Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Niagara Falls, dry
December 16, 2010 8:05 AM   Subscribe

The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry
posted by morganannie (45 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow those are great pictures. I had two opposing feelings when I saw that. The first was: Niagara Falls was doing just fine before people came along, what makes us feel that we need to mess with it? And the second was: Mankind built a town and then nature was all "don't get too comfortable, I might send this river over there and then mankind was like "we'll see about that." People are badass.

And there was a third thought: If they dammed up the falls, where the hell was all that water going? But then I noticed that they had just shut off the American fallas and the (much larger) Canadian falls were working overtime in the background.

Anyways, great post. I don't know how many times I've been to the falls, but every time I am awed anew.
posted by 256 at 8:21 AM on December 16, 2010


I had two opposing feelings when I saw that.

Me too. One was: wow, amazing pictures. The other was: urgh, Daily Mail, I need to clean my cache.
posted by londonmark at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


these are good pictures, but I don't know how "never before seen images" they are. These were taken right around the time my parents' honeymooned in Niagra Falls and my dad was a bit of an amateur photographer, so these shots don't look that unfamiliar to me. My sister recently scanned a bunch of my dad's old slide negatives, I'll have to see if she put them on flickr yet..
posted by jrishel at 8:32 AM on December 16, 2010


This event was reputedly the inspiration for one of my favorite palindromes:

Niagara, O roar again!
posted by fairmettle at 8:34 AM on December 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm glad it's not pictures of Viagra running dry.
posted by Camofrog at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2010


Niagra Falls!
posted by pianomover at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


So a major waterfall was temporarily stopped and only one guy took photos? Good grief, were cameras that rare in upstate New York back then?
posted by crapmatic at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2010


Niagara.
posted by pracowity at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


These are neat, but I'm pretty sure I saw similar pictures the last time I visited the Falls.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2010


I think "never before seen images" means that these particular photos have never been published before, not that no pictures of the event have ever been published before. I'm pretty sure I've seen pictures of the event before, though I can't recall exactly where. That said, the pictures I saw before—at least as I remember them—focused mostly on the cliff face, so it was neat to see those that focus more on the rocky riverbed above the falls than the cliff.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:43 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, I always remember a teacher in grammar school talking about going to see the falls when they were turned off and seeing a skeleton at the base of the Falls...for some reason I think she may have been pulling my leg...
posted by saucysault at 8:44 AM on December 16, 2010


It's bizarre to me that they built a dam to redirect Niagra Falls but moving a pile of rocks was "too expensive".
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


a skeleton at the base of the Falls...for some reason I think she may have been pulling my leg...

She definitely was. There must be hundreds of skeletons under Niagra Falls.
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2010


amazing.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on December 16, 2010


....actually, it's the American Falls that were stopped, Niagara Falls refers to three falls:
American Falls
Horseshoe (or Canadian Falls)
Bridal Veil Falls
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The other factoid is that they only run the falls at half-strength now on the American side - the engineering they built lets them control the flow. There was talk of once a year letting it go at full strength, but that's just talk.

P.S. If you visit Niagara Falls, stay on the Canadian side.
posted by jscott at 8:55 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


after flowing continuously for over 12,000 years, the American Falls stopped.

1848 was a lot less than 12,000 years ago.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


To: MetaFilter
Subject: fR33 N14gR4

(It's got three a's, people!)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had two opposing feelings when I saw that. The first was: Niagara Falls was doing just fine before people came along, what makes us feel that we need to mess with it?

By some measures, they weren't doing just fine. Before the hydropower diversions, the Falls were receding at more than 3 feet /year. Between the diversions and (googling) some structural work on the Falls themselves to manage where the water goes, that's been cut down to something like 1 foot / 10 years.

So if your grandkids see a Niagara Falls your grandparents would recognize, that's in large part because of the diversions.

The other factoid is that they only run the falls at half-strength now on the American side

Not just the American Falls.

Googling, up to 200000 cubic feet / second flow in the Niagara River approaching the Falls; I couldn't find a convenient number for the average natural flow. With the diversions, during the day, 100000 cubic feet/s are allowed to proceed to the Falls. At night, this is cut down to 50000 cf/s.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:05 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Points to Sys Rq for embedding a serious Niagara reference in their joke!
posted by waterunderground at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2010


P.S. If you visit Niagara Falls, stay on the Canadian side.

That issue was covered well in AskMe a couple weeks ago.

Visited there two summers ago. As astounding as the falls are, I was blown away by the demographics of visitors at least on the US side -- probably 90% south asian, and I"m not exaggerating. Not sure why this particular attraction is so interesting to people from this particular part of the world, but it really intrigued me.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2010


P.S. If you visit Niagara Falls, stay on the Canadian side.

That side is plenty depressing too. But the Canadian Ballet is in Niagara, Ontario. Look for a big sign that says "MINTS/Where By Law You See It All."
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've seen photos like that before at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers museum in (I think) Vicksburg, Mississippi. I don't know if it's still there, but 20 years ago they had a warehouse with a scale model of the falls. You could push a button and the water pump turned on and, boom, it was so loud I could not hear the tape recorded narrator. The model was built for the 1969 dam effort.
posted by wuwei at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2010


We used to do some really odd stuff with nature back in the day. Back in the 1950s in Charlotte they built a parking lot over a creek and just recently uncovered it and made it part of the new greeway.
posted by zzazazz at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2010


In 1965, reporters at local newspaper Niagara Falls Gazette revealed that the America Falls would eventually cease to flow and stop altogether if the rocks were not removed.

What kind of nonsense is this? I'm sure the actual intent would have been to excavate the base so it would rival the Canadian falls in beauty and grandeur.
Then, perhaps after a change in command they realized what folly this all was. It's a novel just waiting to be written.
posted by Flashman at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, looks like Daily Mail found those Flickr pictures, posted online over a year ago.

If you're wondering how it was done, here's a detailed chronology of the dewatering of Niagara Falls.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:28 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i was actually there, first week of september 1969. probably have some pictures somewhere.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2010


It's bizarre to me that they built a dam to redirect Niagra Falls but moving a pile of rocks was "too expensive".

That's one hell of a lot of rock.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2010


1848 was a lot less than 12,000 years ago.

Yeah, I was gonna say. It is strange that this assertion was made so boldly, when anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of the falls (former tour guide here) could say otherwise. Then again, the whole tone of the article suggests that no one pointed a camera at one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world for several months, especially when it was in an anomalous condition. I wonder if the Mailonline will, in a couple of decades, breathlessly publish "never before seen photos" of the Statue of Liberty having its mid-eighties renovations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2010


For the months that Niagara was dry it should have become a mega tourist destination for couples that were recently divorced.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Been going to the falls for decades. My family found the spectacle of the falls dry particularly intriguing, although after the initial odd impression and Instamatic photos it seemed pretty meh, just a bunch of rocks.

As far as the Canadian side goes, Lundy's Lane and Clifton Hill have become way too slick for my tastes. The area was much more interesting when the old Niagara Falls Museum showcased bad taxidermy and you could actually see Houdini's old props in his eponymous museum. I recommend going off-season and seeing the Botanical Gardens (free!) and the nearby closed-up intake station above the Horseshoe Falls. Also fun to scope out the ruins of the old Schoellkopf Power Station.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2010


[Fixed the spelling. BUY CIAL1S!]
posted by cortex at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2010


It is strange that this assertion was made so boldly, when anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of the falls (former tour guide here) could say otherwise.

I think it's generally agreed upon that we should be delighted the Daily Mail got the name of the falls right.
posted by jscott at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2010


a skeleton at the base of the Falls...for some reason I think she may have been pulling my leg...

Actually, two bodies (and the remains of a deer) were recovered from the talus below the falls. The man had jumped into the river above the falls the day before the dam stopped the flow. While searching for the man, the body of a woman was found jammed in the rocks halfway up the talus bank. Scroll down to the June 12th entry for details.
posted by prinado at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


P.S. If you visit Niagara Falls, stay on the Canadian side.
jscott, amazingly, I read that article yesterday while waiting in a doctor's office. Incredibly depressing, and every time I've gone to the falls, I wonder, "Jeez we have the freain' falls here! How could this town go to shit like this?" Now I wonder no more. But generally, Niagara Falls NY can't compete with the Canadian side because the Canadian side has much better views, so turn it into, I don't know, some retro hipster, something!
posted by xetere at 10:37 AM on December 16, 2010


Niagara Falls NY can't compete with the Canadian side because the Canadian side has much better views

Okay, so some of that is really because they have a better view of Horseshoe Falls.

But much of the reason why the view is better from Canada is that the view from Canada is of the Goat Island parkland and some scrubby downtown, but the view from the American side is of... Niagara Falls, Ontario. Shiny lights and anonymous high-rises.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:55 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live 10 minutes from Niagara Falls and can only recommend one activity in the tourist area - having a nice cold Rickards White on Kelseys' patio (top of Clifton Hill) on an warm day in September. When the crowds aren't too bad, I find that extremely enjoyable.
posted by davebush at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2010


Uh, sorry davebush, but people don't actually live near tourist attractions. I have it on good authority that houses in tourist "towns" are just there to make tourists feel more comfortable and to discourage vandalism.
posted by doublehappy at 11:52 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, I miss Niagara Falls. I lived in Buffalo for a couple of years, and I went to the American Falls at least once a week during the summer. The city of Niagara Falls (NY) is depressing, but the park at the American Falls itself (which includes The Three Sisters--those islands in the middle of the river at the Rainbow Falls edge)is beautiful. I used to find a nice spot and sit in the water to cool off (You could do that because they only let the river run at half-speed during the day). And of course, there was always the Cave of the Winds tour, which I described once as imagine having a Water Park throw itself at you, instead of you throwing yourself down the slides at a water park.

Driving by Love Canal on the way up was interesting, too.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


doublehappy - fortunately, the QEW is a fine escape route, back to the safety of my home in nearby St. Catharines.
posted by davebush at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2010


I'm most impressed that they managed to cram 6 months into July of 1969. Truly, that's got to be an even bigger feat than turning off the river.
posted by katemonster at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2010


My friend Alan just told me he was there.
I was there! The Army Corps of Engineers turned it off to check the underpinnings. It was only the American Falls and they did basically by backing up dump trucks and building a really insignificant-looking earthen dam. Bet you I've got a few pix of this myself...somewhere!
I'll try to send him over to tell you more.
posted by unSane at 8:12 PM on December 16, 2010


It's bizarre to me that they built a dam to redirect Niagra Falls but moving a pile of rocks was "too expensive".

I don't understand where this is coming from. Obviously the dewatering was in toto a tremendously difficult and expensive project. The reason it was undertaken was not just to remove talus, but to perform geological testing of the rockface on the existing falls to determine the risk of continued major collapses. This affects both safety -- collapses have involved loss of life -- as well as the esthetics of a waterfall as opposed to a rapids. Regardless, what was accomplished was a great deal of unprecedented study and installation of measurement and monitoring devices. Ultimately, one of the concrete results was determination that the Terrapin Rocks/Terrapin Point formation was too dangerous and thus in the 1980s it was completely reconfigured.

If you read through to the end, it was really a very transparent political process through the IJC that determined what would be done, based on the concerns of stakeholders, not simply an in-house "gosh, we did all this, but it sure was a waste of time", which sounds like various engineering urban legends such as the space pen.

I think it's interesting how we've "tamed" the falls in socially important ways. It isn't just about protecting the town or the tourist economy. I think it would be fascinating to go back in time and see the falls in a wilderness state. I've been to the Falls -- in the 1970s -- and it had a bit of a sunny, arid theme parkness to it. But I've also been to county parks where there are 100-foot dropoffs that don't even have a warning sign, let alone a railing or a walkway, and you can see the erosion at the edge where thousands of reckless teenagers have clambered near. If we hadn't turned it into a safe attraction, it would be an endless litany of deaths just from people trying to get a good photo.

Niagara Falls NY can't compete with the Canadian side because the Canadian side has much better views

I don't think it's the views that govern the size of the cities. Niagara Falls, ON is essentially the Canadian entry point for any overland shipping, and except for St. Catherine's, which is associated with the Welland Canal, the nearest city is Hamilton. Niagara Falls, NY, on the other hand, is in the shadow of the much larger Buffalo, NY metro area. I suppose that the much better locations for hotels on the Canadian side have some effect, but I really think it's just that Buffalo is nearby and this limits what the American side "needs", and makes it much more dependent on the low-wage tourist industry.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 PM on December 16, 2010


No, reallly, the Canadian side does have way better views.

I first saw the Falls in, I dunno, xmas 1987/8 or something and, coming from the UK, i was completely and utterly blown away by them. They are like Shakespeare -- totally amazing despite the fact that everyone says they are amazing.

The Falls in winter are pariicularly spectacular because of the insane ice-build-up in the surrounding area. However that wasn't what stuck in my mind. What stuck in my mind was that, as night fell --

-- fucking LIGHTS came on behind the falls.

It was like, yeah, this is one of the most spectacular things that the universe-as-known-to-man has yet produced but -- couldn't we, y'know, IMPROVE IT WITH A TACKY LIGHTSHOW?

This was so foreign to me as an English dude that it really blew my mind.

In England we generally left the Natural Wonders the fuck alone.
posted by unSane at 10:05 PM on December 16, 2010


Yes, Niagara Falls, NY, is one crappy place. It was doomed by its own good fortune: all that water dropping that far offered cheap hydro power, but that brought in big, smelly factories that wanted the cheap electricity. It stank so much, you had to roll up your windows when driving into the city, but the factories were unhindered by stupid and corrupt local officials. People had (horrible, dangerous) blue-collar jobs but the place became a giant industrial shit hole instead of a green park with a natural wonder at the center. When the jobs went away, the jobless and the pollution and the idiot officials remained.

They ought to divert the Niagara River one last time: wash everything west of Main Street and Portage Road over the edge of the gorge.
posted by pracowity at 4:51 AM on December 17, 2010


« Older Forming (NSFW - cartoon nudity) is a webcomic by J...  |  PhDChallenge.org proposed a ch... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments