A Dry Niagara Falls? It Could Happen

Photo: Stephanie Bruzenas/ REX Features.
If its waters stop flowing, is it still Niagara Falls?

If New York state has its way, that question could get an answer, and the American Falls could be silenced for an entire tourist season. All of the water flow would be redirected to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

The Buffalo News reported last week that New York state's parks system wants to cease the iconic falls for several months. It may be hard to imagine, but the American Falls' water flow could actually be stopped for as many as nine months.

The "dewatering," which could occur within the next three years, would allow workers to replace two pedestrian bridges at the site. The bridge replacements, which are difficult to execute with the waterfalls flowing around them, would cost the United States between $25 million and $35 million.

New York state's parks and transportation systems have proposed three plans for repairing the bridges, and two of them involve shutting off the American Falls. The plans haven't been approved yet, and the proposals don't have funding, according to The Guardian. But the 115-year-old commuter bridges, which connect the town of Niagara Falls with Goat Island, part of Niagara Falls State Park, are in poor condition.

So, what does it actually mean to "shut off" the American Falls? CNN explains that the dewatering process would involve building a "temporary cofferdam" to redirect all of Niagara Falls' water flow to Canada's Horseshoe Falls. "The river channel must be dewatered in order to demolish and remove the bridges," the New York state parks system explained in its proposal.

Some officials are also worried about the potential shutoff's effect on tourism. Currently, Niagara Falls attracts roughly 12 million visitors each year. Supporters of the "dewatering" have argued that tourists will want to see what's below the water, while others have argued people won't visit the landmark without its signature waterfalls.

If officials move forward with the dewatering, it would only be the second time ever that the American Falls' water has been turned off. The other incidence was in 1969, when the falls were slowed so researchers could study Niagara Falls' erosion and rock buildup. At that time, two bodies were found at the site, The Guardian reports.

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