THE NATURAL HISTORY OF NIAGARA FALLS CANADA
Standing at the edge of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, and looking out to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls, it’s hard to imagine anything more spectacular than this!
While the Canadian Horseshoe Falls is not the highest waterfall in the world (that honor belongs to Venezuela’s “Angel Falls”), it still pack quite a visual punch.
Dropping 57 metres (188 feet) at a rate of 168,000 metres of water (6 million cubic feet) every minute during daytime hours, this is one of the fastest moving waterfalls in the entire world. It’s no wonder that it has been dubbed the most photographed waterfalls in the world and just one reason why you should make Niagara Falls, Canada, your next trip.
HOW WAS NIAGARA FALLS FORMED?
The three waterfalls: Horseshoe (Canadian), American and Bridal Veil, were formed approximately 12,000 years ago when massive glaciers that covered the area melted and tore through what is now known as the Niagara Escarpment.
Forming the Great Lakes, the Niagara River, and more, this phenomenon eventually halted at the escarpment at Queenston-Lewiston. From here, the falls began to erode its way through the bedrock and after thousands of years of geological play, the Falls were formed.
Is Niagara Falls Man Made?
While the creation of the Falls is all natural, humans have used technology to slow down the erosion of this incredible wonder.
The necessary diversion of water above the falls for hydroelectric power purposes has reduced the rate of erosion. Elaborate control works upstream from the Falls have maintained an even distribution of flow across both the U.S. and Canadian waterfalls, which helps to control the flow of the water, thus reducing some erosion.
HOW OLD IS NIAGARA FALLS?
Approximately 18,000 years ago, Southern Ontario was in the midst of an ice-age.
Thick sheets of ice, approximately 2-3 kilometres thick covered the region. When the melting began and finally ended 12,000 years ago, the Falls were formed. The results today are a striking reminder of the power of Mother Nature!
WILL NIAGARA FALLS EVER STOP FLOWING?
The fresh water that plunges over Niagara takes around 685,000 gallons (2.6 million litres) of water from four great lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan Lake Huron and Lake Erie - in fact, one fifth of the world’s freshwater is found in these four Great Lakes.
Once it travels over the Falls it travels from the Niagara River, 21.7 kilometres (13 ½ miles) to Lake Ontario. From there, it makes its way down the St. Lawrence River and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.)
While erosion is a factor, the rate has been greatly reduced due to flow control and diversion for hydro-power generation.
Recession for at least the last 560 years has been estimated at 1 to 1.5 metres per year. Its current rate of erosion is estimated at 1 foot per year and could possibly be reduced to 1 foot per 10 years. Climate change is also an influencing factor on the future of the Niagara River as an integral part of the Great Lakes Basin; models indicate a drying up of the Basin. Scientists disagree on how long the Falls will continue to flow; however, it will be thousands of years before the taps are turned off. (https://www.niagaraparks.com)
Historically speaking, On March 29, 1848, the Niagara River actually did stop flowing and Niagara residents witnessed a sight they never thought that they would see in their lifetimes. A strong south-west wind pushed the ice in Lake Erie which became lodged at the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Erie blocking the channel completely. The self-made dam held the water for approximately thirty hours until the wind shifted and the pent-up weight of the water broke, forcing the Niagara River to flow again.
To prevent this from happening again and to maintain the flow of the Falls for hydro purposes, each year a nearly 3km ice boom is installed at the mouth of the Niagara River in Fort Erie. Consisting of 22 connected steel pontoons that are anchored to the bottom of the river, the boom greatly reduces the amount of ice that enters the river.
Still intrigued? Canadian author, Cathy Marie Buchanan fictionalizes this historic event with her New York Times’ bestselling novel, The Day The Falls Stood Still.
Steeped in the rich history of Niagara Falls, Buchanan tells this historical account through the love story of Bess Heath, a 17 year old girl desperate for adventure. This is a great way to personalize your trip to Niagara Falls and feel the power of the rushing water through Buchanan’s gripping novel.
Want to learn and see more? Book one of our Niagara Falls tours and get first hand views and stories led by experienced tour guides.Walk Niagara Tours offers all-inclusive walking tours of Niagara Falls. Our tour guides lead groups 7 days a week between April and November.