It’s a visually striking image and one that not many people are even aware exists, but what you are seeing is Niagara Falls without any water! Well, more specifically it is American Falls, one of the three waterfalls of Niagara Falls, yet it’s still an impressive sight all the same!
The landmark is known for its incredible rock pile at the base of the waterfall, caused by natural rockslides, and in the 1960s there was an ongoing concern that this could lead to significant long-term damage to the falls.
Turning off the water for the first time in 12,000 years
If left unmonitored, it was thought that the entire American Falls could eventually erode, leading to some rather drastic action – draining the falls completely!
This would allow closer inspection of the state of the falls and rock composition beneath and potentially discover information to help maintain the falls and avoid their decay.
So, for three days of the summer in 1969, efforts were made to dewater the American Falls by redirecting the Niagara River into the nearby Horseshoe Falls. It was a massive operation that involved 1,2000 trucks dumping close to 28,000 tons of rock and debris into an upstream portion of the river.
The result saw the American Falls devoid of any water for the first time in over a thousand years and countless photographs captured the incredible sight.
A temporary rock dam diverts the Niagara River away from the American Falls.
This allowed engineers to get in closer to the rocks beneath the falls, where they research the pressures and faults and implanting tools throughout the riverbed to keep track of rock movements.
To ensure more stability, steel bolts and cables were fitted around the rocks a Luna Island and Bridal Veil Falls, while holes were drilled to provide additional drainage, relieving various points of pressure.
It was also agreed that the iconic rock build-up at the base of the falls should remain fully intact, just as nature had intended.
After five months of work and research, the cofferdam that redirected the water was removed, allowing life to flow through American falls once again.
However, it may not be the last time we ever see Niagara Falls dewatered – two bridges present above the falls require replacement shortly, in which case it might be time to drain the water once more.
IMAGES: RUSS GLASSON/BARCROFT/GETTY IMAGES