When winter arrives in Niagara Falls, sheets of snow and ice cover the magnificent Niagara Falls. Often, it is so thick and solid that people assume that the falls have completely frozen over. But this is not true. It might flow at a reduced rate but it never stops. Seeing Niagara Falls at or near a frozen state during a winter vacation is a sight to behold.
Walking on Ice at Niagara Falls
Over a long duration of extremely cold weather, ice forms all across the river creating an ice bridge. In fact people would walk over the ice bridge and even set up shops back in the day. Tourists too would flock to the bridge. But things changed in 1912 when an older ice bridge wrecked havoc. Since 1912, walking on the ice has been forbidden. There have been a few times over the years when the winters were so cold that the falls looked completely frozen. During such times, giant icicles form over the falls giving the impression that the water has frozen completely. But the volume of water is so much that it just does not stop flowing.
Niagara Falls Frozen
But there was one instance when the water flow stopped completely in 1848. This did not happen due to the freezing of the falls but because of an ice jam on the Niagara River which blocked the flow of water. Millions of tons of ice had blocked the source of the river leading to the stoppage of water. Since the Falls always created a thundering sound while cascading over, the blockage resulted in silence around the falls. But after several hours the huge volume of water finally found its way through, rushed over the channel and restored the falls to its original glory.
Slowing of Niagara Falls Winter Water Flow
The year 1932 also witnessed a very cold and long winter but even that did not stop the falls completely. Even as recently as 2014 and 2015, photographs in the media showed a frozen Niagara Falls on account of extreme weather. This event caused tourists to flock to Niagara Falls, staying in Hotels overlooking the nearly frozen Falls. But the water continued to flow in spite of the snow and ice. One of the reasons that the falls continues to flow is due to the installation of ice booms made of steel on the river. To answer the question:
The answer is no-- the installed steel ice cutters effectively deal with icebergs and prevent the water from jamming up ensuring a steady supply of water. It is also important to do so since the river is a major source of hydroelectric power in the region.
So the next time you look at a modern day ‘frozen’ Niagara Falls, you know the secret–the water never stops flowing! But don't worry, even if it's cold during your trip to Niagara Falls there are plenty of indoor warm weather activities to take part in, all the while still experiencing a portion of the outdoor Niagara Falls Winter.
Update January 2018 - You can see the frozen Niagara Falls again from our Fallsview guest rooms.
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