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History of Niagara Falls
The Niagara River and Great Lakes Basin is a legacy of the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago. Ontario was covered by ice sheets 2-3 kilometers thick, but the Niagara Peninsula became free of the ice 12,500 years ago.
Only 1% of the water in the Great Lakes is renewable through precipitation and ground water each year. Ninety-nine percent of the water is ‘fossil’ water from the last ice age. The falls erode at a current rate of 1 foot per year.
Over the past 560 years, the recession is estimated at 1-1.5 m/year. – Niagara Falls used to be situated at the Queenston Heights escarpment. It took 10,000-12,000 years for it to erode to its current position at Table Rock 11 kilometers (7 miles) away. See Niagara Falls up close on a Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto.
Fun Facts about Niagara Falls and the Niagara Area
- Niagara translated into English means “the thunder of waters”
- Niagara Falls can have up to 5000 cubic meters of water flowing over it every second. That’s enough to fill up an Olympic size swimming pool in half a second!
- Niagara Falls only has about half as much water flowing over it in the evening as it does during the day. That is because the other half is being diverted to the hydroelectric power stations.
- It takes about 50 years for a water molecule to flow all the way through the great lakes network and eventually out to the Atlantic Ocean through the St Lawrence Seawa
- The great lakes network makes up about 20% of the entire world’s supply of fresh water. In 1848, the world’s first railroad suspension bridge was erected over the Niagara River. In 1885, the Niagara Parks Commission (who govern tourism in Niagara Falls) was founded and now has over 1600 seasonal employees.
- A massive block of ice, millions of tons big, blocked the mouth of the Niagara river in March 1848. It was so big that Niagara Falls actually ran dry for about 30 hours! North America has 5 great lakes – the largest freshwater system in the world. The volume of the water in the great lakes could cover North America in 3.5 feet of water.
Going Over the Falls
14 people have intentionally gone over the falls – 5 lost their lives. An intentional trip over the falls now carries a $10,000 fine (if you survive). Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old schoolteacher from Michigan was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.
Only one person has unintentionally gone over the falls and survived. It was a 7 year old boy named Roger Woodward. He was picked up by the Niagara Cruise boat.
One 40 year old man from Michigan went over Niagara Falls on October 20, 2003 without any protection and survived.
People have tried to go over the falls in a kayak (Jesse Sharpe, 28, from Tennessee on June 5, 1990) and a jet ski (Robert Overacker, 39, from California on Oct. 1, 1995).
Neither man survived.
American - Canadian Falls
– 90% of the water going over Niagara Falls goes over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls – the American falls gets only 10% Scientists believe that the American Falls could dry up in 2,000 years.
The brink of Niagara Falls used to erode at a rate of 1 meter per year – since the power stations were built and some of the water is diverted away from Niagara Falls – it only erodes at a rate of 1 meter per 30 years.