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What Niagara Falls Looks Like Without Water

What Niagara Falls Looks Like Without Water
Robin Adair

This week, we were treated to some beautiful images of Niagara Falls mostly iced over, thanks to the Polar Vortex. This happens somewhat regularly, but it's gorgeous nonetheless.

What you see in this post is a much rare occurrence: the de-watering of one part of Niagara Falls, which occurred in the summer of 1969 and continued into the late fall.

To understand these images, it helps to know a couple things. There are three sets of waterfalls at Niagara Falls: American and Bridal Veil Falls on one side of Goat Island and the larger Horseshoe Falls on the other. The de-watering project only stopped water flowing to American and Bridal Veil Falls. And the vast majority of the water actually goes over Horseshoe.

Here's a map:

Still, it was a massive project. Engineers built a 600-foot cofferdam from the American shoreline out to Goat Island using 28,000 tons of earth and rock. They did it to investigate the geology of the falls, which had seen very substantial rockfalls, leading to a buildup of boulders and debris at the base of the falls. Ultimately, after a lot of public debate, the International Joint Commission, which manages the falls, decided not to change the falls, and the dam was removed on November 25, 1969.

The photograph was sent in by reader Marcia Adair from her parents' collection.

This is what American falls  looks like under more normal conditions, thanks to Flickr user Ian Glover

There are several other views available of the dewatered American Falls at the Niagara Falls public library website. The turned-off falls were quite a tourist attraction that summer. What a weird time to be in America. 


Rock at the base of the falls (Niagara Falls Public Library)


The view from Talus Point (Niagara Falls Public Library)


Cofferdam construction (Niagara Falls Public Library)

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

Keywords: Niagara Falls

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. All posts »

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