Robin Adair

In the summer of 1969, engineers stopped the flow of water to the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

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.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Side Pittsburgh Doesn't Want You to See

    Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey has spent over twelve years documenting the lives of the people displaced so that the city can achieve its “cool” status.  

  2. Construction workers build affordable housing units.
    Equity

    Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build?

    As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.

  3. The 560-foot-tall Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    Videos

    Seeing Pyongyang in 360 Degrees

    A photographer in a microlight aircraft shot 360-degree video over the secretive North Korean capital.

  4. Equity

    Seattle Has 5 Big Pieces of Advice for Amazon’s HQ2 Winner

    Being HQ1 has been no picnic.

  5. Transportation

    How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

    Three experts in three very different positions weigh in on their city’s ridership success.