If Niagara Falls Is Dried Up Is It Worth the Trip?

Niagara Falls
Photo Credit: Ryan Hyde/Flickr

It was announced earlier this year that the New York State Parks Department is considering turning off Niagara Falls, and it has plenty of tourists considering other plans for their travels. While the white-capped waters may stop flowing there’s no need to worry because the plan isn’t going to be permanent.

The proposal came up earlier this year when it was determined that two of the bridges that span the Falls were in desperate need of repair. The 115-year old bridges connect mainland Niagara Falls, New York with Goat Island and stretch over the Niagara River. The feat to rebuild isn’t an easy one, which is why the decision to dewater the Falls was floated so engineers could fully rebuild without having to deal with rushing waters possibly floating them away. The proposed repairs aren’t as simple as securing the pillars that hold up the bridge.

It was determined that the bridges needed to be completely rebuilt, in addition to adding new structural supports and piers. Officials have yet to announce how long the Falls will need to be shut off for the $25 to $35 million project, but officials said that it could be roughly a year.

A similar move was taken over 40 years ago when in 1969 the United States Army Corps of Engineers turned off the Falls to study the impact of erosion. Throughout the summer months, the water was blocked leaving only a vapid landscape of rocks stretching from New York to Ontario. Tourists flocked to take in the unique views, something that nobody has ever seen before.

Impact on Tourism

Some locals and tourist organizations expressed concern about the impact that this will have on local tourism, while others believe that it will only boost the number of tourists who come out to see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The proposal also doesn’t account for turning off all three waterfalls—Bridal Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and American Falls. Only the American and Bridal Veil Falls will be turned off while the 75,000 gallons of water that flow over their cliffs every second will be diverted to the Horseshoe Falls.

For those who are heading to see the natural wonder this summer, there’s no need to panic as construction plans are still a few years out. The Parks Department still needs to conduct studies and secure approval and funds before any action can be taken so you still have plenty of time to soak up the stunning views of one of the most epic waterfalls in the world.

While Niagara Falls is quite used to the attention, the past few years have been particularly interesting for this natural wonder. A few years ago, acrobat and daredevil Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope over Niagara Falls from New York to Ontario. It took two years of legal battles before Wallenda finally got approval, but he finally secured approval and on June 15, 2012, he took the terrifying trip. The nation tuned in while ABC followed his every step, giving every person in the country a deep breath of relief when he made it across without incident.

Freezing Falls

Niagara Falls again made international news when it nearly completely froze over during a particularly cold winter. Temperatures dropped to an all-time low and the city experienced the most consecutive days of below zero temperatures on record. For a few weeks travelers and locals got the opportunity to see the Falls unlike they have ever before, almost entirely still as the waves were hidden below a thick layer of ice.

This most recent proposal brings the Falls back into the spotlight. The fact that one of the largest tourist destinations in the country will be (temporarily) defaced is a terrifying possibility. While some may be left disappointed by this possibility others see it as a chance to see the Falls like never before. There's no telling when something like this will happen again, so for those lucky enough to make the trip and see it stripped of its beauty, it's a phenomenal opportunity.

While plans have yet to be solidified, it can be expected that it's only a matter of time before action is taken. With each day the two bridges continue to deteriorate and pose a safety risk for anyone trying to take in the sites from them.

While a trip to the dewatered Falls will not be the same as taking in the rushing waters, and many activities like Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds and the Journey Behind the Falls, will likely be put on hiatus that only means that you have another reason to come back. It would be an incredible experience to see the Falls in such contrasting lights; a stark and empty wasteland compared to a lush and aggressive force. 

It's still not known how this will impact businesses that thrive on Falls tourism, but it seems like there are plenty of opportunities to embrace the short change and give tourists a whole new view of just how impressive this natural wonder is. Imagine taking in the view of a dried up Niagara Falls from high above the Observation Deck, something that must only be comparable to the depths of the moon or Grand Canyon. Personally, while some might prefer to see the Falls in all of their glory, I think this whole new angle gives just a little bit more excitement to a trip to Niagara.

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