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The day Niagara Falls fell silent


Millions of people visit Niagara Falls every year
Millions of people visit Niagara Falls every year

Matt Casey, staff writer

March 29, 2011 — It's been 163 years since Niagara Falls ran dry for the first time in recorded history.

An ice jam at the mouth of the Niagara River reduced water flow
An ice jam at the mouth of the Niagara River reduced water flow

Every minute an impressive 168,000 cubic metres of water flows over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario. But on March 29, 1848 the thunderous roar of the falling water fell silent for over 30 hours, marking the first time in recorded history that the falls ran dry.

The cause of the blockage was a strong southwest wind over Lake Erie that moved ice and caused a massive jam at the mouth of the Niagara River. The restriction in water flow reduced the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls across the border to a mere trickle.

Mills and factories in the area dependant on the flow of water were forced to shut down. As the riverbed quickly dried out, people were able to venture out on foot into what would normally be a torrent of water. For the first time in recorded history, people were able to cross the width of the Niagara River in horse drawn carriages and on foot.

The dry riverbed gave operators of the famous tourist boat, Maid Of the Mist, the opportunity to blast away large rocks that posed a navigation hazard to the ship's hull. The tourist attraction began its operations in 1846. It continues to give tourists a close up view of the falls to this day.

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