Straddling the Canadian-United States border, Niagara Falls attracts around 12 million visitors every year. The water from the Niagara River plunges over a steep cliff of dolostone and shale. Next to Victoria Falls in southern Africa, Niagara Falls is the second largest falls in the world, which explains why so many daredevils over the years have flocked here. There have been a few instances, though, when there was no water to challenge.
Typically, the tremendous volume of water at Niagara Falls does not stop flowing. Two hydroelectric plants draw water into their reservoirs before it reaches to the falls. The intake of these plants significantly impacts the volume of water that flows over the falls. The flow is usually greatest in the daytime during peak tourist season from June through August. If an emergency arises, the flow can be somewhat reduced if the plants increase their intake.
During the winter, the falling water and mist create ice formations along the banks of the falls and river, which sometimes results in mounds of ice as thick as 50 feet. If the weather is cold for a long enough period, the ice stretches across the river and forms what is known as the ice bridge. This can extend for several miles down the river until it reaches an area called the lower rapids. Until 1912, visitors were allowed to walk out on the ice bridge and see the falls from below.
A newspaper report in the 1880s indicates that about 20,000 people ventured onto the ice. Shacks on the ice sold liquor and photographs. On Feb. 4, 1912, the ice bridge cracked and three tourists were killed.
Earlier in the 19th century – on March 29, 1848 – the water flow over both falls stopped for several hours because of an ice jam in the upper river. The falls did not freeze, but the water flow was stopped enough that adventure seekers walked out and recovered artifacts from the river bed.
The water flow over the American Falls was completely stopped completely for several months in 1969. The purpose was to determine the possibility of removing a large amount of loose rock from the base of the falls to improve its appearance. It was decided that the expense would be too costly, and the water flow over the falls returned.
Stories of the many daredevils who have challenged the falls and the gorge are brought to life, and relics from their adventures are showcased, at the new Daredevil Gallery at Niagara IMAX Theatre. The daredevil exhibit features the world’s largest collection of Niagara Falls history, including actual barrels and artifacts along with the engaging stories of Niagara’s heritage and tales of the daredevils.
- Daredevil Exhibit
- Things to Do