One of the world's most powerful waterfalls may soon run dry for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Niagara Falls, composed of the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, is under consideration for a "dewatering" project to replace two 115-year-old stone bridges. The project would divert water from going over the American Falls (which accounts for 15 percent of flow from the Niagara River) and essentially reveal the famed waterfall's skeleton.
The last time this happened was 1969, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed a cofferdam of rock and dirt to divert the full force of the Niagara River over the Horseshoe Falls. The event, as recalled by one resident, revealed a stark landscape.
“I remember being a little disappointed because the scene was just a desolate landscape of rock, debris, tree limbs and construction equipment,” Robert Borgatti told the Buffalo News.
While that shutdown of the falls was part of an effort to study erosion, this expected five- to nine-month dewatering will be for aesthetics and safety. Due to the deteriorating condition of the two stone bridges — both created by legendary landscape architect Frederick Olmsted — the New York State Park Service has no choice but to shutter the flow of water. The estimated cost of the project is anywhere from $21.6 million to $37.3 million.
According to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, construction on the cofferdam to dry the falls will not begin until 2018 at the earliest.