Man-Made 'Natural' Wonder How Engineers Created the Icy Wonderland at Niagara Falls

By Macfarlane, Daniel | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), January 25, 2018 | Go to article overview

Man-Made 'Natural' Wonder How Engineers Created the Icy Wonderland at Niagara Falls


Macfarlane, Daniel, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Niagara Falls might be at its most spectacular in winter.

Over the recent holidays, the icy cascade captured the public's imagination: numerous newspapers ran stories about the frozen wonderland, and social media posts about the falls were widely shared.

But this is business as usual. Niagara Falls is replete with icicles and a glistening layer of ice every winter. As of now, the waterfall is still unfettered. Later in the winter, it will likely be fronted by a buildup of congealed ice.

Even that, though, will be just a vestige of what used to occur before Niagara Falls was remade in the 20th century. Much of what seems natural at Niagara Falls - ice formation, and the actual waterfall itself - is manufactured. Put differently, one of North America's most celebrated natural wonders is, in many ways, unnatural, the product of decades of human intervention and manipulation.

Now, Niagara Falls never actually freezes over completely - though ice jams upstream can temporarily still the waters. Ice does form or gather at the base of the waterfall, building upward and outward, creating what is called the "ice bridge." But water keeps flowing underneath the two main cataracts - the bigger Horseshoe Falls and the smaller American Falls - that make up the frozen facade.

Up until the early 20th century, the two eponymous communities of Niagara Falls - one Canadian, one American - would congregate on the ice bridge for transnational ice parties. Kids would climb the ice mountains and slide down.

But these frozen festivities came to a tragic end on Feb. 4, 1912. The ice broke up and three people perished. Excursions onto the ice bridge were banned.

The ice continued to cause problems in the following years, taking out the famed Honeymoon Bridge in January 1938.

How could such an unruly and unpredictable environment be tamed? By the time ice destroyed the bridge, experts were on the cusp of providing some answers.

Since the late 19th century, there has been a tension between beauty and power at Niagara Falls. On the one hand, it was considered the epitome of the natural sublime. On the other, Niagara was also the cradle of large-scale hydroelectric production and distribution. Successively larger generating stations were built, several taking turns wearing the mantle of biggest in the world. Industries such as aluminum and electro-chemicals arrived to take advantage of the cheap electricity.

As more power turbines came online, more water had to be diverted from the river. Various groups worried that siphoning off water harmed the scenic beauty of the cascades, along with the naturally occurring erosion that annually moved the Horseshoe Falls upstream some seven feet. Industrialists responded by disingenuously suggesting that diverting more water would protect the falls by slowing erosion.

Agitation for the preservation of Niagara Falls led governments to pass legal limits on diversions during the first decades of the 20th century. The U.S. and Canada formed engineering boards to study how to best replumb Niagara Falls to maximize water abstraction while veiling the impact on the waterfall's appearance. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Man-Made 'Natural' Wonder How Engineers Created the Icy Wonderland at Niagara Falls
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.