March 29, 1848 — Believe it or not Niagara Falls stopped flowing today.
The one-day interruption was caused by an ice jam in Lake Erie. Fortunately, strong winds broke apart the jam the next day, and the water resumed its flow.
“For thirty long, silent hours, the river dried up and those who were brave enough walked or rode horses over the rock floor of the channel,” reports niagaraparks.com. “Then, with a roar that shook the foundations of the earth, a solid wall of water, cresting to a great height, curled down the channel and crashed over the brink of the precipice. Niagara was back in business to the immense relief of everyone.
“News traveled slowly in those days but the explanation finally came. High winds set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion and millions of tons of ice became lodged at the source of the river, blocking the channel completely until finally a shift in the forces of nature released it and the pent up weight of water broke through.”
Did you know: Lake Erie is the major producer of ice that flows down the Niagara River and is capable of producing 16,093 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) of ice.
The ice is blown down the river and over the Falls, where it becomes caught as the river narrows near the Canadian Maid of the Mist Landing; some of the ice is pushed back upriver, which can build up to form an ice jam. Ice jams can be very erosive; ice grinds on the river bed, moves large boulders and alters the shoreline. When wind stops forcing water out of Lake Erie into the river, the water level drops leaving the ice jam aloft like a bridge. The phenomenon of the ice bridge is a familiar occurence each winter.
Words of Wisdom
All trembling, I reached the Falls of Niagara, and oh, what a scene! My blood shudders still, although I am not a coward, at the grandeur of the Creator's power; and I gazed motionless on this new display of the irresistible force of one of His elements.