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CAN NIAGARA FALLS EVER BE TURNED OFF?

If you’re planning to visit and tour Niagara Falls, the quick answer to put your mind at ease is that Niagara Falls is never shut off regularly. Not at night, not during the winter.

An international treaty between the United States and Canada ensures maximum water flow during the peak viewing hours during the day (8:00 am - 10:00 pm between April 1 - September 15 and 8:00 am - 8:00 pm during the rest of the year). A portion of the water is diverted at night to run through power generation intakes, but the water never stops flowing on the Canadian side.

You can come and enjoy the beauty of Niagara Falls 24/7.

can Niagara Falls ever be turned off

However if you’re interested in the question of whether or not Niagara Falls CAN be turned off, please continue reading.

Thanks to relatively recent advancements in technology and human capability, what was at one time an obvious answer to the question of whether or not Niagara Falls could be turned off (“are you nuts? Of course not!”) transitioned into more of an unbelievable “well actually, yes!”

There have been natural phenomena over the centuries that have slowed Niagara Falls to a trickle (like when an ice dam throttled the flow of water into the Niagara River in 1848) but leave it to human ingenuity to accomplish the seemingly impossible and actually manually “turn off” the Falls.

WHEN WAS NIAGARA FALLS TURNED OFF?

In June of 1969, engineers (including U.S. Army Corps engineer Maj. B.R. Schlapak) figured out a way to “turn off” the American Falls.

This was the first time water stopped flowing over the Falls in 12,000 years!

Water flow returned by November 25, but the fact that water WASN’T flowing may have actually drawn larger than normal crowds. At the time Niagara Parks Police said there were 2-3 times the normal number of visitors.

Go figure!

HOW WAS NIAGARA FALLS TURNED OFF?

They “turned off” Niagara Falls by constructing a cofferdam on the American side between the shore and Goat Island in order to divert water towards the Canadian Horseshoe falls. This sent more water over the Canadian side and “turned off” American Falls.

when Niagara Falls ran dry
Photo Credit: Smithsonian Magazine

WHY WAS NIAGARA FALLS TURNED OFF?

After rock falls in 1931 and 1954 created a pile at the bottom of the American Falls, tourism leaders and other local leaders feared that the reduced curtain of the waterfall could have a negative impact on the natural beauty.

It was even believed that accelerated erosion could “flatten out” the falls, and the worry was that “There wouldn’t be a Falls anymore.”

The primary reason to turn off the Falls was to investigate if and how they could help save the Falls from natural destruction.

Having access to the rock also gave geologists a chance to study the rock under the water for the first time.

WILL NIAGARA FALLS EVER BE TURNED OFF AGAIN?

We sure hope not!

However never say never.

American officials are planning another temporary partial shut off of Niagara Falls in order to conduct bridge repairs.

Plus who knows what changes to the greater ecosystem climate change will bring to the Great Lakes, the Niagara River and Niagara Falls itself.

We hope and expect that Niagara Falls will continue to Fall as it erodes its way back the remaining 20 miles to Lake Erie.

Get your tickets for a tour now, there are only 50,000 years before this happens and the Falls blends itself into the rest of the river! :)

Walk Niagara Tours offers all-inclusive walking tours of Niagara Falls. Our tour guides lead groups 7 days a week between April and November.

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