1 foot every 10 years.

Remedial work has included:

1)  In 1906, approximately 122 meters (400 feet) of crestline of the Horseshoe Falls at the Table Rock was filled in to ensure a more even flow of water over the remaining crestline.

2) In 1941, the submerged Grass Island Weir measuring 443 meters (1455 feet) long was built to ensure the American Falls are guaranteed at least 10% of the water flow.

3) In 1953, the International Control Dam was built to assist in the control the water level flowing over the Falls and to divert   water to the hydro intake tunnels.

4) In 1953, the flanks of the Horseshoe Falls crestline at Table Rock and Terrapin Point were deepened to allow for a more even water flow.

Today, erosion of the American Falls is estimated at 3 - 4 inches every 10 years. The water flow which is regulated at a minimum level of 10% of the estimated 100,000 cubic feet per second during the summer (50,000 cubic feet per second during winter) is insufficient to cause major erosion.

The greatest factor affecting the American Falls are the honeycomb type cracks at the crestline in the top dolostone caprock layer. The cracks project to the softer shale layer below. The hydraulic action of the water filtering through these cracks cause them to become enlarged and undermines the softer rock layer below. Combined with the cycle of freezing and thawing during the winter, the rock structure continues to weaken until that portion of the rock cracks apart, causing a rock fall.

The flow of water over the American Falls is insufficient to erode the rock talus at its base.

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


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Who was the first European to visit Niagara Falls?


The answer to this question is not as clear as one would expect. The simple reason is the conflicting historical reports and how they were translated over the years. History tells us this:

In September of 1615, the first European, Etienne Brule arrived in Niagara. This signalled the beginning of the onslaught of European explorers coming to the "New World" (North America) including Niagara. Brule is said to have been the first of the white missionaries to visit the Neutral Indians along the banks of the Niagara River. Thus it is reasonable to assume Brule was probable the first to visit the Falls of Niagara. Brule was an agent for Samuel   de Chaplain, founder of "New France" who had heard of the Falls of Niagara from the Indians in 1603. The Brule route however is historically suspect some historians think that Brule never went via Lake Ontario or the falls they would suggest he entered Lake Erie via the Grand River and by passed the falls for fear of the Seneca. He then went east to meet with a tribe south of the 5 nation Iroquois.

In 1626, the first authenticated white man in Niagara was Father Joseph de la Roche-Dallion. Father Roche-Dallion preached to the Neutral Indians at various villages.

In 1666, the first French explorer, Rene-Robert Chevalier, Sieur de La Salle briefly visited the Niagara area along the east bank of the Niagara River.

On December 7th 1678, along with his Lieutenant Dominique La Motte de Luciere, and Jesuit Priest, Father Louis Hennepin, La Salle made his way southward from the shoreline near Queenston. La Salle and his party portaged across the peninsula to the shore of the Chippawa Creek (Welland River) at Chippawa. La Salle established an outpost at the mouth of the Chippawa Creek at the Niagara River. As La Salle's group walked, they could hear the roar of the Falls of Niagara and could see the column of mist rising high in the sky, but they did not stop. La Salle and his group continued to portage (walk) towards Chippawa.

On the morning of December 8th 1678, La Salle and his group retraced their path back to the Falls of Niagara. Here they spent the afternoon viewing the mighty cataracts. Father Louis Hennepin viewed the Falls of Niagara for the first time and made a sketch of it. This first sketch appears in a 1699 book entitled "New Discovery" (first French edition 1697).

Although many historical reports indicate Hennepin was the first to see the Falls, in actuality, he was the first to write and publish a story of the Falls.

It is quite likely, based upon a balance of probabilities that Etienne Brule or Father Joseph de la Roche-Dallion each of whom preceded Hennepin in Niagara by nearly 50 years were the first of the Europeans to view the Falls of Niagara.

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How is the boundary line determined at Niagara Falls?


The actual boundary line was set by the following treaties:

The original International Boundary line had been established by the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 and later re-stated in the Jay's Treaty of 1794. The same was similarly agreed to at the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 following the War of 1812.


 Paris Peace Treaty
September 3rd 1783

And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz.; from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands; along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie; thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie,...


Jay Treaty
November 19th 1794

His Majesty will withdraw all His Troops and Garrisons from all Posts and Places within the Boundary Lines assigned by the Treaty of Peace to the United States. This Evacuation shall take place on or before the first Day of June One thousand seven hundred and ninety six,...


Treaty of Ghent
December 24th 1814

Whereas by the former Treaty of Peace that portion of the boundary of the United States from the point where the forty-fifth degree of North Latitude strikes the River Iroquois or Cataraquy to the Lake Superior was declared to be "along the middle of said River into Lake Ontario, through the middle of said Lake until it strikes the communication by water between that Lake and Lake Erie, thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie,...

The borders between the two countries remained the same as they had before the War of 1812 began.

The International boundary along the Niagara River was designed by following the center line of the river between Lake Ontario and lake Erie. 

If an island happened to be in the way: the path of the greatest depth of the water was followed. They assumed that this greatest depth would be nearest the center. That is the path that was followed and as a result the USA has most of the islands and Canada has Navy Island.

Since being drawn the international boundary has not been changed. Erosion and remedial work has altered the position of the Horseshoe Falls It has not changed the original position of the international boundary.

The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 was created to resolved boundary disputes.

When they drew the International boundary the center line of the river and the secondary island issue (Goat Island) it gave most of the Horseshoe Falls to Canada. The split was 90%-10%. Since then the Americans reconstructed Terrapin Point because water was flowing to the center of the apex and the flanks were dry. It was during this re-shaping of Terrapin Point that the Army Corps of Engineers expanded the land mass outward from the original Terrapin Point so that today, the Horseshoe Falls, commonly referred to as "the Canadian Falls" is not located entirely in Canada. At the present time based upon data from the International Boundary Commission, about 350-400 feet (107m-122m) of the Horseshoe Falls crest line extending from the shoreline of Goat Island lies in American territory. As time goes on and erosion continues, the crest line will continue to be extended within the American border.

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What is the foam in the water below the Falls?


The foam in the water is a natural phenomenon. It is actually calcium carbonate which comes from the mist (water) as it evaporates while going over the Falls. The calcium carbonate mixes with decaying diatoms and other forms of algae to create the foam. As it moves downstream it will remix with the water and disappear. It may also be found to occur in the area of the Whirlpool as well. In the olden days (1950-1960's) the scum was quite often phosphates and other pollutants. 

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Why is the water at the Falls blue/green in colour?


The water is naturally blue/green in color. That color changes daily with the weather and the amount of sediment in the water.

The water color is caused by two sources: sunlight refraction and diatoms in the water (microscopic plants such as algae and plankton in the water).

After storms in the area or even Lake Erie, the water becomes murky brown. This is caused by the bottom sediment being stirred up and being carried in the water.



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How do we get married in Niagara Falls?

Marriage licenses can be obtained at Niagara Falls City Hall located at 4310 Queen Street (905-356-7521
) during regular business hours (8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday). the cost of a marriage license is $75 dollars.

An application is required to be filled out. Birth certificates are required to be produced. At least two pieces of identification are required. Once the marriage license is issued in Canada, the couple may be married immediately. In New York State a twenty-four (24) hour mandatory period must be awaited before the marriages can take place following the issuance of a marriage license. The marriage license is valid for three (3) months from the date of issue.

If this is not the couples first marriage,  in addition to the requirements listed above, the member previously married in Canada must produce a certificate of divorce.

If a member was previously divorced outside of Canada, a divorce certificate from the State in which they had been previously married is required for production. The couple is then required to take their  marriage applications and certificates of previous divorce to a Canadian lawyer. That lawyer will write a letter of opinion as to the status of their previous marriage to the Registrar Generals Office located in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Once authorization for marriage is returned,  the couple may return to City Hall with such authorization and obtain their marriage license.


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How did Niagara Falls get its name?

One of the earliest native tribes called themselves the "Onguiaahra". It is a name from which the "Niagara River" originated.

The French explorers that came to Niagara gave this Indian tribe the name "Neutrals" because of their position and status as peace keepers between the two warring Indian nations - the Huron's and the Iroquois.

The Neutral Indians were the leaders of a group of ten tribes of the Iroquois Nation. Other tribes included the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Huron, Petun, Erie and the Susquehannock.

Niagara originates from the Neutral Indian name  "Ongniaahra"
meaning "Thunder of Waters".

The relative position of the Falls was correctly indicated on the maps of 1612 and 1632 printed upon the authority of French Explorer, Samuel de Champlain, but no record of their name is found until 1656 when they appear on Sanson's map as "Onigiara"

Hennepin's map of 1683 was the first to give the falls their present name "Niagara", while a map of 1692 published in Willard's history of the United States shows them with the title of "Jagara".

In 1892, Brigadier General Ely S. Parker stated that the name [Niagara] was originally applied to the whole of the river from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The Seneca Indian name of "Near-Gar" was modified to the word "Ni-a-ga-ra" by the early French Explorers. The Seneca translation of this word was "the strait"

In 1641 the Onguiaahra Indians were the predominant tribe along the Niagara River. The French modified this tribe name to the word "Neutral" because it was easier to translate. The name "Onguiaahra" appears on maps as early as 1641. A French map dated 1680 refers to a destroyed Neutral Indian village situated close to the Niagara River as "Niagagerega"

Other modifications of this Neutral Indian name throughout the years included "Ongiarah", Ouinagarah" and "Ongniaraha".

The Neutral tribe was governed by a "Queen of Peace" named "Jikonsaseh". She preserved the peace and neutrality of the Neutral tribe as well as maintaining a separation between the Huron's in the West and the Iroquois in the East. Jikonsaseh lived in a village called "Keinuka" which was located just east of the Niagara River.

In the early 1600's, the Neutrals had a population of 20,000 - 40,000. The Neutrals were well structured and had a developed hierarchy both politically and economically. The Neutrals brought with them many skills. In addition to being peace keepers and fierce warriors, they were also traders, farmers and business people. The Neutrals brought the humble beginnings of industry to the Niagara Frontier.

In 1626, the first European, Etienne Brule arrived in Niagara. This signaled the beginning of the onslaught of European explorers coming to the "New World" (North America) including Niagara. Brule may have the first of the white missionaries to visit the Neutral Indians.

The Seneca Indians occupied the east bank of the Niagara River near Lake Ontario.

In 1639, fearing the Seneca Indians, the Wenroe Indians, a transient tribe who lived in villages along the east side of the Niagara River, escaped to Huron territory with the aid of the Neutral Indians.

In 1640, the state of war broke out among the Seneca and Huron Indians. This war began when a Seneca warrior was killed by a Huron Indian while attempting to take refuge in a Neutral Indian village. The warrior was an Onondaga Indian Chief, Annenraes.

The Seneca blamed the Neutral for their part in the killing of the chief.

The Seneca planned to avenge his death by attacking the Huron and Neutral Indians.

In 1647, the Seneca continued with their plan to wage war against the Huron and the Neutral Indians.

In 1649, the Seneca and other members of the Iroquois Nation attacked the Wenroe and Huron Indians.

As the Indian wars continued over the next six years and soon the Huron Nation in the north was in ruins and scattered throughout the country.

In 1652, the Iroquois moved into the Niagara area, forcing the Neutral Indians eastward to the area of Albany, New York.

By 1653, the Neutral Indians had all but ceased to exist as an Indian Nation. Some of the remaining Neutrals were adopted by the Seneca while others joined the Huron's at Mackinac.



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Date last updated: March 30, 2014

The following 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 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




 Niagara Falls