The day that Niagara Falls completely stopped

On this day in weather history, Niagara Falls dried up.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On Mar. 30, 1848, Niagara Falls was missing its key trait, the falls. It's incredible to see the 3,160 tons of water per second flowing over Niagara Falls, but the site without its eponymous feature is also quite spectacular. This is how the Falls stopped falling.

The 1848 winter was exceptionally cold and Lake Erie formed thick ice. Then March brought a warm spell, which started to break up the ice.

On Mar. 28 and 29, strong winds pushed large chunks of ice across Lake Erie. The current led the ice into the mouth of the Niagara River, and it started to pile up and create a dam. The dam sat between Buffalo and Fort Erie and cut off the flow of water into the river, and subsequently over the Falls.

The Falls remained fall-less for 30 hours.

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The Horseshoe Falls, which are on the Canadian side, haven't stopped flowing since this event.

Since 1964, an ice boom is installed every fall in the outlet of Lake Erie near the Niagara River. It accelerates and stabilizes the formation of the natural ice arch and reduces the frequency and duration of ice runs.

Ice boom

Ice boom in Lake Erie near the head of the Niagara River. Courtesy of Flickr

However, the American Falls' was cut off from Jun. 12 to Nov. 25, 1969. But this time, they were suspended on purpose. This allowed geologists to study the rock formations and better understand how to prevent erosion of the Falls. While the water was halted, they built a walkway on the riverbed for tourists.

The Horseshoe Falls has never frozen over but the American Falls have. The American side receives a tenth of the water and is significantly shallower.

To learn more about the time when Niagara Falls stopped completely, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of CBC