What happens at Niagra Falls in Winter?

please don’t link this to "what’s the dumbest thing…"in MPSIMS
I was joking the other evening saying that they shut off Niagra Falls for the winter. Then someone said it freezes most winters and stops.
I thought, yeah I guess the river’s ice over so the falls would…wait a minuite it’s Niagra Falls
Forgive me! I grew up in Hawaii and now live in Southern CA. I don’t know ice from a slurpee.
Do the falls stop? Do they not? Do ice floes fall over the falls?
Somebody help me out please?

My family lived in Syracuse NY when I was very young & my parents would visit the falls almost every weekend. We have photos from every season of the American side and the falls definitely freeze during the winter. I don’t think the water is frozen to the point that the water stops cascading over. The sight of a gigantic frozen waterfall is quite striking.

The American side has a lot less water going over it, and I guess it’s possible that it could freeze or get jammed. Once in recorded history the Canadian side (the famous Horseshoe Falls) got blocked up with ice. I think it was over a hundred years ago.

The Canadian side very rarely (as Indefatigable said, it only has happened once over a hundred years ago) freezes over totally, but the amount of water going over significantly decreases. Don’t have any numbers available onhand, though. Trust me, it’s still a hell of a sight.

While freezing to the point of stopping the flow of the falls is rare, it is not impossible. Witness the Great Ice Jam on the Niagara in 1848:

In fairness the ice jam didn’t occur at the falls, but at Lake Erie, but the result was the cessation of the falls.


Here are a couple of pictures of the falls in winter:

And for several months in 1969, they really did “shut off Niagara Falls” (albeit only the less voluminous American side).

They now use an ice boom in Lake Erie to jam up the ice before the mouth of the river, out in the lake, to prevent the ice from jamming up the water intakes that provide water to the hydroelectric stations in the region. The Falls are gorgeous at night when frozen.

Niagara Falls webcams. See what it looks like now (the sun has set as I post this). The first view is looking east from the Canadian side across the Horseshoe Falls, with the American Falls and the city of Niagara Falls (New York) in the background.

Note: the three main views on the linked page need Java.

The 2nd link I gave appears to be blocked for direct access. Selecting the adress bar, and clicking “go” brings up the photo.

I’ve been to Niagra several times since my sister lives relatively near, and winter is my favorite time to visit. Not only are there fewer crowds, but the ice formations from the spray thrown by the falls are quite beautiful

Actually, they do tend to “shut off” the falls during the week in the winter–or, at least, once tourist season has passed. The falls are not totally turned off, of course, but Canada Hydro takes in lots more water upstream to power their generators and it substantially reduces the flow. (On weekends and during the summer, they only increase the hydro intake after the lights have been turned out (11:00 p.m.?) until the next morning.)

Woah! Switch to cam #3 right now! Some enterprising cameraman has found something far more interesting than the falls…

Did anyone else see that?

Yeah… I thought those cams were usually automated…

OK, I must have missed it; spill!

So did I. Someone must have seen those goings on and run up to where the cameras are mounted.

It’s been a long while since I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Thank you, Sunspace for that unexpectedly rewarding link.

Sorry, Fear. Someone trained the camera into a room in the Minolta Tower, where a couple was enjoying a little bit of non-waterfall-watching time.

Too far away to be x-rated, just close enough to be hilarious.

Oops. I spoke too soon. Looks like they’re at it again…