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The History Of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a world-renowned natural phenomenon due to its astonishing beauty. A lot of people who visit the Falls are unaware of the rich history of not only the extraordinary waterfalls but also the surrounding area of the Region of Niagara. Here is the history of Niagara Falls:

The Falls’ Creation

The formation of the Niagara Falls dates back to the last Ice Age. The southern Ontarian region was completely covered in thick sheets of ice approximately 18,000 years ago. The ice sheets eventually broke and melted in opposite directions creating the basins of the five Great Lakes.

About 12,500 years ago, the ice sheets had shifted northbound and the melted water from the ice formed the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and St. Lawrence River. There were five streams of meltwater leading from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. These streams eventually transformed into one and eroded through the bedrock leading to the initial formation of the Falls.

Whirlpool Rapids

About 2,000 years later, as more ice sheets shifted and melted, Lake Erie was reduced to half of its current size while the original Niagara Falls had only 10% of the power of its current flow. The Falls were routed towards a massive whirlpool. The waterfall and the initial Niagara River came in contact with an old riverbed creating huge, powerful rapids. This area still exists today and is known as the Whirlpool Rapids. The Whirlpool Rapids are the largest series of standing waves in North America. There is additionally a 90-degree turn in the Niagara River known as The Whirlpool. These unique geological points are a direct result of these events thousands of years ago.

Niagara Falls settled in its current location after interacting with the rapids and whirlpool and carving out and eroding its settlement in the bedrock in the area.

The Falls’ Freeze

During the winter season most years, the Niagara Falls partially freeze. Its an interesting spectacle as the exterior of the waterfall creates the illusion that the waterfall is completely frozen whereas there is actually a constant flow of water underneath the ice.

During the following winters, Niagara Falls experienced increased amount of icing:

1885
1902
1906
1911
1932
1936
2014
2017
The Niagara Falls have only stopped flowing once due to freezing. The winter of 1848 was an extremely cold winter. Lake Erie was a coated in thick ice. As the weather started warming up, these sheets of ice broke up and melted. On March 29, strong freezing winds created an ice blockage at the mouth of the Niagara River which then led the water to stop flowing towards the Horseshow Falls. The water didn’t start flowing for another 40 hours. The waterwheels stopped working meaning the surrounding mills and factories had to close as they had no power.

The Ice Bridge

“The Ice Bridge” occurs when freezing water flows from over the waterfall into the rocks below and turns into a solid. This solid structure connects the American side to the Canadian side. This natural formation used to be a huge tourist attraction. Visitors from both sides of the Falls would meet on the bridge where vendors would offer up food and beverages as well as other concessions. Unfortunately, on February 4th, 1912, the ice bridge broke causing the death of three visitors. The Ice Bridge has still formed since this incident but walking on it or around it is now forbidden.

Niagara on the Lake

This region, which is about a half an hour drive from Niagara Falls, was founded by British Settlers in 1781. It was used as a military base by pro-British loyalists who left America following the American Revolution. In 1792, it became the first capital of Upper Canada or Ontario as we know it today. There are several military sites like Navy Hall, Butler’s Barracks and Fort George that were used during the War of 1812. These sites have since been restored and are now considered historic sites. Niagara on the Lake has been beautifully preserved and is a lovely tourist attraction.

Sir General Isaac Brook

Major-General Sir Isaac Brook is an important historical figure to the region of Niagara Falls. He was an officer in the British Army as well as the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada during the War of 1812. He helped defend Canada from invasion from the United States. He died in battle and has since been memorialized in the Queenston Heights Brock Monument.

To learn more about Niagara Falls and to see historical sites like the Queenston Heights Brock Monument and Niagara on the Lake, take the Niagara Falls Toronto Day Tour. We’ll take you on a day trip to the Falls from Toronto where you’ll get to visit incredible tourist attractions like the waterfall up close and personal on the Hornblower Boat Cruise and even visit an iconic Niagara Winery. Book your tour today!

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