Collectively The Canadian and American Sides are called "Niagara Falls"
Categorized by these three names:
American Falls (between Prospect Point and Luna Island) far left
Bridal Veil Falls (between Luna Island and Goat Island) mid left
Canadian/Horseshoe Falls (between Goat Island and Table Rock) right
American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls
length of brink: 1060 feet
height: 176 feet (due to rocks at the base actual fall is 70 feet)
volume of water: 150,000 U.S. Gallons per second
Actual amount varies, there are two hydroelectric plants which draw water into
reservoirs prior to the Falls. Their intake greatly affects the volume of water
the falls. The amount of water being siphoned away depends on two variables. The
of year, and the time of the day. Flow is greatest in the daytime during peak
season (June, July, and August). In the event of an emergency the flow can be
somewhat reduced by the hydroelectric companies increasing their intake.
The Bridal Veil Falls is named for its appearance. It is located next to the
separated by a small piece of land called Luna Island.
Canadian "Horseshoe" Falls
length of brink: 2600 feet
height: 167 feet
volume of water: 600,000 U.S. gallons per second
Interesting fact: According to the U.S.G.S. (United States Geological Survey) of
Falls, it appears that almost 1/3 of the Canadian Falls lies within US
A Brief History of the Falls
Information below graciously provided courtesy of Niagara Parks
Ice Age History of the Niagara River and Whirlpool Rapids
The Niagara River, as is the entire Great Lakes Basin of which the river is an
integral part, is a legacy of the last Ice Age. 18,000 years ago southern
Ontario was covered by ice sheets 2-3 kilometers thick. As they advanced
southward the ice sheets gouged out the basins of the Great Lakes. Then as they
melted northward for the last time they released vast quantities of meltwater
into these basins. Our water is "fossil water"; less than one percent of it is
renewable on an annual basis, the rest leftover from the ice sheets.
The Niagara Peninsula became free of the ice about 12,500 years ago. As the ice
retreated northward, its meltwaters began to flow down through what became Lake
Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, down to the St. Lawrence River, and,
finally, down to the sea. There were originally 5 spillways from Lake Erie to
Lake Ontario. Eventually these were reduced to one, the original Niagara Falls,
at Queenston-Lewiston. From here the Falls began its steady erosion through the
However, about 10,500 years ago, through an interplay of geological effects
including alternating retreats and re-advances of the ice, and rebounding of the
land when released from the intense pressure of the ice (isostatic rebound),
this process was interrupted. The glacial meltwaters were rerouted through
northern Ontario, bypassing the southern route. For the next 5,000 years Lake
Erie remained only half the size of today, the Niagara River was reduced to
about 10% of its current flow, and a much-reduced Falls stalled in the area of
the Niagara Glen.
About 5,500 years ago the meltwaters were once again routed through southern
Ontario, restoring the river and Falls to their full power. Then the Falls
reached the Whirlpool.
It was a brief and violent encounter, a geological moment lasting only weeks,
maybe even only days. In this moment the Falls of the youthful Niagara River
intersected an old riverbed, one that had been buried and sealed during the last
Ice Age. The Falls turned into this buried gorge, tore out the glacial debris
that filled it, and scoured the old river bottom clean. It was probably not a
falls at all now but a huge, churning rapids. When it was all over it left
behind a 90-degree turn in the river we know today as the Whirlpool, and North
America's largest series of standing waves we know today as the Whirlpool
The Falls then re-established at about the area of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge
upriver to our right, and resumed carving its way through solid rock to its
Straddling the Canadian-United States International Border and both in the
Province of Ontario
and the State of New York, Niagara Falls attracts some 12 Million tourists to
awesome beauty each year.
The Niagara is a fairly young river, only 12,000 years old!, a microsecond in
geological time. The
Niagara Escarpment, which was created by erosion is much older. The glaciers
pressed down on
the land during the last ice age and laid down layers of sediment, then the slow
process of erosion
of ice and water ate at the surface of the escarpment
The mighty river plunges over a cliff of dolostone and shale. Niagara Falls is
the second largest
falls on the globe next to Victoria Falls in southern Africa.
One fifth of all the fresh water in the world lies in the four Upper Great
Superior and Erie. All the outflow empties into the Niagara river and eventually
At the bottom of the falls, the water travels 15 miles over many gorges until it
reaches the fifth
Great Lake-Ontario. The land between the lakes does not slope at an even grade,
but forms a
spectacular drop approximately the same height as a 20 story building and this
is known as the
"Niagara Escarpment" Two billion years ago it was buried under a blanket of ice.
As the years past, the process of erosion took place, (and still does) five
distinct 'gorges' were
formed-Lewiston Brange Gorge, Old Narrow Gorge, Upper & Lower Great Gorges and
Whirlpool Narrow Gorge.
Approximately 500 years ago the river encountered an obstacle that caused it to
'split into two
channels', thus Goat Island was formed named after John Stedman whose goat herds
death in the winter of 1780). This was the original sediment left from a
vanished Lake Tonawanda
(an Indian name).
On the eastern part of the island, the American Falls took shape, the Horseshoe
Falls, is on the
western side, where the river angles some 90 degrees.
The water flow on the American side of the falls is much less in strength
because of Goat Island,
whereas Horseshoe Falls has no obstruction to divert it.
It should be noted that a third much narrower falls exists. Over the years these
falls have been
called at different times; Luna Falls, Iris Falls and is currently named Bridal
Man has not been able to completely control the flow of the water over the
falls, even modern
engineers have tried. Much of the water today is fed through underground
channels and pipes to
nearby hydro electric power stations.
Do the Falls Freeze over in the Winter?
Yes and No...... We'll try to explain
The tremendous volume of water never stops flowing, However, the falling
water and mist create ice formations along the banks of the falls and river.
This can result in mounds of ice as thick as fifty feet. If the Winter is cold
long enough, the ice will completely stretch across the river and form what
is known as the "ice bridge". This ice bridge can extend for several miles
down river until it reaches the area known as the lower rapids.
Until 1912,visitors were allowed to actually walk out on the ice bridge and
view the Falls from below. February 24th of 1888 the local newspaper
reported that at least 20,000 people watched or tobogganed on the ice.
Shanties selling liquor, photographs and curiosities abounded. On February
4th 1912 the ice bridge broke up and three tourists lives were lost.
There can also be a great deal of "mini-icebergs" which flow down the
Niagara River from frozen Lake Erie. The flow of ice has been reduced
considerably by the yearly installation of the "ice-boom" on Lake Erie. The
ice-boom is a long floating chain (2miles- 3.2 KM) of steel floats strung across
the Niagara River from Buffalo New York to Fort Erie Ontario.
It is set in place during the month of December and removed during the
month of March or April. It is maintained by the New York State Power
Authority. The ice boom helps prevent the ice from clogging the river and most
importantly the hydroelectric companies water intakes.
Spring Ice flowing underneath the North Grand Island Bridge
HOWEVER.... The flow of water was stopped completely over both falls
on March 29th 1848 due to an ice jam in the upper river for several hours. This
is the only known time to have occurred. The Falls did not actually freeze
over, but the flow was stopped to the point where people actually walked out
and recovered artifacts from the riverbed!
Interesting facts about Niagara Falls
The flow over the American Falls was stopped completely for several months
in 1969. The idea was to determine the feasibility of removing the large
amount of loose rock from the base of the falls to enhance it's appearance.
In the end the final decision was that the expense would be too great.
The word "Niagara" is derived from the Iroquois Indian word "Onguiaahra"
meaning "the strait"
There is an international boundary between the United States and Canada.
Before the invention of film, tourists would sketch pictures of the Falls.
The flow was also halted over both falls on March 30th 1848 due to an ice jam
in the upper river.
The movies Niagara and Superman were filmed in part at the Falls.
In the past ten years, two daredevils lost their lives trying to conquer
In the evenings, intense spotlights bathe the falls with different shades of
The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a 63 year old
High wire tightrope acts used to be performed across the river. Most notably
was "Blondin" who once actually carried his manager across on his back,
stopping midway to rest !
The Falls make a tremendous sound as the water goes over and lands at the
Twenty percent of the worlds freshwater lies in the Great Lakes, and most flows
over Niagara Falls.